Two months ago, the US treasury announced it was lifting a ban on US journals publishing papers by authors from countries such as Cuba, Sudan and Iran, with which the United States has a trade embargo.
But buried in the announcement was a sentence stating that collaborations between authors in sanctioned countries and US researchers would constitute "a prohibited exportation of services". Scientific societies and publishers are now worried that criminal prosecution may result from co-authoring of papers.
However, a treasury spokesperson has suggested that the policy could be reconsidered if someone asked for a review of the process, and co-authorship licenses are being considered on a case-by-case basis. The US Department of Energy (DoE) has said it has no intention of placing co-authorship restrictions on its scientists, following a favourable response from treasury officials about DoE scientists producing papers in collaboration with researchers in Iran.
Reference: Science 304, 1422 (2004)