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After Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the country's scientific efforts nearly died out. However, a small core of scientists kept going. Their work began paying off in the late 1980s, and the country now funds several high-tech research projects ranging from space science to particle physics.

In this article in Science, Richard Stone takes the pulse of Iranian science. Particle physics is among the fields taking off. Physicists from the country's capital of Tehran are collaborating with Switzerland-based CERN on a project that could generate their own accelerator. Meanwhile, astronomy and biotechnology are also pulling in ample government funding.

But is optimism about a scientific revolution premature? Stone reports that many researchers there fear that the country’s efforts could start to stagnate again. If conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rolls back social reform, science could suffer, they say. And Iran’s refusal to halt a nuclear fuel enrichment programme could stifle collaborations with the West.

Iran has significant political problems to contend with however — the biggest being its tension-filled relationship with the United States. The country is Iran’s main collaborator, yet has not lifted sanctions on the sale of its goods to Iran. Internal constraints, too, are taking their toll. The country’s science community is a fragile one, Stone concludes, and only time will tell whether it remains viable.

Link to full article in Science