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March 13, 2006

Iran's scientific isolation
Yaser Kerachian  [info|posts]

The other day, I was on the phone with a friend of mine, now a faculty member of Sharif University of Technology. He was talking about his involvement in organizing a scientific conference in Iran. He told me about a debate among the members of the conference organizing committee of whether to hold the conference on the national or international level. This is apparently a big deal in Iran. A conference is considered international after being approved by the Iran's Cabinet provided that at least certain number of presenters are from outside Iran. International conferences are then entitled to some benefits such as budgets and promotions.

My friend told me that he finally managed to convince the organizing committee that it is better to hold the conference on the national level. Why? Because of Iran's political instability. To organize an international conference, one has to go through a lot of troubles, inviting academics from abroad, arranging the visas and many other issues. Finally, a month before the conference, due to Iran's political situation, all those speakers from outside Iran will withdraw from the conference. This is at least what has happened for the Workshop on Nanostructures held recently in Kish Island.

The current Iranian government may not want to give up its right in nuclear research, considering that we believe their version of story. But they should remember that not all the science is nuclear science and not all the nuclear science is uranium enrichment. Even if Iran makes a huge progress in a specific branch of nuclear science, this is only achieved with the huge cost of isolation in other branches of science. Scientific research is a collective effort. It's been long passed the time that Iranian academics could have sit in their offices or laboratories without interacting with the scientific world and still able to do high-standard research.

Arash Jalali at March 14, 2006 04:42 AM [permalink]:

What do you mean by "considering that we believe their version of [the] story" ? Do you mean to say that you believe them, or did you mean to say "assuming that we believe them".

I don't think the Islamic regime is particularly concerned about science per se. So your statement that nuclear science is not all the science could make the least bit of difference as far as IR's policies are concerned. Even if I myself were to make a case on why Iran has the right to perform nuclear research, science would be, if at all, at the very end of my list. More important reasons would be military and economic (in that order). By military reasons, I don't mean that Iran should necessarily posess an actual nuclear weapon. The mere posession of the know-how for developing weapons would suffice to act as a deterrant, and that's exactly why the United States is so adamently opposed to Iran having anything to do with nuclear technology. The ability to produce industrial-scale nuclear fuel will also be a strategic economic advantage in the next several decades. A few days ago, the European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso very clearly, and to much dislike of the "green" politicians, stated that nuclear energy should be on Europe's list of strategic energy sources for the next 20 years (Look here).

You see, the Islamic regime is clinging to the nuclear issue because of at least two reasons:
- Having a solid deterrant to make sure nothing like what happened to Saddam would ever happen to them.

- This might be the only thing it could ever find to rally a massive popular support behind itself. Populism and conflict has always been the solution sought by totalitarian minds for economic problems. You just have to find a good excuse to mobilize the masses. The Nazi's used jews to blame Germany's econmic hardship on, and that wasn't even a real reason. The nuclear issue and America's outrageous bullying and double standards are perfect reasons for the Islamic Republic.

yaser k at March 14, 2006 06:26 PM [permalink]:

I agree with almost all you are saying. I don't believe their version of the story. But even if we do, that has many flaws. I was trying to speak with the same language as the government and argue that nuclear research will harm scientific research in other areas of science. No doubt that in reality science is the last thing our government care about. But they use this propaganda a lot.

Self at April 8, 2006 02:34 AM [permalink]:

No nukes for Mullahs

yasaman at April 9, 2006 07:44 AM [permalink]:

Take a look at the website of IPM and see for yourself how many international conference is going to be held at IPM in 85.
One (ISS) starts tomorrow and other (IPM-LHP06)
will be held in May. Moreover we receive visitors
from abroad regularly, too.

For God's sake, those of you living abroad do not try to show the situation in the country worse than it actually is. You would not gain anything
from such an attempt except contempt from citizens of your adopted country. Enjoy your life istead!


yaser k at April 9, 2006 09:25 AM [permalink]:

Dear Yasaman,

Thanks a lot for your comment. As I mentioned in the text, my observation was based on my discussion with one of the SUT professors in the department of Physics. Also, as you may know, I am involved in Knowledge Diffusion Network which we deals with the issue of traveling of non-Iranians to Iran very often. Based on these experiences, I believe that the political situation of Iran has become an obstacle in the scientific interation between Iranian and non-Iranian academics. Just last week I heard from a Canadian professor that those who had travelled to Iran will be stopped in the US border everytime when they want to travel there and this is making him to revise his decision to travel to Iran this summer. The relationship between US and Iran has also forced hundreds of Iranian researchers and grad students to not travel to Iran. Aren't all these causes for more of Iran's scientific isolation?

I do praise the efforts by IPM to invite non-Iranian scholars to Iran and my post doesn't try to undermine that. However I think that the situation is not as nice as the way you have pictured in your comment. I am pretty sure many of scientists, esp those from US, who would have come to Iran if the political situation was better are not coming now. I can actually see many of them around myself.

yasaman at April 10, 2006 05:28 AM [permalink]:

Dear Yaser,
I am sure Iranians living abroad are all deeply patriotic.
What I am trying to say is that not everything is determined and
controlled by the government.
Let me tell you about my experience in organizing the meeting
Other organizers and I sent emails to about 100 people that we knew.
Among them 10 people accepted our invitation.
The rest declined mostly because of personal problems: teaching
responsibilities, etc.
Moreover many other physicists that had learned about the conference from
other sources registered among which we accepted 12.
Only two people refused to come because of what they had heard from the
news about Iran.
When we speak to our friends outside Iran, we should try to show
Iran is not all about politicians.
Showing few family photos to foreign friends is enough to wash away
the image that media has created in their minds.
Well, we each can only influence few hundered people this way, but to
a meeting or start a scientific collaboration this number is enough.

yasaman at April 10, 2006 05:51 AM [permalink]:

Oh, I forgot to mention something.
Scientists who visit Iran after returning often
become advocates of informing the public in general
and their colleagues in particular of the reality of life in Iran and its positive aspects.
For example, fellows who had come to string conference from SLAC last year published articles
in Physics today about progress of Iran in string theory. To my knowledge mathematicians also have done something similar. People would listen when
"Alain Connes" is admiring somewhere...

Kaaveh at June 13, 2006 11:12 PM [permalink]:

Dear All,

I wish you all well. I live abroad and I love Iran and I wish that someday we will be free of Arabized mullahs. I wish that someday my ancient and beloved country reaches a point where a mother can take the hand of her infant child and go anywhere she likes (from east to west and north to south) without the possibility of being kidnapped or murdered or robbed.

I still have not fogotten the story of those 11 young passengers whose cars were stopped somewhere in the eastern province of Baloochestaan and executed at the roadside.

I don't know much about science, politics, or military aspirations. But I do know and I would love my country to be civil.

In my family and among all of my relatives the most intelligent people have always been female. There is no reason why Iran should pursue a religious path or ANY PATH at the cost of beating people who have done nothing wrong. The recent case of women being beaten up by other policewomen is another sign that Iran is still moving in the wrong direction.

I hope one day I can go back to a civil Iran.