One of the lesser-known sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks. The sanction in question limits the scientific and technical fields Iranian citizens can study in United States. In effect since 2012, the sanction was quietly enforced by the U.S. State Department, through its discretion over visa applications. Then the University of Massachusetts got involved. UMass announced on February 12 that it would, in the spirit of compliance, ban Iranian nationals from courses of study relevant to the energy sector or nuclear science. An uproar over academic freedom ensued, and UMass responded by signaling that it would refine—but not reverse—its policy. Rather than impose blanket bans, UMass will now develop “individualized study plans.” This shift, however, may not resolve the tension between security concerns and academic ideals.

Poll Question:
Should bans on science education, of the sort imposed on Iranians hoping to study physics and engineering in the United States, encompass other nationals and other fields of study, including biotechnology?

No. Such bans could easily get out of control, preventing the sharing and growth of knowledge.

Yes. The potential, for example, for the development of bioweapons if biotech information gets into the wrong hands must be minimized.

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