IEEE ignites backlash after barring Huawei-related scientists from peer review and editorial processes

Technical experts across the country, including those who have no links with Huawei, are displeased.

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IEEE ignites backlash after barring Huawei-related scientists from peer review and editorial processes

Science has no nationality, yet those in the field have been caught between the United States and China. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organisation, has confirmed in a statement released on Wednesday (US time) that it is barring Huawei and the company’s employees from its peer review and editorial processes.

In the statement, IEEE said it “must comply with its legal obligations under the laws of the United States and other jurisdictions” because the organization is based in New York.

IEEE admit that the decision to exclude Huawei-related scientists from “certain aspects of the publication peer review and editorial process” was because of its compliance with the US government’s Entity List.

IEEE has reportedly told editors of its roughly 200 journals on Tuesday that there might be “severe legal implications” should they continue working with Huawei-related technical personnel, according to Science Magazine.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor and second-largest smartphone maker, has recently been blacklisted by the US Commerce Department, which effectively bars domestic suppliers from doing business with the Chinese company without government approvals. Earlier in the month, Google halted its business with Huawei, driving the Chinese conglomerate to seek a replacement for Google Play.

The decision to exclude Huawei has caused backlash from the Chinese science community. IEEE member and Peking University professor Zhang Haixia penned an open letter to the organization, informing it of her intention to resign from its editorial board. “[T]his message from IEEE for ‘replacing all reviewers from Huawei in IEEE journals’ is challenging my professional integrity,” she wrote.

Tsinghua University professor Liu Yiqun shared Zhang’s disappointment of IEEE’s decision. “If IEEE chooses not to be free from politics, I choose to be free of IEEE,” he wrote on his WeChat Moments feed.

Though the Shenzhen-based company has yet to make a public statement on the IEEE exclusion, Huawei called on the US government to stop its “state-sanctioned campaign” yesterday.