In a new statement issued late Sunday, the world’s largest technical professional organization the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) announced it is lifting restrictions it had imposed scarcely a week ago on editorial and peer reviews involving employees of Chinese tech communication giant Huawei.
“IEEE has received the requested clarification from the U.S. Department of Commerce on the applicability of these export control restrictions to IEEE’s publication activities. Based on this new information, employees of Huawei and its affiliates may participate as peer reviewers and editors in our publication process. All IEEE members, regardless of employer, can continue to participate in all of the activities of the IEEE,” read the statement.
Last month the US government added the Chinese tech giant and 68 of non-US affiliates from 26 countries to its Bureau of Industry and Security “Entity List,” which prohibits it from purchasing components from US companies without special permission. Huawei’s major US business partners Google and Micron have already cut ties with the company.
On May 22, IEEE informed its members in an email that they must forbid colleges from Huawei and 68 of its affiliates from reviewing or accessing non-public papers submitted by other persons for publications. The New York-based organization explained that they had to comply with the US government sanctions.
Fallout from the IEEE’s initial statement was felt across academia. High-profile Chinese academics resigned from IEEE journal editorial boards; Chinese technology research group China Computer Federation (CCF) suspended communications with the IEEE; and ten Chinese academic institutions issued a joint statement opposing the Huawei ban.
Criticism of the IEEE decision flooded social media, with Google Researcher David Ha tweeting “It’s sad to see IEEEorg ban Huawei employees from the peer-review process. It doesn’t feel right. I hope other scientific research bodies maintain a less US-centric, but more global outlook in their policy and governance.” Reddit users argued that academic inclusivity was under fire and that that other academic tools or platforms might also be subjected to US restrictions.
The reversal heads off a potential showdown at one of the world’s top AI conferences, the IEEE-sponsored CVPR (Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition), which kicks off June 16 in Long Beach, California. In response to IEEE’s initial statement, the IEEE Computer Society PAMI (Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence) Technical Committee joined the official CVPR 2019 organizing team to tweet “IEEE’s interpretation of these restrictions affects only whether members of listed companies may review papers. Participation in our public meetings is not affected. However, we firmly believe that program chairs and area chairs, as well as editors for our journals, should be able to choose the referee for a paper freely, and we will continue to advocate for this view very strongly.”
The IEEE has more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries. It publishes over 100 peer-reviewed journals and about 30 percent of all electronics engineering and computer science literature.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen