How science will suffer as US pulls out of Iran nuclear deal

By Jeff Tollefson

On 8 May, US President Donald Trump announced his decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal, hampering ongoing efforts to establish scientific collaborations between researchers in the two countries. Scientists say that the move will make a bad situation worse.

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear programme and allow international inspections of its facilities in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, Britain, Russia and China. At the time, many researchers saw the agreement as an opportunity to bolster Iranian science and to expand international collaborations.

But those plans have encountered roadblocks since the 2015 deal. For example, when Trump took office last year, long-standing efforts to establish scientific exchanges between Iran and the United States came to a halt. And workshops organized by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) between 2010 and 2017 — meant to bolster collaborations in diverse fields including solar energy and water resource management — stopped after the Trump administration raised questions about Iran and the nuclear deal, says Glenn Schweitzer, who spearheaded the NASEM work in Washington DC.

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