Engineering body IEEE lifts ban on Huawei researchers reviewing scientific papers

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A temporary ban on Huawei researchers editing and reviewing scientific papers has been lifted by one of the world’s biggest engineering bodies, as the Chinese firm continues to feel the effects of rigorous restrictions in the US.

Last week, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said anyone working for the company would be restricted from participating in “certain aspects of the publication peer review and editorial process”.

The move was in response to an executive order issued by US President Donald Trump in May, preventing “foreign adversaries” from accessing US technology without government approval, which saw Google restrict Huawei’s access to the Android operating system.

As a result, new and yet-to-be released Huawei phones are unlikely to be able to access Google apps as part of Android, although a temporary licence and grace period sanctioned by the US government will initially allow support for existing devices until August.

However, days after imposing its own partial ban, the IEEE has decided to reverse its decision following clarification from the US Department of Commerce.

“Based on this new information, employees of Huawei and its affiliates may participate as peer reviewers and editors in our publication process,” the organisation said in a statement.

“All IEEE members, regardless of employer, can continue to participate in all of the activities of the IEEE.

“Our initial, more restrictive approach was motivated solely by our desire to protect our volunteers and our members from legal risk. With the clarification received, this risk has been addressed.

“We appreciate the many questions and comments from our members and volunteers around the world and thank them for their patience as we worked through a legally complex situation.”

Donald Trump
An executive order issued by Donald Trump prevents ‘foreign adversaries’ from accessing US technology without government approval (Brian Lawless/PA)

The change of direction will be a small sigh of relief for the beleaguered telecommunications giant, which has been subjected to intense scrutiny amid accusations of having close ties to the Chinese state, with some critics arguing its telecoms equipment could be used to spy on people in the West.

Huawei has always strongly denied the claims, insisting it abides by the laws of each country in which it is present.

The US has also urged its allies – including the UK – not to use its equipment or face being cut off from US intelligence because of the “unacceptable risk” the company poses.

The UK Government is still debating whether or not to allow Huawei telecoms equipment to be used in parts of the UK’s new 5G networks.

Chris Price
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