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The Executive Officer’s Column

Advancing International Scholarly Communication

Sally T. Hillsman, Executive Officer

ASA has long respected involvement in international sociology and fostered American sociologists’ participation in the international sociology community. We have a powerful intellectual stake in learning from worldwide research in our discipline and facilitating international scholarly communication. The engagement of ASA members in the International Sociological Association is only one means of pursuing such goals and other international engagements have been touched on by recent Footnotes articles.*

In this spirit we have attempted to increase the international scope of participation in our Annual Meetings. Our 102nd Annual Meeting in New York City in 2007 will feature a significant complement of Latin American scholars, and Canadian scholars and scholarship were a strong presence at our 101st Annual Meeting in Montréal. In the 1960s Council stipulated that the ASA Annual Meeting be held once a decade in Canada and that, in the interest of cultivating rather than competing with other international sociology activity, ASA would not hold its meeting outside the United States or Canada.

New International Efforts

Times are changing and ASA seeks new strategies for international communication and worldwide engagement. The Internet, of course, makes some aspects of this infinitely easier. Our journals are accessible online, and our website provides a vast resource of information and services to sociologists across the globe. Council has now begun to explore other avenues with three major new initiatives: (1) a new International Associate membership category to begin in 2008; (2) a subcommittee to develop a mission statement for a new task force on international outreach; and (3) an official ASA statement supporting open travel to Cuba by scholars and students as essential academic freedom.

The International Associate membership will begin with the membership year 2008. It will be open to sociologists in countries that are not Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members or otherwise high-income. International Associates will receive online access to ASA journals and all other benefits received by non-voting Associate members. The dues rate will be the same as for the latter, but the International Associates will receive ASA journals online (only) at no additional charge. New ASA members eligible for the International Associate membership will be entitled to a subsidized one-year membership funded by members’ contributions to the ASA Soft Currency Fund.

The draft mission statement for the international outreach task force will be reviewed by Council by August. Please send any ideas you may have for this subcommittee to me at the Executive Office.

The Association’s statement authorized by Council at its mid-year 2007 meeting on travel to Cuba is accessible through the Governance webpage. It is in response to the binational report Retreat from Reason: US-Cuban Academic Relations and the Bush Administration, which calls for free and unhindered academic- and education-related exchange between the United States and Cuba and for the removal of travel restrictions for such.

These new international initiatives will build on a long history and wide range of past international efforts by the Association. Some of the latter are highlighted below.

Academic Freedom and Human Rights

In 2003, an obscure office in the U.S. Treasury Department, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), issued federal rules that would have made it a crime for U.S. scientists to collaborate with researchers in disfavored nations by editing (and even peer reviewing) research articles for publication in science journals. The ASA Executive Office was a prominent voice in seeking repeal of that proposal. While the proposal was scuttled largely as a result of scholarly outcry, residual ambiguities remain that may need future attention.

ASA has supported foreign scientists who have been persecuted or otherwise suffered human rights violations. We have attempted intervention with foreign heads of state and the U.S. Department of State in support of free exchange of ideas in scholarship and research for the following cases among others: Iranian professor of philosophy and political science Ramin Jahanbegloo, Egyptian-American sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and South African Professor Adam Habib (who has been invited to participate in the 2007 Annual Meeting but is still being denied a visa renewal).

ASA also recently intervened to try to secure approval for more than 60 Cuban scholars to attend a Latin American Studies Association meeting, following an unprecedented U.S. blanket denial of Cuban visas, and Council issued an official statement in 2006 in support of academic independence and scientific integrity. It affirmed “ongoing support for the protection of academic independence and the integrity of scientific research through the open movement of faculty and students between universities irrespective of nationality or political views.”

ASA reaffirmed its commitment to international human rights in 2005 in a statement (visit the Governance webpage). To bolster ASA’s frequent actions in defense of sociologists and other scholars persecuted for beliefs or scholarship, ASA used the commemoration of its centenary (1905-2005) to reiterate its strong support for basic civil and political freedoms of people of all nations, as articulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in support of free exchange of ideas across national, state, cultural and social borders.

International Exchange

Last year, a grant from the National Science Foundation allowed ASA to assist 53 U.S. sociologists to participate in the XVI World Congress of Sociology in South Africa. This funding helped ensure the continued strong presence of U.S. sociologists, and more than 130 sociologists at all career stages and from all professional affiliations applied, receiving support to either participate in the meeting and/or collaborate with African researchers.

International Public Intellectuals

Increasingly ASA Annual Meetings have featured prominent foreign public intellectuals. Chilean Past-President Ricardo Lagos is the opening plenary speaker at the 2007 New York City Annual Meeting. In 2004, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, were featured speakers. Our Annual Meeting always draws significant foreign participation and many invited presenters are assisted with ASA travel grants. And as members know, the annual international scholars’ reception is a popular and useful networking attraction. We hope to see you there this year!

Scholarship on International Issues

Throughout the year, you can read in Footnotes feature stories about important, wideranging international issues (e.g., sociological surveys in the Middle East, Palestinian women’s research center, Global Carbon Project, World Social Forum). We encourage ASA members to contact us with ideas.

* See the following recent Footnotes issues for a sampling of coverage of international issues, people, and news: February 2007 (p.7) sociologists as ambassadors; February 2007 (p.1) Ricardo Lagos, former Chilean President, as plenary speaker at the ASA 2007 Annual Meeting; January 2007 (p. 1) survey of Iraqi attitudes; November 2006 (p. 5) ISA World Congress of Sociology; July/August 2006 (p. 1) human rights in the international context.

Sally T. Hillsman, Executive Officer