20 Apr 2007

Arms trade and publishing - strange bedfellows

Although the pen is mightier than the sword, involvement in publishing hasn't kept Reed Elsevier out of the defense industry.

The conflict between on the one hand being involved in advances to aid the treatment of patients and on the other arranging the sale of lethal weapons has garnered increasing criticism.

A letter organised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade pitted the Lancet against its own publisher, and the BMJ has waded in with a call for a boycott of the Lancet. This focus on the Lancet appears to be aiming to force a wedge between journal and publisher - imagine the fall-out if the Lancet left Elsevier?

A petition on Idiolect mentions that "DSEi's 2005 official invitees included buyers' delegations from 7 countries on the UK Foreign Office's list of the 20 most serious human rights abusing regimes, countries like Colombia, China and Indonesia... Reed Elsevier arms fairs have featured cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions and torture equipment". Nice.

Another petition organised by Nick Gill has some real teeth as it calls for a boycott of Elsevier journals.

Richard Smith and some others have even been engaging in shareholder action at the AGM.

I won't sign either petition as I obviously have an ulterior motive, but I'm certainly not posting this simply to stick one in Elsevier's eye for their opposition to open access. Others might want to consider signing the petitions. The defence industry might be legal (but not always), but then as has been pointed out, so was slavery.


pj said...

Putting the rights and wrongs of the arms trade to one side, Reed Elsevier don't look quite as bad as you paint them when you spell out that their association with the arms trade is that a subsiduary organises trade fairs, including arms fairs. It is a fairly tangential association and I think there might be some rather more obvious targets (e.g. the whole BAe and Heckler & Koch affair comes to mind).

Matt Hodgkinson said...

Of course, dedicated arms traders like BAe are greater targets for criticism than are Elsevier.

However, I'm blogging about science publishing and I'd be straying well off topic to post solely about BAe.

Also, targetting BAe to give up its links to the arms trade is hardly likely to succeed, but there is more chance that Elsevier's association with arms trading could end. The aim of the campaign is to stigmatise involvement in the sale of weapons, so that no respectable organisation will want to be tarnished with the association, whether directly or by investments.

pj said...

Looks like the pressure may have actually worked!