KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another Medical Journal Calls for Elsevier Boycott


In 2005, the Lancet told the medical world about Reed Exhibition's links with the arms trade. Then earlier this month, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine called for a boycott of Elsevier, publisher of more than 2,000 scientific and medical journals (including the Lancet), because it is a sister company to Reed Exhibitions, under the umbrella of Reed Elsevier. Now the British Medical Journal has taken up the cry:

... While promoting world health through its publications, including the Lancet, Reed Elsevier also organises international trade fairs for the arms industry. By facilitating the sale of armaments, Reed Elsevier is directly implicated in causing untold damage to health. ...

Reed Elsevier's purpose in publishing the Lancet and other health related journals is not to covertly support arms trade revenues. Reed Elsevier, like any other company, aims to make money through business activities that have diversified over time. But its activities in organising exhibitions for the arms trade are only a small part (we believe about 1%) of its turnover. Why would Reed Elsevier risk alienating the essential part of its money making business—the health, science, and education sector—to allow a continued association with a much smaller asset—the arms trade?

For alienation is what's happening. In the short term, the publicity surrounding this controversy may be good for Reed Elsevier, if all publicity really is good publicity. In the long term, however, the consequences of the debate could be disastrous for the company's reputation and profits, and, if journals do more good than harm, for world health.

In September 2005, when the Lancet first highlighted Reed Elsevier's links with the arms trade, there was an appropriate outcry from the journal's international advisory board and global opinion leaders. More recently, condemnation of Reed Elsevier has come in a letter to the Times signed by 140 prominent academics, in rapid responses to a BMJ news article, and via an online petition that has collected approaching 1000 signatures (http://idiolect.org.uk/elsevier/petition.php). ...

The scientific and health communities with which Reed Elsevier is linked in a symbiotic relationship have a clear opportunity to exert their influence. As a group, these communities have the power to influence corporate strategy. They must sign petitions such as the one identified here, the societies for which Reed Elsevier publishes journals must look for alternative publishers, and editors of journals must express their disgust at the company's arms trade activities through collectives such as the World Association of Medical Editors (http://www.wame.org/). Furthermore, academic and industry funded researchers should now agree not to submit their high profile randomised control trials to Reed Elsevier journals until links with the arms trade are ended. They should make these decisions public, thus ending their tacit support for the company's links with the arms trade. Direct loss of revenue in this way would quickly identify to Reed Elsevier that the scientific world will no longer tolerate its warmongering and health damaging business activities.

Next, I want to see U.S. medical journals—both Elsevier and non-Elsevier journals—support the boycott. And I want to see U.S. medical copyeditors, journal production editors, journal managing editors, and all editorial support professionals examine their consciences and join the boycott.

There is no morality in teaching how to save lives with one hand and providing access to weapons of death and torture on the other.

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6/1/07: Reed Elsevier to stop hosting weapons fairs


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