I’m pretty sure I’ve linked before to Tom‘s coverage of Reed Elsevier’s involvement in the international arms trade. (If I haven’t, I should have.) That second link goes to Tom’s summary of the issue; read the whole thing, but here’s a glimpse:
The $1 trillion global trade in arms and military goods undermines human rights, fuels conflicts and causes huge civilian suffering. Arms fairs are a key part of the global arms trade, and allow arms companies to promote weapons to countries involved in, or on the brink of conflict, as well as those with terrible human rights records. 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 do not make public the full list of invitees to their arms fairs. Reed Elsevier arms fairs have featured cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions and torture equipment. Perhaps the most harmful and most familiar kind of equipment on sale at Elsevier arms fairs is small arms, the rifles and other hand weapons which, according to the UN, are responsible for 500,000 fatalities each year.
Tom now has a petition up; if you are an academic, researcher, teacher, grad student or any other consumer of Reed Elsevier’s scientific/technical/medical publishing products, please sign and promote it.
I’m #28 on the list of signatories; statistics prof and three-toed international man of mystery Cosma Shalizi is #19, and it was he who pointed me to the petition:
Starting about a year ago, I have refused to referee papers for journals owned by Elsevier, since it sticks in my craw to provide free labor for people who turn around and gouge the academic community mercilessly. This reasoning applies, to some degree, to all commercial journal publishers, though Elsevier is unusually exploitative in its pricing. There is however a more substantial reason to dislike them: their — forgive the phrase — mercenary involvement in the international arms trade.
Herewith my own promise, following Cosma’s example:
Until Reed-Elsevier ends once and for all their involvement in the arms trade, I will neither referee for nor submit my own manuscripts to their journals.
To this end, I have also signed Nick Gill‘s boycott pledge (background here, see other signatories here).
That’s likely to get me in trouble one of these days with a co-author who cares more about impact factors than human life. Kiss my minimally conscientious humanitarian ass, putative future co-author. I believe that scientists and academics of all walks have a certain responsibility to engage in political and civic life, but in this case there’s an even more pressing and obvious connection. The bulk of Reed Elsevier’s business is STM publishing; consumers thereof thus have a real and unique opportunity — and so, I would argue, the responsibility — to force them to abandon their much smaller arms dealership.
Note to my academic and research colleagues: I’m fairly junior, but I’m famously ornery. I’m actually willing to risk being fired or otherwise disciplined over this. Moreover, my boss is a good guy and so is his boss; the risk to my career is pretty minimal. If you’re up against more risk than you’re willing to take on, don’t sign Nick’s boycott pledge — but please do sign Tom’s petition.