The letter will be sent to the Times Higher Education Supplement, a leading UK academics’ weekly, with potential for other national and international coverage. This will be the next in what has now become a series of open letters from professional users of Reed products. Previous letters have been signed by medics (in The Lancet) and high-profile writers (in the Times Literary Supplement), and both have received considerable, and worldwide, media attention.
Here’s the text of the letter (also available as a pdf here):
Mr Jan Hommen
Reed Elsevier PLC
xx October 2006
Dear Mr Hommen
ARMS FAIRS AND ACADEMICS
We are an international group of academics who are extremely concerned
about Reed Elsevier’s involvement in organising major arms fairs in the
UK and around the world.
We rely on our academic work to be disseminated chiefly by means of
books and peer-reviewed articles, a significant share of these via Reed
Elsevier publications. Being both contributors and (unpaid) referees,
and readers of Reed Elsevier journals makes us stakeholders in the Reed
On its website, your company states that it is “committed to making
genuine contributions to the science and health communities” and that it
is “proud to be part of [these] communities”. Conversely, we are not
proud to be associated with Reed Elsevier as we feel your statements are
undermined by the conflict between your arms fair activities and our own
ethical stance. Arms fairs, marketing the tools of violence, are a major
link in the chain of the global arms trade which proliferates arms
around the world and fuels a cycle of human, scientific, economic and
This is entirely at odds with the ethical and social obligations we have
to promote the beneficial applications of our work and prevent their
misuse, to anticipate and evaluate the possible unintended consequences
of scientific and technological developments, and to consider at all
times the moral responsibility we carry for our work.
We call on Reed Elsevier to cease all involvement in arms fairs since it
is not compatible with the aims of many of your stakeholders.
If you want to sign it, send email to tDOTstaffordATsheffieldDOTacDOTuk with “open letter to Reed Elsevier” in the subject line and a brief note including your full academic title, name, discipline and institution (or former institution if retired). The petition is ongoing, so also please sign that if you haven’t already. As I write there are 357 signatories; if you’re reading this you will probably recognize #19, 32, 55 and 90 (I’m #28).
I know that, after the umpteenth petition or letter or fundraiser or whatever, outrage fatigue starts to set in; and I know that, as world affairs go, there are more important issues than scumbags Reed Elsevier branching out into arms dealing. But — and here I’m speaking to my colleagues: researchers, teachers and academics the world over — this is our issue. It’s in our professional backyard; we own a chunk of it. Not only is a major academic publishing house part of our community, or at least of its infrastructure (whether we like it or not), but as the primary consumers of their primary products and services we have an unusual degree of leverage in this situation. Reed Elsevier is a business: if enough of their customers sign Tom’s letter and petition (and Nick’s boycott), they will get out of the arms trade.