Monday, February 26, 2007

Elsevier promote arms sales

Really, this update, which the first in a very long time, should be pithy, "comical" and light hearted. Especially as our one reader has viciously slandered me on their site.

Alas, it isn't to be.

Thanks Dr Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian, (and associated blog) I recently discovered that Reed Elsevier are involved in running trade fairs for arms manufacturers.

Remember kids, guns and bombs, death and destruction, all that stuff is bad. The arms industry is bad. It doesn't take a genius moral philosopher to work out why.

I'm writing a paper at the moment. You try and write a paper about biology and not think about publishing it in an academic journal owned by Elsevier, they publish the vast majority of all reputable journals in the biological and health science, including some of the biggies, such as the Lancet. Richard Smith[1] has recently published an engaging editorial on this very matter in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine pointing out the irony of health journals beng published by the agents of death[2], especially as the Lancet has published a few high profile pentagon baiting articles on the civilian death toll in Iraq and the danger of cluster bombs. I've no idea what it's like in other fields, but I wouldn't be surprised to find Elsevier dominating there too.

What to do? Well, protesting, boycotting and petitioning are all great places to start. It's easy to sign the petitions and wave a placard, but is what about boycotting? I'm finding a conflict between my ethics and my desire to get my first publication into the most respected and widely read publications possible. It's shite, especially as KCL (where I'm based) is not a full member of the open access published Biomed Central, and so to publish in their (equally excellent) journal will cost my grant several hundreds of pounds.
In my case, unless my boss and collaborators pull rank, morality will win out. and I'll ask to publish somewhere else, probably to the detriment of my CV. But I'm just one little [3] PhD student working in a rather obscure branch of biology, what difference will I make? It's time to get organised. As Richard Smith wrote:
It is essential, however, to act together. Somebody
needs to orchestrate a campaign. The people in the
strongest position to do so are the authors and readers of
The Lancet and the 2000 other journals. Who will take the
I'll get off the soapbox now. Occasional, poorly written things about science will continue to be posted in the future.

[1] medical doctor, former editor of the BMJ, journalologist (is that even a word?), and brother of comic Arthur Smith, that, as they say, is a fact!
[2] excuse the melodrama for a moment please
[3] ok, ok, I'm not little, but I am inconsequential.