Science and The Arms Trade

Over at Idiolect Tom’s been having a running battle with Elsevier Science, the major science and medical publishers who also run the DSEi arms fair beginning in London next week. (Disarm DSEi, Campaign Against the Arms Trade ).

The Guardian reports that this week the world-leading medical journal The Lancet has just run an editorial criticising its own publishers for their involvement in the arms trade. It also published a letter by a number of leading academics, and a response from Elsevier.

I particularly like this line from the editorial board: “The arms industry draws vital investment away from the health budgets of low income nations.” because it sounds like the gearing up of inter-elite argument. There is no doubt that major health policy makers and major medical suppliers are among the readership; giving them some ammo against the arms lobby is really vital.

And, of course, the scarcely veiled threat in this line is exciting too: “We cannot believe that Reed Elsevier wishes to jeopardise that commitment by its presence in a business that so self-evidently damages its reputation as a healthscience publisher.”

And in Elsevier’s reply you can’t help thinking that the first draft went like this: “take real pride in the contribution they make to the important industries which we serve, of which science, medicine, and education are directed to the advancement of human wellbeing. In the interests of balance, it is essential, therefore, that we are heavily involved in an industry that acts precisely to the contrary of human welbeing.”

In terms of further campaigning, I suggest that every academic who comes across this page takes copies of the Lancet Editorial, the letter and reply to every senior academic they can find. Write to any journal you read and point out the Lancet story – the more journals that make some sort of statement, either publicly or in private letters to Elsevier, the shakier their board of governers are going to look.

Well done Tom!