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Books and bombs

September 9th, 2005

Tom Stafford points to academic publisher Elsevier’s involvement in the international arms trade. Even the legal aspects of this trade are deplorable, given the excessive readiness of governments and would-be governments to resort to armed force, but the boundary between legal and illegal arms trade is pretty porous. For example, there’s evidence that the arms fairs organised by Elsevier subsidiary Spearhead are venues for the illegal trade in landmines. Tom has a number of suggestions for possible responses.

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  1. conrad
    September 10th, 2005 at 07:23 | #1

    I think there is already an unofficial boycott in some communities on Elsevier products, although this was based on them being ridiculously expensive (e.g., http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v426/n6964/full/426217a_fs.html). I seem to recall also that at least one high profile journal changed because of this (Journal of Machine Learning ??), although since they couldn’t get out of the contract easily, I believe the entire board resigned and simply started a new similar sounding journal. Perhaps people could just add this to the “why not to deal with Elsevier list”

  2. September 10th, 2005 at 09:32 | #2

    John, I hadn’t stopped to think about electoral authorization and blogs. My site carries political, social, and religious commentary of one sort or another and if ever it was decided to bring blogs into line, I too would be affected. What do you think would be required? For one’s own comments a banner statement across the top would probably suffice but then what happens with the comments of others over which one has no control?

  3. September 11th, 2005 at 11:19 | #3

    Warning Reed Elsevier supports the world trade in arms

    Dear John Quiggin

    I read about the involvement of Reed Elsevier in organising arms fairs from your blog and immediately went to a Google search. As a UQ student of Peace and Conflict, I feel that this story rings alarm bells about the corporatisation of our universities and the threat to academic independence this represents. There will be no genuine discourse in academia if universities become dependent on funds from ‘industry’. We may become ‘embedded’ thinkers and strategists for such disastrous criminal activities as the illegal war of aggression and plunder on Iraq, entrapped by our complicity with companies such as Reed Elsevier.

    Of course, even using expressions like “our universities� immediately reveal that I am a soppy old-fashioned ‘bleeding heart’, but I will not suffer quislings and hypocrites gladly. There are things like civil liberties and academic independence that we currently believe we have, or previously had, that can be taken for granted till they have disappeared. Once they are gone they cannot be restored.

    What we are losing is the intrinsic value of knowledge and understanding for its own sake. What we are losing is the ability to break new ground and to deconstruct the assumptions of the past and immediate present. I believe that the majority are frequently capable of being wrong and that dissidents are sometimes proven right. There is a long list of people who stood out against icons of ‘conventional wisdom’ they thought were wrong and have been vindicated, sometimes much later.

    So, now students should be reading with an additional filter of scepticism. We should ask the question, where is the author from? Where did they study? Who financed their study? And whom do they work for now? Bullshit detectors are essential equipment.

    Regards
    Willy Bach

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