Ethics before arms

March 2, 2007

Open letter sent to Jan Hommen, chairman of Reed Elsevier.

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 being disseminated chiefly by means of books and peer-reviewed articles, a significant share of these via Reed's publications. Being both contributors and (unpaid) referees as well as readers of Reed Elsevier journals makes us stakeholders in the business.

On its website, Reed Elsevier 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". We, however, are not proud to be associated with Reed Elsevier as we feel that its statements are undermined by the conflict between its arms fair activities and our own ethical stance. Arms fairs, which market 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, economic and environmental destruction. This is entirely at odds with the ethical and social obligations we have to promote the beneficial applications of our work and prevent its 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 because this involvement is not compatible with our aims as stakeholders.

Tom Stafford , lecturer in cognitive neuroscience, Sheffield University; Sir Michael Atiyah , honorary professor of mathematics, Edinburgh University; Bobby Banerjee , professor of strategy, South Australia University; Prudence Hamade , chairman of the International Malaria Working Group, Médecins sans Frontières; David Southall , honorary medical director, Childhealth Advocacy International; Paul A. Hamel , president, Science for Peace and associate professor in the faculty of medicine, Toronto University, Canada; and 134 other academics from around the world.

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