Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Should Elsevier Journals Be Boycotted?

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Mar 26, 2007

Responding to John S. Wilkins, who writes:

Grrlscientist just pointed out that MDs are threatening to boycott The Lancet, because Reed Elsevier, the publisher, supports weapons fairs, including manufacturers of cluster bombs.

This is a worry. Elsevier publishes around 40 journals that have a philosophy component. Perhaps philosophers, who are after all supposed to be consistent on principles, should also boycott those journals. I list some of the major ones under the fold.

'Consistency' is medical practitioners refusing to support, either directly or indirectly, products or services that unnecessarily inflict injury or death.

Philosophers - as is evident from the discussion above - are not bound by the same constraint, the discipline having no inherent stance with respect to unnecessary injury or death. Certainly, some of the people commenting above would have to be put down as 'pro', given their defense of weapons that cause unnecessary injury or death.

The Lancet's sponsoring of weapons fairs betrays a larger concern, however, and that is the promulgation of a publishing culture that has as its primary (indeed, only) value the making of money. This is evident in Elsevier's pricing policies and its evident unwillingness to allow anyone but the moneyed elite access its wares. The people who cannot afford the journals (not coincidentally the same peoplke who are victims of cluster bombs) be damned!

Presumably philosophy does have an inherent interest in something other than the making of money, though you would never know these days. Certainly, anyone with a moral stance ought to be looking at how knowledge - whether military, medical or philosophical - is created, for what purpose, and who benefits.

Any time left over can be spent helping the human wreckage wrought by the philosophy that allows a publisher of philosophy to be hip-deep in the trade of weapons of mass destruction.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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