Journal-Publishing Giant Will Halt Lucrative Business in Weapons Bazaars

June 05, 2007

Its best-known publication takes its name from a weapon of sorts, a surgical instrument with a potentially deadly blade, but most readers of The Lancet and other Reed Elsevier titles might be surprised to learn of the publisher’s role in the arms business.

As first reported by The Scientist, the Anglo-Dutch publishing behemoth, which puts out more than 2,000 journals and 2,200 books annually, has bowed to pressure from leading scientists and will no longer organize trade shows for weapons merchants.

Despite the profitability of the company’s five shows — including the Defense Systems & Equipment International Exhibition, which bills itself as “the world’s most prestigious defense exhibition” — Reed Elsevier’s chief executive, Sir Crispin Davis, said in a written statement that “it has become increasingly clear that growing numbers of important customers and authors have very real concerns about our involvement in the defense exhibitions business.”

Ian Gilmore, president of Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, an author of a letter published in March in The Lancet protesting Reed Elsevier’s arms shows, hailed the news.

“This will safeguard the reputation of the Reed Elsevier publication The Lancet and no longer undermine its role in improving health and health care worldwide,” he said in a written statement. —Aisha Labi