Reed Elsevier finally gets out of arms fair business

Guardian news 30/5/08:

Reed Elsevier has finally stopped organising arms trade fairs – five months later than it promised shareholders and staff….Yesterday the company said it had sold the DSEi, ITEC and LAAD defence exhibitions to Britain’s largest independent exhibitions group, Clarion Events, for an undisclosed sum…”The events we have acquired in the defence-and-security sector are a valuable and profitable addition to our portfolio and fit perfectly with our strategy for international expansion,” said Clarion Events’ chief executive, Simon Kimble.

Story at

Clarion seems to run trade shows for the gambling, petrochemical, biofuel and gas industries, as well as the NEC baby show…


Elsevier chair on activist shareholders

Dutch institutional investors and company executives are pressing for more rules to govern activist shareholders, news agency Reuters reports.

‘We have all seen that investors with a short term horizon and a strategy of shareholder activism try to make life miserable for companies,’ Jan Hommen, chairman of publishing group Reed Elsevier, was quoted as saying. ‘They have no loyalty at all to the company or other stakeholders.’, 9 May 2008


Reed pressed to sell arms fair business

Reed Elsevier, the publisher and exhibitions group, will be challenged tomorrow by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) at its annual general meeting over its failure to sell its controversial defence exhibitions business….However, sources insisted that a sale was a matter of weeks away, with private equity-owned Clarion Events, the organiser of The Baby Show and the London International Horse Show at Olympia, the preferred bidder.

Full article in yesterday’s Times: link


Reed fails to sell arms fairs

Times Online december 30th 2007:

THE professional publisher Reed Elsevier has failed to sell off its controversial arms fairs by the end of this year as planned.

The tiny but highly profitable division was put up for sale in June after key customers and authors took offence at Reed’s involvement in shows such as DSEi (Defence Systems & Equipment International), London’s main arms fair, where some exhibitors were ejected this year for trying to promote leg irons.

Sir Crispin Davis, Reed’s chief executive, was criticised at last year’s annual meeting by antiwar campaigners. F&C Asset Management and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust also sold their shares in the company in protest.

Bids for the division, which includes the Abu Dhabi Idex fair, came in at close to £30m, but failed to progress. The sale is being handled by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Reed said recently that there was “very active interest” in the portfolio.


DSEi 2007

This tit-bit from the Observer on sunday

n June, Reed agreed to sell the business. DSEI generates around £25m for the publishing giant and is thought to be worth double that. Four organisations have expressed strong interest in the business, though neither their identities nor nationalities are known.

DSEi starts tomorrow (tuesday)


What just happened?

Elsevier quit organising defense exhibitions, that much is sure. But was it due to boycott (ScienceBlogs) or shareholder revolt (The Independent)? As far as I was aware, neither of those factors was involved directly, but how can I be sure? Symon Hill gives his low-down on it at the Guardian Comment Is Free blog.


Reed Elsevier to exit the defence exhibitions sector

“Reed Elsevier announced today that it is to exit the defence exhibitions sector. This portfolio of five shows is part of Reed Elsevier’s global Business division and represents around 0.5% of group annual turnover. ”

aka. We won!

Update Reed press release

Reed Elsevier CEO Crispin Davis:

“Our defence shows are quality businesses which have performed well in recent years. Nonetheless, it has become increasingly clear that growing numbers of important customers and authors have very real concerns about our involvement in the defence exhibitions business.

“We have listened closely to these concerns and this has led us to conclude that the defence shows are no longer compatible with Reed Elsevier’s position as a leading publisher of scientific, medical, legal and business content.”

Update 2: Lancet editorial on this

Update 3: Coverage in the Times and the Guardian


An open letter to Elsevier and all those involved in the IEHG

An open letter to Elsevier and all those involved in the IEHG from geographer Keith Halfacree, 10 April 2007:

I am respectfully informing you of my decision to follow my fellow human geography academics at Newcastle University and elsewhere and am suspending work on my three contributions to Elsevier’s International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. This is in protest at Reed Elsevier’s ongoing role as organiser of weapons fairs such as the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEI) exhibitions in London.

This has been a difficult decision for me to make as it pits the total repugnance with which I view the arms industry against a strong personal ethic of staying true to commitments I make to others. However, having been wrestling with these issues for quite some time now, and I especially thank Dave (Featherstone) and Paul (Routledge) for this, I feel that there is only one course I can take now that a greater formalisation of our protest has emerged and has been discussed most thoughtfully across the Critical Geography Forum.

I would like to add, though, that I have found past dealings with Elsevier themselves via seeking reprint permissions, dealing with the mechanics of publishing journal articles, etc. to be excellent and supportive of the promotion of knowledge. Thus, again following the Newcastle lead, my action initially only targets the high-profile IEHG and I shall not be boycotting contributions towards other Elsevier publications. However, I do of course reserve the right to revisit this decision.

Again lifting often directly from the Newcastle statement, in greater detail, I do not wish my labour to contribute to the profits of an industry that is not regulated and policed sufficiently to prevent sales of weapons to known abusers of human rights. Reports on the 2005 DSEI fair highlighted serious shortcomings of this nature – see also the excellent Mark Thomas’s (2006) As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela (Ebury). More generally, echoing calls in Elsevier journals such as The Lancet, The British Medical Journal, and Political Geography, as a critical scholar committed to a culture of life I have profound concerns about the incorporation of my labour into an enterprise that profits from the production of the means of killing. Okay, so I am a small small cog and with politics like mine my labour is compromised everyday (!) but just sometimes one has to ‘scream’ (John Holloway 2002 Change the World without taking Power, Pluto) ‘enough’! After all, doesn’t ‘every little count’ (sic.)…

Finally, as those of you know me will appreciate, I find this kind of public statement attention seeking and hence embarrassing, but I do it as part of the call on colleagues elsewhere to join the boycott, and to urge those working in an editorial capacity on the IEHG to reconsider their involvement.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Keith Halfacree (Geography, Swansea University)


Reed Elsevier’s AGM

Reed Elsevier’s AGM in London on Tuesday was dominated by questions over their involvement in the international arms and torture trade. The protest outside the AGM and questions within were accompanied by newspaper reports of the discovery of the promotion of landmine sales at one recent Reed Elsevier arms fair, and reports that delegates from Iran, which is subject to a UN ban on arms exports, were invited to another Elsevier arms fair which is currently happening in Brazil

Report on the protest, from the Independent

Report on the protest from Indymedia

Pictures here (Flickr) and here (CAATblog)


Reed Expo’s upcoming trade fairs

Reed Elsevier are mostly a publishing company, but they also own Reed Exhibitions. Reed Exhibitions put on trade fairs and the like, including arms fairs around the world where the rampantly uncontrolled arms industry arranges to sell guns, bombs, torture equipment and delivery vehicles to those who will use them on people around the world who need to be gunned, bombed and tortured.

There’s a list of Reed Elsevier’s upcoming trade fairs here. You can see the famous DSEi (‘The World’s Most Prestigious Defence Exhibition’) in London, this September, at the same time as the Cannes International Boat Show in France. More immediately, the Latin America Aero & Defence – LAAD 07 – is happening in Rio De Janeiro 17 April 2007 – 20 April 2007, at the same time as The Lancet Asia Medical Forum 2007 in Singapore. I wonder how the Linux and Comic communities (New York Comic Con, February 2008; LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Sao Paulo, May 2007) feel about Reed Elsevier’s involvement with the arms and torture industries?


medical community comdemns Elsevier in Lancet letters

In 3 pages of letters in today’s Lancet the medical community slammed Elsevier for its involvement in the arms and torture industry. Letters from the Royal College of Physicians, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Doctors for Human Rights, People’s Health Movement, Medsin, Doctors for Iraq said that there is a basic contradiction betwen Reed Elsevier’s commercial interest in death and torture and the values of the Lancet, and medical publishing in general.

The Guardian: Doctors attack Lancet owner’s arms fair links

Across three pages of today’s edition the medical journal publishes letters from top doctors, led by the Royal College of Physicians, who say that Reed Elsevier’s commercial interest in the arms trade undermines the journal’s efforts to improve health worldwide.

The editors of the journal also call on their proprietor to drop its work with the defence industry, claiming that the association is damaging The Lancet’s reputation. The Lancet’s international advisory board is now considering an “organised campaign” against its own publisher.

via ScienceDirect, Lancet table of contents

From the reply by the Lancet editors:

On the question of arms exhibitions, we have found that a growing number of our Elsevier colleagues, who have long standing relationships with scientifi c societies and authors, are questioning Reed Elsevier’s decision to continue in this business. At a time of fi erce debate over author-pays open access journals and open archiving, Reed Elsevier, many of them say, needs to be making strong alliances, not creating new enemies.

Update: PDF of letters and editors response here


British Medical Journal Calls for Action Against Reed Elsevier

In an editorial from the 17 march, ‘Scientific communities must work together to prevent the sale of arms’:

The scientific and health communities with which Reed Elsevier is linked in a symbiotic relationship have a clear opportunity to exert their influence. As a group, these communities have the power to influence corporate strategy. They must sign petitions such as the one identified here, the societies for which Reed Elsevier publishes journals must look for alternative publishers, and editors of journals must express their disgust at the company’s arms trade activities through collectives such as the World Association of Medical Editors ( Furthermore, academic and industry funded researchers should now agree not to submit their high profile randomised control trials to Reed Elsevier journals until links with the arms trade are ended. They should make these decisions public, thus ending their tacit support for the company’s links with the arms trade. Direct loss of revenue in this way would quickly identify to Reed Elsevier that the scientific world will no longer tolerate its warmongering and health damaging business activities.


Debate on Elsevier in pages of BMJ

British medical journal has an extended debate on the ethics of Reed Elsevier’s involvement in the arms trade, here.


Elsevier petition passes 1000 signatures!

Over 1000 people have now signed the petition asking Reed Elsevier and subsidaries to stop organising arms fairs! Hurrah! I don’t know where the sudden surge in activity has come from (over 100 in the last two days), but well done to all those who are passing the message on.

Update: Suddenly the reason for all the activity is clear


Open letter published

Our open letter (full text, including list of signatories) has been published in the Times Higher Education Supplement. You can see exactly what it looked like here.

In other news, the online petition – which is still open – is getting closer to 1000 signatories. Noam Chomsky (petition signatory 870) recently joined the international list of those against Reed Elsevier’s involvement in the arms and torture industry – academics, medics, publishers and students from five continents. If you know someone who works at the Antarctic Survey please ask them to sign so we can make it six!


Lancet publishers condemned over promotion of arms

Reed Elsevier, the publisher of The Lancet, has today been condemned by a former editor of the British Medical Journal for its involvement in the promotion of arms sales.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Richard Smith urges scientists and academics to publish their research and findings elsewhere.

Full story here

Original article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: ‘Reed-Elsevier’s hypocrisy in selling arms and health’


big publishers to attack open access publishing

From PR


Reed Elsevier arms trade petition

elsevier_logo.jpg is now live:

“Reed Elsevier is a publishing company with an arms trade problem. While the bulk of their business is in scientific, medical and educational publishing, they also organise arms fairs around the world. The aim of this website is to mobilise the academic community that writes and reads Reed Elsevier’s journals to persuade them to stop organising arms fairs.”


More details and petition here:

Please pass the message on to academics, researchers and postgraduates


authors attack Reed Elsevier over arms fairs

BBC News story: Authors make book fair protest

Authors including Will Self and Ian McEwan have protested against the organisers of the London Book Fair being involved in the arms trade.
In a letter published in The Times Literary Supplement, the writers called for Reed Exhibitions to stop holding arms fairs around the world.

We are appalled that our trade should be commercially connected to one which exacerbates insecurity and repression, and which props up regimes inimical to free expression,” stated the letter.



1. Australian Librarians organising against Reed Elsevier’s involvement in the arms trade
2. I’ve created a new category on this blog for Elsevier stuff: here
3. Text of CAAT’s letter to the lancet (with hyperlinks)
4. Press release about the same

elsevier politics

What next for Elsevier?

DSEi finishes today. We’ve had some successes in the campaign to get it stopped. I’m still thinking about the Elsevier angle, and what the next step is for academics who’d like Elsevier to stop involving them in the arms trade (thanks everyone who provided feedback on this, here, at CT, and in person).

I think academics are well placed to persuade Elsevier to stop organising arms fairs. As a group, we’re generally easily convinced of the morality of the affair (‘What? These guys publish medical journals but also assist in the sale of cluster bombs and illegal torture equipment?!‘), and also we fill, review, edit and purchase their journals. Question is, of course, how do we persuade them? After discussion and thought, here’s what i think the answer is: We’re going to ask them. That’s right, i suspected i was a liberal, now i’m certain of it. Elsevier have a reputation (and a customer base) to lose. Even if they believed their own arguments that it isn’t immoral to organise these arms fairs, there’s no reason why they need to keep organising them.

I think the two main things to do next are:

1. Raise awareness of Elsevier’s links to the arms trade
2. Encourage individuals and organisations to contact Elsevier about this

It’s not just university academics who can be reached either. There’s all the medics (Elsevier publish nearly 800 medical journals); the teacher’s (which use Elsevier products in the classes – I wonder what the AUT would think of all this?); the Lawyers (who use an Elsevier product, Lexis Nexis, to access case law); the social workers (there’s a flagship journal for social workers ‘Community Care’ published by Elsevier). And then there’s the librarians. Bless the librarians. If the librarians are against you, you’ve really got problems.

Anyway, so i think i’m clear on what i’d like to do now. It’s just the doing it. Enter period of letter writing, union motions, publicity chasing etc. If you’d like to help, or you know of any group with an interest in Elsevier please get in touch. tom [at] idiolect [dot] org [dot] uk

elsevier politics

DSEi round up

The Lancet letter, and the accompanying editorial (my post about this, full text, on indymedia) got good coverage: The New York Times, Today programme, ABC (Aus), Ottawa Sun (Ca), Pravda (Ru), The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Independent, BBC News Online, The Statesman, The Times, Vancouver Sun, Associated Press Newswires and The Guardian (that i know of)

The march on tuesday was successful for what it was. BBC coverage. Direct action today and yesterday has caused lots of disruption, amid a typically overwhelming police response – indymedia. And in the news today: BAE systems has been funding Pinochet, which seems in character.

elsevier politics

Elsevier and The Lancet

In the latest edition of the Lancet an editorial calls for their publisher, Reed Elsevier, to cut its ties with the arms trade.

There’s a letter in the same issue (signed by me amongst others) saying the same thing, and a response letter from Elsevier. They say what they’ve said to me previously, although they left out the bit about respecting my right to think they are immoral profiteers and they’ll keep doing what they want thank you very much (i paraphrase).

I was asked by a journalist what I thought of their response. Here’s what I said (and this applies to both their response published in the Lancet and their response to me personally which I put up on the blog):

Running this kind of arms fair may be legal, but it isn’t moral and it certainly isn’t appropriate for a scientific and medical publisher. I suspect that the majority of scientists and medics would not want to be associated with this aspect of Reed Elsevier’s activities – the Editors of the Lancet certainly don’t.

Secondly, the defense industry may be vital to democracy and humanitarian missions, but the way the arms trade currently conducts itself is notoriously poorly regulated, unaccountable and secretive. The history of the sale of illegal technologies, of unethical technologies (such as the cluster bombs the Lancet editors make mention of) and sale of weapons to countries with poor human rights records exemplifies this. These abuses will continue at DSEi 2005, and Elsevier makes itself complicit in them.

Elsevier is putting profit above humanitarian values – just like the arms trade as a whole.

The story is covered by The Guardian

elsevier politics

Academics and Elsevier

I’ve been corresponding with the publishers Reed Elsevier about their involvement in the arms trade. Reed Elsevier is an academic publisher, which also has a subsidary company, Spearhead Exhibitions, which hosts DSEi – the world’s largest arms fair. You can see what I’ve written to Reed Elsevier, and what they’ve written back, elsewhere on this blog (one, two, three, four).

I believe that the DSEi arms fairs are immoral, geopolitically reckless, sometimes illegal (e.g.) and improperly regulated (e.g.). Beyond this, I resent that a publisher which profits from the hard (and publicly funded) work of academics uses those profits to support the sale to undemocratic & repressive governments of such things as depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs, missile technology and small arms. The arms fairs Spearhead organises (yes, DSEi isn’t the only one) are a measly amount of Elsevier’s business, but it is a part that makes academics complicit in the deaths of civilians, in torture and in political repression around the world.

What can academics do to pressure Elsevier to drop this part of their business? What should we do? Here’s some possibilities. Feedback very welcome – which of these, if any, are reasonable, feasible and might be effective?

1. Write to the Chairman of Elsevier, Jan Hommen, and ask him to reconsider his position: Jan Hommen, Reed Elsevier PLC, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5JR.

2. Contact your union, and/or support any motions which express disaproval of Reed Elsevier.

3. If you are member of a scientific society which produces a journal, find out who the publisher is. If it is Elsevier, find out when the contract renewal date is, and the procedure for society members to influence the decision of who that contract goes to.

4. If you write journal papers, bear in the mind the publisher when submitting papers. Obviously you aren’t going to withhold submitting a paper just because the journal is Elsevier, but if you are faced with a choice of journals, one of which is Elsevier, you could cross that journal off your list first?

5. For your papers published in Elsevier journals, insert a line in the acknowledgements along the lines of “The author(s) note with disappointment the involvement of Elsevier with the international trade in arms”

6. When reviewing papers bear in mind the publisher of the journal. Put those for the Elsevier journals to the bottom of the pile.

Any more?

Update – Manual Trackback: Crooked Timber

elsevier politics

Elsevier’s response (2)

Elsevier got back to me about my response to their response to my letter. The PDF is here .


elsevier politics

a response to Elsevier

Stephen J. Cowden
General Council & Company Secretary
Reed Elsevier
1-3 Strand
London, WC2N 5JR

21 July 2005

Dear Mr Cowden

Thanks for your reply (12 July) to my letter of 29th of June. I asked three questions in my letter:

  • Will Elsevier stop helping to organise arms fairs, specifically DSEi (next scheduled for September 2005)?
  • How does your involvement in the arms trade square with your playing ‘a positive role in our local and global communities’?
  • How should the members of academic and medical communities feel about this involvement?

  • You answered the first, with a straight ‘no’. I’d still like to know the answer to these two:

  • How does your involvement in the arms trade square with your playing ‘a positive role in our local and global communities’?
  • How should the members of academic and medical communities feel about this involvement?

  • And to this I’ll add another:

  • How can you say believe that sufficient “rigorous checks” are made on the exhibitors at DSEi and that their activities are “legitimate” when illegal activities, such as the sale of landmines (banned by international convention) have been shown, repeatedly, to be organised at DSEi? [1]. Are you able to provide details of the checks that your organisation carried out on exhibitors?

  • I look forward to hearing from you


    Tom Stafford



    elsevier politics

    Reply from Elsevier

    I wrote to Elsevier to ask them about their involvement with the arms trade. Their response is below (and as PDF here, 600 KB). They only answered the first of my three questions (with a ‘no’).


    Frankly, just because something is legal doesn’t make it legitimate and anyway I find hard to believe that adequate checks are carried out at DSEi, especially given that we know it has, just for a first example, repeatedly haboured the brokering of illegal sales of landmines. I’ll be writing back to Elsevier, and in a few days I’ll post it that here too.

    elsevier politics

    An open letter to Jan Hommen

    Tom Stafford
    Department of Psychology,
    University of Sheffield,
    Western Bank,
    Sheffield S10 2TP

    Jan Hommen,
    Chairman, Reed Elsevier,
    Reed Elsevier PLC,
    1-3 Strand,
    London WC2N 5JR

    Dear Mr Hommen

    I was disappointed to discover that your company, through the subsidiary Spearhead Exhibitions, organises arms fairs. As an academic my familiarity with Elsevier comes from the scientific and medical journals you publish. It seems an entirely inappropriate sideline for you to assist in the selling of weapons. Will you stop?

    As well as arms fairs in Brazil, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Singapore and France, Spearhead also organises the DSEi arms fair which is held binannually in London Docklands and boasts of being the largest arms fair in the world. This is a key event for those on the arms trade circuit, a trade which results in death, mutilation and suffering (most casualties of war are civilians, of course). Previous invitees to the fair have included nations such as Syria, which has refused to sign the Biological or Chemical Weapons Conventions and is accused of being a danger to world peace, and Indonesia, which used UK built Hawk jets in its lethal repression in East Timor. Other nations with long records of human rights abuses – Columbia, Saudia Arabia, Israel and China for example – attend, as well as a host of private companies with a history of selling indiscriminately to irresponsible governments in trouble spots around the world. Selling things like clusterbombs, which, like landmines, kill civilians years after the conflict that caused them to be dropped is over, but which aren’t illegal like landmines. Selling the small arms which are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in war (and killed 500,000 people last year). Selling missile technology, selling depleted uranium shells. By organising events at which these companies can market and promote this equipment, your company is playing a direct role in facilitating this trade. And all this subsidised directly, and indirectly, by UK tax payers.

    This arms fair is important to the defence industry, but it’s not a major part of your business – and I urge you to cease your involvement with it. Organising international arms fairs seems totally at odds with your company’s expressed aim to play ‘a positive role in our local and global communities’ (2003’s ‘Reed Elsevier Cares’ programme). I also wonder how the academic and medical communities would feel about your complicity in the arms trade. My feeling is that you would- rightly- lose a lot goodwill from academics, goodwill that you rely on for them to publish in, review, edit and purchase your journals. You’ll be aware that Elsevier publishes the prestigious medical journal The Lancet – this seems especially incongruous with involvement in the arms trade. Can you really justify using profits from publicly funded medical research budgets to support the sale of arms around the world?

    I’d be very keen to hear back from you about these things. Specifically the three questions I’ve asked in this letter:

  • Will you stop helping to organise arms fairs, specifically DSEi (next scheduled for September 2005)?
  • How does your involvement in the arms trade square with playing ‘a positive role in our local and global communities’?
  • How should the members of academic and medical communities feel about this involvement?
  • I look forward to hearing from you.

    Tom Stafford