01 March 2007

Why The Lancet is up in arms

I know from personal experience that relationships between editors and publishers can be fraught. The Lancet has taken the feuding to new levels. As Richard Smith, ertswhile editor of the British Medical Journal writes in A matter of life and death on the Guardian's Comment is free blogfest.

Smith reports on the moves by the editorial team on The Lancet to get their owner, Reed Elsevier, out of the arms trade. Well, trade in arms fairs.

His line is that "The hypocrisy of selling arms and health is particularly galling for the Lancet and its readers - because the Lancet has established itself as the world's leading global health journal. It is concerned not simply with scientific research that advances western medicine but also with poverty, injustice, environmental destruction, and war - the factors that mean life expectancy in the poorest countries is little over 30."

Where, Smith asks, are the other editors in the empire? "The Lancet has taken the bold step of speaking out against its owner's excesses, but little has been heard from the editors, authors, and readers of the other 2000 journals published by Reed Elsevier."

It is all very well for the editor and staff of "the world's leading global health journal" to campaign, but what about the people who work on a small trade journal that is hanging on by the skin of its teeth?

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