(10 Mar 2022) Since Russian forces invaded their country, Ukrainian scientists have repeatedly issued a plea to the world’s journal editors: Punish Russia by declining to publish manuscripts from its scientists. But editors and publishers have largely refused the call.
The journals cite a long-held principle in scientific publishing, enshrined by the International Science Council and other organizations, to not discriminate against authors based on their nationality or political views. That ideal was honored for decades during the Cold War, when journal editors welcomed papers from authors in the Soviet Union. Editors view the practice as preserving free scientific inquiry and transcending geopolitical disputes. Boycotts in scientific publishing have been rare—and one of the best known, against German authors after World War I, was abandoned a few years later as a failure.
But as Russia’s military unleashes brutality not seen in Europe since World War II, Western institutions have begun to cut other kinds of research partnerships with Russia—raising questions about whether the publishers’ neutrality will or should last. “If we now fight wars with economic and soft power, does it not follow that science institutions, including journals, should cut links with Russian institutions and perhaps even Russian scientists?” asks Richard Smith, former editor of The BMJ in an 8 March commentary.
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