The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
A message sent today:
Let me start by expressing my heartfelt concern for all in Ukraine, and stress our condemnation for the Russian invasion. Our thoughts are with those affected by the unfolding and shocking events.
We are acutely aware of the privileged position we are in and are committed to helping the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian scientists as much as we can. We have made all our research content, books and journals, freely available in Ukraine. For those researchers able to continue with their work we don't want any barriers to be in their way. Given the scale of the mounting humanitarian crisis, Springer Nature, along with our owner Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, have jointly pledged 1.5 million euros to support refugee relief including children profoundly impacted by the war and scientists who are fleeing the region with their families.
A number of you have been in touch to ask whether you should still be accepting manuscripts from Russian researchers. The answer is yes and let me explain why.
Throughout history, during many conflicts, we have worked to ensure that researchers around the world—regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality—are able to collaborate on research projects so that they are not isolated from global ideas. This includes authors who find themselves in sanctioned territories for reasons not of their making and who, if able to connect with the wider community, still have a positive contribution to make. While there has been an appalling statement in support of the war from the leaders of a number of Russian institutions, over 7000 Russian scientists have petitioned for peace in Russia and we want to continue to build bridges of understanding despite the act of war which risks driving people apart.
This is why it is important that we continue for the time being to accept and assess manuscripts from Russian authors in the independent way set out in the COPE guidelines. As COPE states: "Editorial decisions should not be affected by the origins of the manuscript, including the nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs, race, or religion of the authors. Decisions to edit and publish should not be determined by the policies of governments or other agencies outside of the journal itself."
We appreciate that this may be something which an individual editor is not comfortable doing. We ask that in such instances an alternative editor is found thereby ensuring the journal remains compliant with COPE.
We continue to review the situation and will provide updates as needed.
That strikes me as quite right. An article might have a Russian author, but it has readers all over the world. Blocking publication of the article harms the author in some measure (and thus might impose some tiny pressure on Putin and on other dictators who might seek to follow the same path), but it also harms other scientists who are denied access to the material.
The body of human knowledge—the common property of all of humanity—progresses independently of the moral merits of the contributors or of the countries to which they belong. If a Russian scientist has uncovered an important fact, the world is entitled to know that, rather than punishing not just Russia but the rest of the world by blocking publication. And that is made especially so by the likelihood that blacklisting one country's scientists based on that country's transgressions (however serious the transgressions are) will likely lead to many similar demands as to other countries, based on much more controversial claims of national misconduct.
Naturally, if there is reason to think that certain articles rest on inaccurate evidence or unreliable processes, those articles should be investigated and perhaps rejected on those grounds. But the focus must be on the reliability of the research, not on the qualities of the researchers' home countries (or on the qualities of the researchers themselves, unrelated to reliability).