Science journal punishes Russian authors by refusing to review their papers

March 1, 2022 • 10:15 am

The other day I heard from Anna Krylov, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Southern California who specializes in quantum chemistry. Lately she’s also written or collaborated on several articles decrying the politicization and “woke-izing” of science (see here, for example). Anna was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and got a master’s degree in Moscow. which makes her particularly well situated to comment on how one scientific journal (and likely others) is responding to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Anna told me she got an email from one of her collaborators, who was reviewing for a journal a paper written by Russian scientists. (“Reviewing,” as you probably know, is when anonymous scientists determines whether a submitted manuscript in their field merits publication in the journal. Here’s the email that Anna’s collaborator got from the journal named below.

“Thank you for reviewing this manuscript. I have to inform you that the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure made a decision to ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists. Therefore I cannot accept the manuscript.

Therefore, the reviewer had to send the Russian authors this rejection letter:

I regret to inform you that your manuscript cannot be considered for publication in the Journal of Molecular Structure. The editors of this journal, in the full assumption of their responsibilities as scientists and academics, decided not to consider any manuscript authored by scientists working at Russian Federation institutions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Such invasion violates international law, jeopardizes world peace as well as the human rights of innocent citizens, and does not conform to the civilizational ideals of the 21st century. This decision will be in force until international legality is restored, and is extended to the institutions of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.”

Anna was incensed, and sent me the following comments which I quote with her permission:

This is a full-blown academic boycott — chemistry journals refusing to publish papers authored by Russian scientists.

I am in favor of the strictest sanctions against Russia, up to the boots on the ground in Ukraine, but terminating scientific interactions and boycotting the scientists is the wrong thing to do. Having lived on both sides of the Iron Curtain, I consider such acts to be meaningless for the cause (Putin cannot care less about chemistry publishing), deeply unfair to the scientists who happened to live under the regime many of them do not support, and damaging to science and humanity.

She later sent me added this, since the journal is run by Elsevier:

The person who got this email posted the update today that [he/she] was contacted by Elsevier and they said it was not an official decision of Elsevier but of the editor or editorial board of JMS. The representative [of Elsevier] said they do not support this decision.

So the question is — do we allow individual editorial boards to make decisions about imposing sanctions? Definitely not!

This decision will certainly accomplish nothing towards changing the minds of Putin and his thugs for making war on Ukraine. It is the scientific equivalent of a boycott—the kind of boycott that is promoted by BDS, by many organizations during South Africa’s apartheid regime, and is also now being put into place in sports, with many competitions and federations refusing to include Russian athletes.

The question is, as Anna put it, do we punish individuals merely because they live under a regime that did something other countries don’t like, even if they didn’t take part in those actions and often even oppose them? This seems unfair. I do understand the rationale for boycotts: after all, what is our intervention in Russia’s finances but a big step that will badly affect the well being of many normal, non-wealthy Russians? The only way to stop this war without actually shooting at Russians ourselves is to impose some kind of sanctions, which perforce can hurt the innocent.

But are all sanctions equal? Should Russian scientists be forbidden from publishing what they’ve found because their country invaded Ukraine? That hurts them, too, but in a different way from hurting a Russian whose life savings have just been drastically slashed?  One could, I suppose, argue that the dissemination of scientific information is more important than hurting innocent people in other ways, but that sounds self-serving   I just had these thoughts when reporting what happened above, and now I don’t have such strong feelings about this journal’s actions, though I see scientific boycotts as less likely to be effective than economic ones.

Weigh in below, please. Do you favor boycotts? If so, which ones? And can there even be effective boycotts that don’t hurt innocent people?

82 thoughts on “Science journal punishes Russian authors by refusing to review their papers

  1. There will be innocent people hurt whenever conflicts occur. It is unfortunate but inevitable. Russia is being isolated in all manner of ways in the hopes that it, as a society of suffering people, will shed the leadership that has led to this catastrophe.

    1. Oops, I neglected to address the boycott issue.

      Personally, where a boycott has the potential to attract significant attention – within Russia and the wider world – such as FIFA’s decision to exclude the Russian national team from the (soccer) World Cup then the opportunity to apply pressure should be used. Similarly, I’m happy to see those with links to Putin shunned (such as the Munich Philharmonic’s decision to sack conductor Valery Gergiev).

      However, the refusal to publish a journal paper will go unnoticed by all but a few and I’m not sure the damage caused to the authors – and the potential loss to scientific understanding – are proportionate. Certainly a piecemeal journal-by-journal approach, which seems to be the case here, will attract little attention. Now, if Elsevier (or whoever) was to make a big public statement then that could tip the balance somewhat I suppose.

  2. I haven’t thought through your question about boycotts hurting innocent people, but I am damned sure that wars do. On a far-from-scientific relative scale of hurt, she needs to get over herself. The paper can be re-submitted at a later date. Death is kind of final.

    1. Another Doug agrees. Certainly boycotts can hurt people, but Russia is killing people. Russian should be boycotted on every front available, from economic to sport to science. Not reviewing papers pales in comparison to the images of children dying in emergency rooms.

        1. Yes. They’re trying to shift public opinion against Putin, and that makes sense. Putin is killing innocent civilians. In return sanctions are making life difficult for Russian civilians — who will get frustrated with Putin.

      1. The problem is that among these sanctions are those that create collateral damage outside of Russia, and into everyones’ pockets. Rising gas prices being a major example. Then it becomes politically unpopular, and dammit, the enthusiasm for such sanctions may not last.

        1. Totally agree, but I view paying more for gas and food is something I am willing to do. But most people likely don’t think like I do.

          1. I agree that higher prices are a small price to pay. Putin is killing people in Ukraine. He has said he intends to do the same in all former SSRs. He has threatened Finland and Sweden. He has created a strong 5th column in the US. My question to Anna is why are you still in the US whining about trivia? Why not back at home fighting to keep your country free.

    2. Agreed. The research doesn’t disappear because it isn’t published. They can publish when Putin is out of Ukraine, and hopefully dead or deposed.

    3. As someone who lived under the Apartheid boycott I can say that it did cause a difference and made the average South African take notice of what the government was doing.
      South Africa was and still is a sport mad country and the sport boycotts were the first blow. Had an all in one general boycott been imposed immediately I’m pretty sure a much faster demise of the Apartheid goverment would of been achieved.
      A Science boycott would of starved the regime of technology supporting the armed forces and police which were used in all sorts of crimes against neighbouring states and South Africas own population

  3. It’s tempting to see this as similar to the South Africa boycott in the 1980s, and the JMS editors would no doubt approve of the analogy. One major point of difference is that the SA boycotts (cultural, academic, sporting) were called for by an established, indigenous, anti-apartheid organisation, when decades of sporadic economic boycotts had failed to make much impact. You could maybe make the case that the ultimate success of the cultural boycotts on top of the economic boycotts in SA argue in favour of quickly going straight to complete boycott of pariah states, as the JMS has done. On the other hand, the economic sanctions against Russia today seem much more serious than those against apartheid SA then. Maybe we should let them bite before we unilaterally call for boycotts of Russia intellectuals.

  4. I do not know how you separate one area from another. Finance, science, trade, soccer, other sports, you name it. Because of what Russia has done everyone pays. No more flights to or from Russia, no more deals. The people of Russia must all pay for what their leader is doing. There is nothing woke about that. People of all skills have left Russia for many years because they cannot work freely in a Dictatorship. What your science folks should have been doing is getting out and going where they can operate and work as they choose. Russia as a country will not change until the pain is great enough to get rid of Putin. That is their only way out as a country.

    1. +1. Unfortunately a lot of regular people are going to hurt, but if we can squeeze the oligarchs hard enough, Putin will find himself short of the support he needs to stay in power.

  5. I can’t get too worked up over this. As Doug said above, the paper can be resubmitted. I’m for squeezing Russia in every way possible, even if it’s meaningless. Pile on world!

  6. This seems unnecessary at this point. More virtue signaling. At some point one must distinguish between the civilians in a country and the government.

    1. At what point is that, exactly? How do you encourage the civilians to oust the government without affecting civilians?

    2. Distinguish between the civilians and the government. That is an impossible idea. Do you think Russia is distinguishing who to kill in Ukraine? If we had voted in Trump or let him steal his way in we might be in the same position as Russia. That is how sorry we were looking.

    3. More virtue signaling? Can you explain how it’s virtue signaling, and if it’s “more” what the first example was?

  7. The use of boycotts in South Africa is reported to have had over time, a significant impact on the country and contributed to the decision of the government to release Mandela and begin negotiations. The citizens of South Africa were definitely harmed by the impact of all the sanctions and boycotts. The intention of international widespread sanctions and boycotts is to put pressure on the citizens and influential players and lead to undermining the stability of the government and contribute to an internal push for regime change.

    1. What toppled the Apartheid government was the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in November 1989. Three months later the ANC was unbanned and Mandela released.
      Pointing out this observation is not rally conductive to make one popular in former struggle groups.
      I think apolitical pure science studies should not be boycotted. Moreover, as Jerry pointed out, most of the authors probably do not support Putin or his policies.

  8. The international character of science has been customary since the Elzevir print-shop (no relation to
    the present Elsevier) published Galileo. This means that the geographic location of research is not
    relevant to its publication in an international scientific journal. If the journal’s editor considers the actions of the Russian government inimical to international science (I think a plausible view), he can argue that point in an editorial, but not through arbitrary refusal to review and publish work from Russia.

    It is a little surprising that woke self-righteousness has taken this particular form. Since The Nation magazine and the Stop The West Coalition have proclaimed that Russia and NATO are both equally at fault for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I might have expected editors displaying the performative Left mentality to reject papers from both Russia and from all members of NATO. [That would mean rejecting essentially all scientific papers, but perhaps that would enable the journal to concentrate on Other Ways of Knowing.]

    1. Talk about overuse of a word! Attributing sanctions, of whatever sort, to “wokeness” strikes me as just a bit ludicrous.

    2. I think I’m misunderstanding this, so I apologize in advance. How can NATO and Russia both be equally responsible for the RUSSAIN invasion of Ukraine? (Maybe that’s part of the point you’re making, that the statement is rather contradictory, but I’m not certain).

      1. “Equally responsible” is quite unreasonable, but does the U.S./West/NATO claim to be pure as the driven snow in this matter?

        The Russians being Russians, can anyone claim to be “Shocked! Shocked!” that the Russians would more and more likely engage in this awful enterprise in response to further and further eastward NATO expansion, regardless of U.S. tut-tutting? Was this not quite reasonably predictable? Are the U.S./West/NATO having any second thoughts about perfunctorily dismissing the Russian demand that NATO membership not be extended to Ukraine? Or would that be too big a price to pay to prevent the Russian invasion? How big a concession would this be vis-a-vis return NATO’s boundaries to what obtained in the late 90’s? Were they calling Russia’s bluff, at the expense of the Ukrainian people? Where does the U.S./West/NATO writ not run?

        This morning, while running the interstate minefield of self-absorbed Amuricun drivers, I listened to an Atlantic magazine podcast featuring Anne Applebaum, who I gather is a stalward member of the U.S. foreign policy “Blob.” She claimed to the effect that the [post-Soviet] expansion of NATO was the greatest foreign policy success since the (first?) Cold War. George Kennan claimed the exact opposite. On Andrew Sullivan’s recent “The Dishcast” podcast, she said that George Kennan was wrong, and that he was wrong about many things. Anything must be true if one says so, especially Anne Applebaum. What are John Mearsheimer’s and Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’s Andrew Bacevich’s bona fides compared to hers?

        Assuming one were opposed to these wars/interventions, were any other countries in a position to levy economic sanctions against the U.S. for its adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq? (If this is allegedly “whataboutery,” so be it.)

  9. This is awful. The target is Putin and the oligarchs and their official spokespeople.

    It should not be an individual scientist, which is what this comes down to. What a horrible decision not to publish, or even consider, this person.

    1. And yet, it is individuals who are dying in Ukraine. The hope is that Russia’s scientists can be amongst those Russian civilians who, having been damaged because of this war, finally speak up and act out against Putin.

  10. I could see not accepting new submissions during time of war. I’m personally ambivalent about it but it is conceptually similar to other boycotts. However review processes typically occur months after that initial first contact, so the papers they are reviewing now were written and sent in before Russia attacked Ukraine. Such ‘voices from the past’ cannot be meaningfully accused of supporting or event tacitly going along with Putin’s war. So IMO journals should honor all submission currently in their queue (probably 1-2 years’ worth for Science and Nature!), and then treat the question of new submissions as a separate matter.

    I have to say however that I really don’t get her argument about journal editorial boards not making these decisions (and big publishing houses like Elsevier doing it instead). I think that’s exactly the wrong position and I suspect she’s only adopting it because Elsevier is on the ‘right’ side. Had Elsevier made a boycott rule and the editorial board stood against it, I suspect she’d be arguing for putting the decision in the hands of each individual journal.

    To my mind, organizations such as Elsevier are run by business-people while journal editorial boards are going to be run by scientists, so if we want scientists making the decision about the ethics of scientific collaboration during a conflict, then we should leave it to the editorial boards of each Journal to do that. Yep, this is going to create an inconsistent patchwork of answers – some pro-boycott, some con – but IMO that differing-answers-by-the-right-people is better than a more consistent science policy dictated by nonscientists.

  11. Financial sanctions are the best possible response. The apartheid regime in South Africa was battered into submission after facing the slings and arrows of financial sanctions. The first and only time that South Africa defaulted on sovereign debt followed PW Botha’s Rubicon speech. No turning back after Chase Manhattan Bank called in its loan. Isolate and freeze all the oligarchs who look after Putin’s purported $200 billion stolen from the Russian people. The end will be swift but sadly the poor will be suffer too.

  12. Update:
    Today Elsevier sent out these emails clarifying their official position. I believe they are taking the correct course here.

    “Dear Professor XXX,

    In view of the current conflict in Ukraine, we understand you may have questions about whether you as editors are expected to take any action.

    At Elsevier, our role is to help researchers advance science and improve outcomes for the benefit of society, and for that we need the free flow of ideas and quality, peer reviewed research from researchers globally. Given the international and collaborative nature of research, any restrictions on scientific publishing not only harm individual researchers – who may themselves have different political views from their governments – but also authors from other countries entirely.

    As of the time of writing, no government sanctions are in place which impact the handling of papers that include Russian authors, and we ask editors to follow usual practice on “Fair Play”: “The editor should evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors.”

    This is an evolving crisis and we will keep you updated on any developments that may impact your work. We stand by our belief that restrictions on publishing are inappropriate, and any exceptions should be narrowly crafted. We will work with the STM publishing industry associations, other companies, and research communities, to analyze any future changes in trade sanction policies with respect to Russia.

    Elsevier wishes to express its support for all civilians caught up in conflict worldwide, and our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine at this difficult time.

    All the best,
    Laura Hassink
    Managing Director, STM Journals”

    1. Many commenters who favor boycotting works by Russian scientists are forgetting who the real victims of such a boycott would be. As Dr. Hassink reminds us:

      At Elsevier, our role is to help researchers advance science and improve outcomes for the benefit of society, and for that we need the free flow of ideas and quality, peer reviewed research from researchers globally.

      A scientific boycott of Russia, while having zero impact on Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine, would deprive the world of scientific discoveries made in Russia. If Russian scientists make a breakthrough in vaccine design, who would be the losers if that knowledge were suppressed.

      Dr. Hassink continues:

      [W]e ask editors to follow usual practice on “Fair Play”: “The editor should evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors.”

      In these days of scientific publishers introducing policies to increase “diversity” among the authors of papers they publish, this is a brave statement. I hope that it does not come back to haunt Dr. Hassink.

  13. I don’t agree with this, but I understand it. Every decent person in the world feels the wish to do something.
    I think the more effective financial and travel sanctions, and the expelling of diplomats, etc., will cause some difficulty for Putin and his closer associates. But the trick is to keep those going despite the financial harm it does to ourselves and others in the world. Gas prices are increasing (and they will go up higher, I’d bet). Thats where sanctions start to get politically unpopular and Putin knows it.

  14. Science is our best hope of knowing what must know to have a future worth living in. Scientists depend on communication between each other, something that should be encouraged, especially in times like this.

    1. Hopefully there will be lots of communications between scientists, telling their Russian compatriots that there are plenty of good positions and work to be done outside the regime.

  15. It seems that international sport in Russia is in fact an extension of government more so than in other countries. Might it not be the case in academia as well, albeit perhaps less so in science (no more Lysenkos there?) than other fields. Are historians, political scientists, and the like publishing articles that debunk Putin’s presumably false worldview or ones that support it?

    If we start to monitor content, It all gets quite fuzzy … keep out the garbage (e.g., ethnocentric ways of knowing from science, false histories about Ukraine being Russian), but don’t allow inappropriate censorship (e.g., studies of gender or ethnic differences that focus on biological differences or other research that challenges the dominant narrative). Who gets to decide what is political and what is valid science?

    Perhaps best to leave the channels of scientific communication open and ensure that reviews and editorial decisions work to filter out the garbage? Increasingly problematic given so many journals operate to serve certain political views … not too hard to figure out what is acceptable at the Journal of Islamophobia?

  16. Another bit of Russian military is being exposed in this invasion. Every news organization alone with photos is talking about the 40 mile long trail of military vehicle, bumper to bumper, lined up on the road to the capital. I do not know what kind of military strategy this is suppose to be but it looks like Russia is having great difficulty with this invasion. If Ukraine was a modern military opponent Russia would be in terrible shape.

    1. It’s a formation called a “traffic jam”. 🙂

      Clearly the Russians bought in to the propaganda that their armed forces would easily roll over Ukraine in a day or two and neglected to do their logistics planning.

      Ukraine, by the way, has got a modern military. In fact, it is probably better equipped for this war than the Russians. Well, ok, Ukraine is not well equipped as far as air power is concerned which is why there is a 40 mile traffic jam and not a 40 mile line of burnt out vehicles.

  17. Speaking as a (retired) physician, I would be worried that a boycott of publication of medical scientific research could harm patients. Even basic research in the physical sciences can lead in unpredictable directions that medicine can harvest or build on. So I think I am obligated on ethical grounds to oppose such a boycott of any Russian research. If the research is ethically done and is not politically tainted (à la Lysenko or Nazi pseudo-science) it should be accepted for publication.

    Economic sanctions do hurt ordinary Russians without much control over Putin’s decisions. But they hurt particularly the oligarchs and kleptocrats his power rests on and who may well bring him down…or draw him out of Ukraine. Knowledge sanctions have no such concentrated punch that could in extremis justify their use.

    1. Speaking as a (retired) scientist, I will disagree. The accepted time from between the publication of basic scientific research to clinical practice is 17 years. PubMed also notes that “Physicians reported that when making clinical decisions, they more often rely on clinical experience, the opinions of colleagues and EBM summarizing electronic clinical resources rather than refer directly to EBM literature.” I don’t think that delaying Russian evidence based medicine research will have much effect on the practice of medicine in this country.

  18. It’s an interesting situation. I completely oppose what Russia is doing in Ukraine and I do think there should be international action to discourage the war. If that will not be through military action then sanctions will have to play a part. And sanctions will hurt the innocent. Soccer players who are banned from games are just as innocent as scientists who are banned from publishing. But I think there is something different about science. For-profit companies seek to enrich their owners, sports should entertain but science should be for the betterment of all humanity. While I have personally not participated in a scientific conference because it was hosted by the Chinese government (similar to Russia), I don’t think we should prevent Chinese or Russian scientists from sharing their work.

    It is complicated though. I could support not providing grant money to Russian scientists as part of the sanctions. And science is not the only thing that should be for all humanity; Russian literature should also be available to those outside. If these measures are for a short time, specifically to send a message to the Russian government, then perhaps they can be tolerated for the duration of the war. Although, I would hate to have to suffer because of what my government did, especially if it was doing something that was against my own values. I guess I’m lucky that I don’t have to make all those decisions.

  19. As long as these standards are applied consistently, including against the United States if it attacks anybody… Of course, they won’t be, so it’s hard to take them seriously.

    1. Are you saying that you expect the US to attack some country unprovoked for a land grab and for the world to not sanction them? Seriously?

      Or maybe I’ve misinterpreted, and you’re saying you don’t think the world will act consistently with sanctions against China if or when it decides to invade Taiwan?

    2. We should never endorse a standard we wouldn’t be willing to have applied to ourselves, relevant circumstances being equal.

      Hell, the golden rule is as old as the great apes.

  20. If this was about imposing a food embargo that would cause pain to the extent of starvation on Russia I’d be against it. Otherwise, esp with images on the Washington Post site yesterday of spent rockets embedded in the ground beside playgrounds, ordinary Russians can feel the pain too.

    As bkg to the food comment, this was what Herbert Hoover worked tirelessly on in both WWI and WWI. In WWI, the British imposed food embargoes on food getting into Germany which hit esp on the BeNeLux countries countries very hard. He managed to travel between the combatants to secure agreements that food would reach the people and not be siphoned off to the troops which he somehow miraculously was able to accomplish. Then after the German capitulation but before all was formally wrapped up, there were the same problems and he & his food administration were able to still get food into Europe. Finland suffered particularly also. Hoover was a great hero in those small European countries.

    Then again after WWII, he worked tirelessly in Europe at the behest of Harry Truman, getting food into Germany because the agreements on the partition was that the proceeds from all sectors should be shared equally among them, but the Russian sector, East Germany, was the breadbasket, and the Russians took the harvest for themselves, so a massive influx of food from the west was orchestrated to prevent starvation.

    The best account of both efforts that I’ve come across is Herbert Hoover and Germany (Louis Lochner, 1960), altho the account of the WWI efforts is better in HH’s 1951 autobiography.

    Meanwhile, my hope is that the oligarchs soon feel the pain to the point that they come to regard Putin as Rasputin and act accordingly.

    1. I did not know this about Hoover! That seems a fine example of where an ex-president continues to contribute in significant ways, and I have seen precious little of that with most current ex-presidents (save Jimmy Carter, of course).

      1. Yep, our only other engineer POTUS (whose hand I’m proud to have shaken).

        Glad to have planted a seed in at least one other person re. HH, too, and guarantee if you read the first vol (/3) of his autobiography you’ll be motivated to continue.

        Lochner, BTW, was with HH in post WWII Europe with the food relief, so that part of the book is written from first-hand experience.

  21. It’s a shame if you’re a Russian scientist affected by such a boycott but if it helps even a little to convince Putin to pull back, it’s probably worth it. Of course, Putin doesn’t care about scientific publishing but it’s a trickle up and collective thing. The West is hitting him from all angles. Putin is probably crazy but he still depends on the rest of his country to go along with this.

    I follow space exploration fairly closely. The space industry has a lot of dependencies on Russian companies and Russian technology. They still use Russian rocket engines and employ Russian spacecraft to make deliveries and ferry personnel to/from the ISS. These organizations are all working to divest themselves of these dependencies. It’s inconvenient for them to be sure but Putin has to be stopped or he’ll annex the rest of the old Soviet empire before long.

    Finally, dismaying a bunch of scientists is still far better than war. I’m hoping that the economic and social pressure the world is placing on Putin can be a model for how to deal with such monsters in the future, an alternative to war. I’m not saying it will work but it’s worth a try.

  22. Bravo for Dr. Krylov and a pat on the back for Elseviers and STM Journals. When can we expect the
    U. of Chicago Music Department to issue an official demand for the defunding of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev?

  23. “They still use Russian rocket engines and employ Russian spacecraft to make deliveries and ferry personnel to/from the ISS. These organizations are all working to divest themselves of these dependencies. It’s inconvenient for them to be sure but Putin has to be stopped or he’ll annex the rest of the old Soviet empire before long.”

    This is the one bright spot of this terrible conflict. Countries and institutions that previously felt it necessary to cozy up to Putin are now finally severing those ties and dependencies. Very long overdue, but better late than never.

  24. It seems to me any Russian scientist submitting papers to an organisation in the west should be curbing this habit till this is over. Even then if the fragile paranoid thug is still around I’d be careful.
    If any dialogue can be twisted to show western bias and we know this can be done and very easily (albeit clumsily) or perceived as excessive communication with the west.
    While under bright glaring light the accuser leans in,
    ” I see you emailed a certain *†*** on the *†** please explain what is your relationship with this said organisation”
    “On this date 3 yrs ago you said this”
    I’m making this up of course but I feel things can go badly for an innocent scientist when a thug has his back to the wall and can (as seen) dream up any slight on national security.

  25. I believe scientific papers should be freely published and reviewed. However, other boycotts that have economic or commercial important should be vigorously enforced because these are the ones that will not suppress intellectual endeavors. This would include performing artists because money is involved (and also because there are alternatives to live performances of music, theater or dance).
    The anti Israel boycott were of professional scientific organizations and was completely wrong. Banning Gergiev and Nebtrenko or arts organizations that perform for a fee is entirely justified. Individual artists who oppose Putin should not be punished….but they may well be if they oppose him publicly in Russia, so many of them will not speak out.

    1. The NY Times can’t resist the urge to mention Israel in the context of boycotts of Russia:

      “Israel, in its own way, [“in its own way” – give me a break! “In its own way” what does the NY Times represent?] serves as an example of the limits of these kinds of boycotts. For years, critics of its occupation of the West Bank have tried to pressure the government through the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. While it has had successes, it has antagonized people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide and failed to pressure successive Israeli leaders to change policy toward the Palestinians . . . .”

      ‘Some cultural institutions have tailored their actions against people who are known for their close ties to Mr. Putin. The Metropolitan Opera, for example, said it would no longer work “with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a video statement.

      ‘That has prompted a show of defiance from some Russian artists. The star soprano Anna Netrebko, who is scheduled to perform at the Met in Puccini’s “Turandot” in April, has tried to distance herself from the Russian invasion. But she also posted on her Instagram account, “forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.”’

      Sounds like compelled speech to me. To what extent must Netrebko osculate the Metropolitan’s (Gelb’s) gluteals?

      I’m working really hard to remember what American artists were similarly sanctioned during the noble 2003 Iraq war.

      So, is Gelb going to fire Netrebko? What ever on Earth shall she do?

      I contemplate Netrebko going to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and, a la Marian Anderson, giving an impromptu pro bono concert. Would the National Park Service arrest her for disturbing the peace or performing without without a license?

  26. I don’t think the boycott should extend to individual Russian scientists, artists, athletes, etc. who are not representing the Russian Federation in any official capacity and who have no direct or indirect personal or financial ties to Vladimir Putin, his circle, or the Russian government.

    I think the boycott should include any person or entity that meets the above criteria as well as include any conferences, competitions, etc. occurring either inside Russia or inside any Russian client state or inside any former Soviet republic (or portion thereof) over which the Russian Federation exercises de facto control.

    1. Rational, but I will disagree. I will boycott anything that supports the Putin regime directly or indirectly, including scientists who have remained in Russia. However, I will speak up for all Russians who take a stand against Putin and his cronies. Also, I will not boycott places like the Red Square Euro Bistro or other local Russian endeavors that have cut ties with Russia.

      1. I think your position is rational, too, Douglas. And I’m not necessarily wedded to the wisdom or practicability of my approach. It’s a tough issue all ways round.

        One thing for sure, though: I won’t be drinking any Stoli (or other Russkie vodka) for a good long while.

        1. Agreed. And I too am steering clear of anything that might contribute to Putin’s fiefdom.

        2. Stoli is made in Latvia by a company headquartered in Luxembourg (which has unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion, as reported by CNN). Less than 1% of the vodka consumed in the USA is produced in Russia.

    2. At this point, the sanctions are broad, sweeping and intended to create the worst harm immediately and into the future. We still don’t know what effect sanctioning Russian’s use of SWIFT will have; time may prove that we did the old cut off nose to spite the face. But there was consensus that it will hurt Russia more than other countries, so it was decided. To do “precision boycotting” like your first paragraph suggests takes a lot more time and effort, and time is of the essence. At this juncture, we’re at “any port in a storm” mode. I don’t think it’s realistic to go through the hoops required to clear each individual as you describe. (Sorry for all the cliches…I’m being lazy.)

  27. Meanwhile, scientists in Ukraine are removing thrit labcoats and taking up arms, A scientific paper is not much of a sacrifice. Geez Loueezz!!!

  28. Putin rules by the implicit consent of his citizens. Things will only change when enough people feel personal discomfort greater than the risk that rising against a demagogue entails. Granted, boycotting a few papers won’t tip the masses by itself, but this contributes (albeit to a small degree) to the termination of the dictatorship.

    So, some research might not get published this year and some Russian scientists’ careers will be stalled. Meanwhile, in Ukraine: Ukraine researchers:

    “Science in Ukraine has come to a halt. Russia’s invasion has crippled the country’s newly established research agency and forced its leader to a bomb shelter in Kyiv.”

  29. One point, which nobody has mentioned, is that research around the world is frequently funded by governments in general and defense ministries in particular. I am not talking about second hand funding ( publicly funded universities for example) but where there is a direct link between the two. In the UK, for example, projects are often funded by the MoD for specific purposes – indeed UK universities are encouraged to apply for research grants from the MoD. I suspect that it is the same in other countries, especially Russia. Can we separate the state from the science in those cases? Vespasian got it wrong: money doesn’t just smell, it frequently stinks.

  30. Scientists and artists like to believe their work is for the betterment of human existence and therefore above the mundane considerations of ordinary worldly concerns. I disagree. Russia must be isolated from the rest of the world in any humane manner that can be carried out. All of us need to be willing to sacrifice to try and stop Putin’s aggression, and to make it too expensive to hold onto should he succeed. This is an affront to a sovereign nation and the security of the planet. No one should consider their work too precious to be touched by war. Yes, economic sanctions are the most powerful means of hitting Putin where it hurts. Other, more symbolic means are also important. All sanctions injure the innocent. Not publishing their work is not the same as starving civilians. It is a professional inconvenience. The West must hold together to put a stop to Putin. Professor Krylov’s position disturbs me. This is the kind of attitude that suggests that as soon as the sanctions the West applies start to hurt individuals- ie my costs at the pump, my athletic event, my colleagues’ papers- people will complain and the coalition will fall apart. Her colleagues are not being picked on. There is a war going on.

  31. I had always thought that science, and its general pursuit was above politics, or independent of at least.
    Given Americas power and alliances I doubt any calls for refusal to publish any scientific papers from Americans, while the US was busy invading and bombing and occupying and killing millions of people would have had much impact. But I don’t recall any such moves.
    Rightly so in my opinion. Science should be, wherever possible an independent global endeavor of cooperation.

  32. Dr. Krylov’s post didn’t mention the funding source for the Russian research paper rejected by JMS. This might, I concede, bring up some knotty questions. In our country, significant research in math, engineering, atmospheric science, and I think even in Biology was once funded by the Office of Naval
    Research. So it is possible that some Russian research is supported by Russian government agencies connected to that government’s military actions. In that case, I am uncertain what I would think about
    the matter of publication boycotts.

  33. I can see both sides, but war always has collateral damage and whatever harm is felt by the Russian scientists is trivial compared tot he suffering of the Ukrainian people. I doubt that the boycott of scientific papers will have any measurable effect on Putin, but you got to do what you can.

  34. Although it is hard to imagine a scientist griping directly to Putin about how the invasion is cramping his or her style, that’s not really how it works. Instead, scientists often know important people in government and some of the people in government are former scientists who will likely sympathize. At this point, it is easy for a scientist to ignore the invasion. Having it impact their daily life in an important way may motivate them to pick up the phone and call their friends in government or attend a rally. Scientists often know a lot of people. Imagine some Russian version of our host who has their work disrupted. Perhaps they’ll let everyone around them know how they feel about it. Putin has more or less sold his lie about Ukraine to the Russian people. Bursting that information bubble is a good way to weaken support for Putin in his own country.

  35. Putin actually does care quite a bit about Russia’s prestige and success in scientific research, and has invested heavily in it. See, for example:

    I heard about this because a relative of mine was hired to help Russian researchers be more successful at publishing in international journals. (Luckily, she is currently in the US!)

    It seems this might strengthen the case for an academic boycott.

  36. I was reminded by this of incidents occurring in the beloved, by many, novels of Patrick O’Brian. No doubt many here are familiar with O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, extending to 20 novels set during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century. I recently finished reading the series for the third time. Stephen Maturin was an Irishman, serving as a physician on board warships in the British navy, ships commanded by his friend Captain Jack Aubrey. Maturin was also an accomplished naturalist, and – important to several of the novels – a spy.

    What I particularly remember was that Maturin was invited, even during the height of hostilities between England and France, to lecture, based upon his publications, at the most prestigious gatherings of French naturalists and scientists (“natural philosophers”. And given safe passage via Calais from England to Paris to do so. Where he was graciously received. I was astonished that such events could take place, but O’Brian was highly regarded a stickler for historical accuracy. So, I am satisfied that such events must have occurred, with scientists traveling in both directions.

    And I remember thinking, on first reading, what remarkably humane people those scientists were, how much they cared for the advancement of knowledge, that they were worthy of emulation. Maturin despised Bonaparte, as much as many of us here detest Vladimir Putin. Was he wrong to accept the invitations?

  37. I support this boycot. Everyone who respects liberal democracy and opposes rule-by-thugs needs to do what we can. I can’t stop buying. Russian gas. But I CAN stop reviewing Russian papers. The idea isn’t that this hits Putin directly. Rather, it let’s Russian citizens know that their leader’s actions have consequences that affect them, too. The Russian people, including scientists, need to do what THEY can, too. This boycot is one way we help prod them to act.

  38. People saying that a boycott from the West will put the pressure on ordinary Russians in order to shift the public opinion against Putin fail to consider that it may have a completely opposite effect: breed resentment for the West and thus increase Putin’s support.

    (they also fail to consider that Russia is not a democracy and ordinary Russians haven’t decided anything for decades, but that’s another story)

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