Editorial control is sacrosanct

December 10, 2015

To our great dismay, Nick Rushby has stepped down as editor of the British Journal of Educational Technology. The basis for his decision lies in a conflict between him as editor (together with much of the BJET editorial board) and the British Educational Research Association’s reactions to a proposed amendment of the journal’s scope. The amendment was made to increase the journal’s quality by fine-tuning its criteria for selection.

The proposed change and BERA’s response to and position on it has led to an irreconcilable conflict regarding the editorial independence of the BJET. The email exchanges between Rushby (along with a number of board members) and Mark Priestley, chair of BERA’s Academic Publications Committee, made it clear that BERA wishes to have editorial control of the selection of content, despite the views of the editorial board and the journal’s editor, and that this decision is intractable and not open to discussion.

BERA’s terms of reference state that it is responsible for “setting general policies in terms of language and ethics for contributors and members involved in the editorial process”. The editor’s standard memorandum of agreement specifies that the editor must “comply with Editorial policy and all procedures and standards for the acceptance of manuscripts and to obtain BERA’s approval of any material changes to such policy, procedures and standards”.

In contrast, the Committee on Publication Ethics’ guidelines state: “The journals of Learned Societies are an important part of the scientific literature...The relationship of Editors of the journals of Learned Societies to those Societies is often complex. However, notwithstanding the economic and political realities of their journals, directors of Learned Societies should respect that their editors should make decisions on which articles to publish based on quality and suitability for readers rather than for immediate financial or political gain. Directors and employees should not be able to overrule these decisions. The relationship of Editors of the journals of Learned Societies to those Societies should be based firmly on the principle of editorial independence.”

In seeking to override the editorial board on a matter that affects quality and suitability for readers, BERA is interfering in editorial content, which is unacceptable.

This controversy should not be taken to reflect badly on Wiley, the publisher, which fully understands the decision of the editor and editorial board members.

Paul Kirschener, editorial board of the British Journal of Educational Technology, on behalf of:
Nick Rushby, former editor of BJET
Colin Latchem, former corresponding editor (Asia Pacific)
Meifeng Liu, former corresponding editor (China)
Roza Valeeva, former corresponding editor (Russia)
John Cowan, former editorial board member
Nancy George, former editorial board member
William Milheim, former editorial board member
Clark Quinn, former editorial board member
Jan Seabrook, former editorial board member
Vanessa Peters, reviewer panel
Susan Rodrigues, reviewer panel

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