Publisher’s fiat

April 19, 2018

The news article “Journal board resigns in protest at editor’s dismissal” (2 March) highlighted the mass resignations at Building Research & Information because of the publisher’s arbitrary dismissal of its editor-in-chief, Richard Lorch.

Alongside the shock that this has caused within the community that BRI serves, it also highlights important wider issues about the governance of relations between publishers, journal editors and editorial boards; how best to create diversity within the support systems that a journal relies on for survival; and what happens when a publisher alienates the community that constitutes the lifeblood (and social capital) of a journal. Taylor & Francis has a previous history here, having dismissed the editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (“Publisher’s intervention on journal sparks ‘grave concerns’”, News, 18 May 2017).

As the BRI editorial team, we are very exercised about what we see as Taylor & Francis’ cavalier behaviour, not just because of the dismissal of BRI’s editor-in-chief but subsequently through its disregard of the journal’s editorial board as custodian of the integrity and reputation of BRI. One governance issue of particular concern is the lack of transparency and accountability. In dismissing BRI’s editor, the publisher failed to consult with the communities that this journal serves, especially with its editorial board and associate editors. The publisher continues to fail to listen to the representations that have been made to it since. We think these actions represent poor governance within Taylor & Francis and also violate its own corporate principles. We do not argue that diversity is not an important issue, but we reject the cavalier manner of the process and the publisher’s treatment of the editor, the journal’s gender-balanced editorial team and its diverse editorial board when making new changes.

What evidence supports the publisher’s assertion that the “rotation” of editors leads to improved outcomes? And is the imposition of fixed time frames for editors the most appropriate method to achieve new voices and new networks, as it claims? An ethical practice would be one that evaluates who benefits and who is damaged by a decision. But there has been no process to evaluate the publisher’s unilaterally imposed new policy or how it proposes to achieve this diversity.

An online petition, “Save BRI’s Editor”, has 873 signatories objecting to Taylor & Francis’ decision. Taylor & Francis was presented with the petition but has ignored both this petition and the community that it purports to serve.

Richard Lorch, editor-in-chief
Raymond J. Cole, associate editor
Niklaus Kohler, associate editor
Faye Wade, associate editor
Sofie Pelsmakers, social media editor
(The last four signatories have resigned in protest)

Richard Lorch, editor-in-chief
Raymond J. Cole, associate editor
Niklaus Kohler, associate editor
Faye Wade, associate editor
Sofie Pelsmakers, social media editor
(The last four signatories have resigned in protest)


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