Another Wiley journal board resigns after month-long strike

Departing editors accept that there’s ‘no shortage of academics’ to replace them as they call for ‘concerted action’

August 7, 2023
A man holds a 'stop' sign
Source: iStock

At least two-thirds of the editorial board of Wiley’s Journal of Biogeography have resigned, citing the publisher’s push towards “exorbitant” open access fees and what they claimed was a policy to steer rejected manuscripts to other titles.

Former editor-in-chief Mike Dawson announced his resignation in June and 64 of his associate editors have been refusing to handle new manuscripts since then, part of an increasing trend of journal editorial boards deciding to take action en masse.

They objected to the publisher flipping the journal to open access, having to deal with an increase in papers and the automatic referral of rejected manuscripts to other Wiley journals.

Professor Dawson, who works at the University of California, Merced, said the board had first attempted to engage with Wiley about their concerns, but alleged that the publisher used this time to prepare their replacements.

At the start of August, with Wiley still not engaging, associate editor Amanda Taylor told Times Higher Education that two-thirds of the board had submitted resignations effective either immediately or from the end of the month, with more expected to follow.

She said the journal’s $4,840 (£3,811) article processing charge was “exorbitant” and excluded many authors, with waivers only granted to a tiny fraction.

Dr Taylor, a postdoc at the University of Göttingen, highlighted Wiley’s gross profit margin of around 70 per cent over the past five years and chief executive Brian Napack’s 2022 pay package of almost $5 million, contrasting it with the growing chunk of research time given up by herself and colleagues to handle manuscripts, with suitable reviewers becoming harder to find.

She said she had been brought in to help replace an editorial board who resigned from the Wiley title, Diversity and Distributions, in 2019 and said: “If I’d known I absolutely would not have joined Wiley.” However, she noted, that there was “no shortage of academics” to replace those who step down.

“The publishers have been really good at limiting this to a single journal,” said Professor Dawson, who said there needed to be “concerted action across multiple journals, across multiple boards [to] really change the system”. Professor Dawson said he is speaking with other publishers about developing alternative avenues to publish their work and is talking to colleagues about trying to get community-backed biogeography titles listed by indexers such as Clarivate.

A Wiley spokesperson said its “highest priority is to continue delivering impactful research that serves the academic community and society at large”.

“We appreciate the feedback shared by members of the academic publishing community and welcome further discussion to strengthen our journals and the people they serve,” they said, adding that 75 per cent of Wiley’s titles offered authors of rejected manuscripts referrals to sister titles, but that this remained entirely optional.

They said there was no plans to flip the Journal of Biogeography to be solely open access and that the company had extended several invitations to meet with the editors and discuss their concerns.

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