The UK’s learned society of educational researchers has been accused of seeking to take “editorial control” over one of its journals, prompting the resignation of several editorial team members.
However, the British Educational Research Association said that it was concerned that its position on tighter rules on selecting papers proposed by the British Journal of Educational Technology has been “misconstrued”, adding that all editors on its journals “will continue to enjoy full editorial independence”.
The journal’s editor, Nick Rushby, has stepped down, says a letter sent to Times Higher Education by editorial board member Paul Kirschner, distinguished professor at the Open University of the Netherlands. The letter has the support of other editorial team members including Mr Rushby, it says.
Mr Rushby’s decision “lies in a conflict between him as editor (together with much of the BJET editorial board), and BERA’s reactions to a proposed amendment of the journal’s scope”, the letter says.
The journal’s editorial board had been consulted and worked together on amendments to “increase the journal’s quality by fine-tuning its criteria for selection”, the letter adds.
“The email exchanges between Nick (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,” the letter continues.
The letter also says: “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.”
It says that along with Mr Rushby, eight corresponding editors and editorial board members have resigned.
BERA says in a statement that Mr Rushby “first stated his intention to stand down as editor of BJET in 2013”.
The association continues that more recently it “received a radically revised and narrowed draft scope statement for the journal”, which it asked the editor to “reconsider” on “two grounds: the timing of the change with a new editorial team about to be appointed and some significant issues and ambiguities in the statement, which appeared to exclude all research carried out in schools, theoretical papers, and certain types of qualitative research regardless of quality”.
BERA adds: “All our editors will continue to enjoy full editorial independence, a principle from which we are not departing.
“At the same time, BERA believes that we have a responsibility to maintain the quality of our journals as well as the reputation and mission of BERA, and have acted in this light.”