Health journal latest to lose editorial board in publishing row

All 44 members of Critical Public Health board resign over Taylor & Francis’ article processing charges and alleged push for minimum paper counts

July 7, 2023
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The editorial board of another academic journal has resigned en masse to set up an alternative title after a split with a major publisher over the direction it was taking the periodical.

The entire 44-strong editorial board of Critical Public Health, owned by the UK-based publisher Taylor & Francis, announced their resignation in a letter, becoming the latest board to publicly dissent from a major vendor.

The Dutch behemoth Elsevier shed an editorial board in April and faced threats from another in June, over what members said were exorbitant article processing charges (APCs) and unreasonable annual publishing targets, among other concerns about its business model. Editors have also stepped down from journals owned by Wiley and MDPI.

Co-editors Judith Green and Lindsay McLaren, from the University of Exeter and the University of Calgary, said in the letter that the 44-year-old journal was “a forum for scholar-activists to publish work that illuminates and challenges power relations that shape all aspects of public health” but that it had become “increasingly difficult to maintain that vision under corporate ownership and control”.

Although the letter highlighted that the journal’s £2,700 article processing charge made publication “impossible” for authors from poorer countries, Professor McLaren told Times Higher Education that the split was “not reducible to any one thing”. Other concerns include the strategic role of the editors and the board being “significantly eroded” through a new contract and the introduction of a minimum article count, the letter said.

“We would like to have the number of articles reflect the high-quality critical scholarship that comes in, which might ebb and flow; it’s not necessarily going to align with any kind of minimum,” Professor McLaren said, adding that while the target had been pegged at current output, there were concerns that it would creep up over time.

Those who study how undeclared power dynamics can shape health systems may be particularly attuned to tensions in the publisher-scholar relationship, but Professor McLaren said many in her field were also shorter on funding than their mainstream peers.

Like their colleagues at Elsevier’s NeuroImage, who resigned en masse in April, the editors and board at the journal have launched an alternative outlet, the Journal of Critical Public Health, which will be published using an open platform hosted by Calgary.

While the rebels are still sorting out the finer points of their new editorial policy, Professor McLaren said the work of running the administrative side of the journal would most likely be shared by members of the allied Critical Public Health Network.

The editors-in-chief said they hoped authors and readers would rally to the nascent journal, but Professor McLaren said she would not pass judgement on those who still submitted to Critical Public Health, particularly early career researchers who needed established venues to win formal recognition for their work.

Should other boards consider similar moves? “It’s a lot of work to make the shift. It’s taken us many months, a great deal of time, a great deal of planning,” she said. “There’s excitement about it, but there’s also sadness about what was.”

A spokesperson for Taylor & Francis said the company was “disappointed” by the resignations but said that it would “very much look forward to recruiting a new editorial team” that shared its ambitions for the journal and desire “to extend its relevance and influence for the community”.

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Reader's comments (2)

Thanks for coverage of resignation of Critical Public Health editorial board - just to note, we had 45 members of the Board; 44 resigned. Judith
good for you all- and for exploring better alternatives.