Publishing giant Taylor & Francis has called for talks with editorial board members from one of its international journals, after they resigned in protest against the dismissal of the editor-in-chief.
An open letter signed by 48 academics and experts who sat on the board of Building Research & Information labelled the publisher’s decision to terminate the contract of Richard Lorch as an “unethical betrayal” of the journal’s community interests.
“[It] is deeply shocking and we strenuously disagree with this decision,” the letter states. “We suggested maintaining Richard’s contract to at least 2020 to support the delivery of papers and special issues for which he has already commenced planning.”
Associate editors said that they were unable to guarantee support to contributing authors and guest editors who have already committed to future issues.
“As a result of Taylor & Francis’ ill-considered decision and the manner in which they have conducted themselves, we are now resigning as members of the editorial team and board effective immediately,” the letter continues.
Previous correspondence sent to board members suggested that a rotating editorship was “necessary to ensure the journal continues to evolve”.
Mr Lorch has been in the editor position for 21 years, but was given notice to leave the role by December 2018. BRI board members claimed that his contract had ended “solely on the criterion of length of time in office”, a decision that they said was “arbitrary and discriminatory” when editors at sister titles had been able to keep their positions for 25 years or more.
Responding to the concerns, Leon Heward-Mills, global publishing director for Taylor & Francis journals, said that it had always been the group’s intention to appoint a new editor-in-chief for the publication.
“The decision not to renew Richard Lorch’s contract was not at any point based on his performance as an editor, which has been exemplary,” a statement read. “It is based on our ambitions for the future of the journal and a strong desire to introduce new opportunities for others in the field to step into journal leadership roles.
“Such fixed-term agreements are a growing norm in journal publishing, providing opportunities for people to apply who would not otherwise be able to commit to an open-ended role.”
Mr Lorch had been offered an emeritus editor role on the journal’s editorial board, said Mr Heward-Mills. “We hope he will accept this position, and that the board will take up our offer of meeting to discuss this in person,” he said.