An open access journal has forcefully denied links to Russian spies after three intelligence experts quit a regular University of Cambridge security seminar it co-sponsored, fearing Russian influence.
Veruscript, a recently established publisher that offers to pay peer reviewers, has put out a statement to say that allegations that first appeared in the Financial Times on 16 December were “serious and wholly unfounded”.
The newspaper reported that three intelligence experts, including Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, had resigned from the weekly Cambridge Intelligence Seminar after Veruscript, which publishes the Journal of Intelligence and Terrorism Studies, covered some of its costs.
The fear they are said to have is that Veruscript – which was set up by a Russian and Kyrgyz husband and wife – could seek to steer security opinion on behalf of Moscow, reported the FT.
However, the newspaper acknowledged in its story that it had been “unable to independently substantiate” the claims of the three intelligence experts, and that “no concrete evidence has been provided to back them”.
Neil Kent, who is the lead convener of the seminar and editor-in-chief of the journal, told the FT that any idea of Russian interference was “inconceivable” and that the concerns were “real Reds under the bed stuff”.
The publisher’s response, released yesterday, said that founders Gleb Cheglakov and Nazik Ibraimova “neither have or would accept state or related agency influence or sponsorship in their professional or personal lives”.
“Veruscript is one of a number of sponsors of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. It is standard practice for academic publishers to support relevant research conferences and seminars. This is recognised marketing best practice in media and other sectors,” it added.
“Veruscript has absolutely no, and has not sought any, influence or involvement in the organisation, content or speakers at the seminar. Veruscript sponsorship has amounted to no more than £2,000 in the history of our partnership.”
They added that funding for the publisher had come from Gleb Cheglakov’s father, Andrey Cheglakov, who was not involved in running any part of the business.
A joint statement from Ms Ibraimova and Mr Cheglakov said: “We are personally both very upset by these unwarranted allegations. We chose this country as our primary residence in which to bring up our young family, because of its values of freedom, tolerance and justice. We are disappointed that elements of the British media appear to have fallen short of these values on this occasion.”
Veruscript – which Times Higher Education visited earlier this year to report on plans to pay academics for peer review – is according to its website set to launch two other journals in 2017: the Cambridge Journal of Eurasian Studies and Veruscript Functional Nanomaterials.