A leading journal in ecology and evolution is going through an evolution of its own, following the resignation of its editor in chief and more than half of its editorial board.
The mass exodus at Diversity & Distributions came after Wiley, which publishes the journal, allegedly blocked it from running a letter protesting the company’s decision to make D & D open access (the company disputes the claim, as we’ll detail in a bit). A letter about the issue, signed by scores of researchers worldwide, decried Wiley’s move:
We are particularly concerned that those authors whom we most wish to encourage and include in our scholarly enterprise are precisely those that will be excluded from full participation because they will not have the financial resources to publish in Diversity and Distributions. The monthly salaries of some of these academics are less than US$1000 or even less than US$500, so the planned article processing fees will be prohibitive. Indeed, even for many researchers in more prosperous countries, these fees are extreme, because the researchers must distribute ever-dwindling financial resources to supporting students, research, or other uses, instead of supporting the high cost of publications. (We note that the average article processing charges across open access journals is approximately $1400, and even that is prohibitive for many.)
The editor in chief, Janet Franklin, quit her post, along with her deputy, Josep Serra-Diaz. Franklin told us that her resignation isn’t effective immediately, because she is obligated to give Wiley six months’ notice. She tells Retraction Watch she is
encouraging them to identify a new editor quickly in order to assure a smooth transition that does not harm the journal. Most of my Editorial Board has resigned effective immediately (their contributions that include selecting reviewers and making recommendations are entirely voluntary and they do not have any kind of a contractual agreement with the publisher), so it is important that, if the publisher wants their journal to continue to be as strong as it has been historically, they quickly appoint an editor and build a new board.
Wiley, in a statement, defended its handling of the letter and said it never tried to suppress the article:
Recently, Wiley decided to move the journal, Diversity and Distributions, a Journal of Conservation Biogeography (DDI) to an Open Access model by January 1, 2019. Shortly after, a manuscript entitled, “Open Access Solutions for Biodiversity Journals: Don’t Replace One Problem with Another,” was submitted to the journal. Wiley entered a conversation with the Editor in Chief of DDI around factual inaccuracies presented in the manuscript. The errors were corrected, and the manuscript continued to acceptance. Wiley did raise concerns about the relevancy of the article in the context of DDI’s stated scope, but at no time did we indicate that Wiley would refuse publication of the article. The article is indeed being published as planned. It is important to note, regardless of our differing opinions with members of the DDI editorial board, we would never stop the progression of research. We believe very deeply in the importance of editorial independence. Our hope was to engage in a healthy dialogue and it’s unclear as to where the miscommunication happened, and we believe all parties acted in good faith.
Wiley is and always will be driven by the highest level of publishing integrity. We are disappointed, as are many in the community, with how this has transpired. We remain open to further discussions and resolution with the DDI editorial board and members of the research community.
Meanwhile, Anthony Ricciardi, an ecologist at McGill University in Montreal, announced his resignation from the D & D editorial board on Twitter earlier this week:
I have resigned from the editorial board of Diversity & Distributions, following interference by Wiley’s management involving an accepted letter-to-the-editor that voiced an opinion over Wiley’s arbitrary decision to change the journal to an expensive open-access format.
Mass resignations aren’t unheard of in science publishing. Scientific Reports faced such a scenario over its refusal to retract a controversial 2016 paper, and an architecture journal went through similar upheaval.
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