Row over T&F's handling of publishing critique

Row over T&F's handling of publishing critique

The editorial board of a journal published by academic publisher Taylor & Francis is said to have threatened to resign after the publisher asked for changes to an article criticising the publishing industry.

According to a report in Times Higher Education (THE), trust was said to have been destroyed between the publisher and the editors of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation over the episode. Taylor & Francis said it worked with editors on the article, which has now been given open access publication “to ensure all readers can…come to their own view”.

The article in question is a “proposition” paper called “Publisher, be damned! From price gouging to the open road”.

The paper, by four academics from the University of Leicester’s School of Management, criticised “large profits made by commercial publishers on the back of academics’ labours, and the failure of the Finch report on open access to address them”.

The paper was originally due to published in September last year, and was finally published at the end of May, with all the publishers’ names removed from the proposition article and the four responses.

Stuart Macdonald, the journal’s general editor, said a senior manager at Taylor & Francis wrote to him late last year to demand that more than half of the proposition article be cut. He told THE: “They never said why. They just said they didn’t want this debate to take place.”

Macdonald also said he was upset that Taylor & Francis added a “long disclaimer to each article warning that “the accuracy of the content should not be relied upon”.

The academic said trust had been destroyed between the publisher and editors, who were considering their positions, and that one of the options open to them was to set up their own rival journal.

A statement from Taylor & Francis said: “As the publisher we would prefer to reserve public comment and follow normal policy of working with those involved. Nevertheless we can confirm that we worked with Professor Stuart Macdonald, editor of the Journal Prometheus and colleagues, and through them the authors, to agree a version of the Proposition and Response articles for this debate. We have subsequently published the debate on an Open Access basis, at no cost to the authors, to ensure all readers can access and come to their own view.”

Simon Lilley, head of Leicester’s School of Management and co-author of the proposition paper, told THE: “Taylor & Francis’ ham-fisted attempt at censorship gives some indication of the level of fear that must be running through the industry at the moment.”

Steffen Böhm, director of the Essex Sustainability Institute at the University of Essex and co-author of one of the response articles, said: “We can only keep our freedom to publish what we like if we control the publishing process.”