“We recount our small act of resistance here because we think there may be lessons for the wider academic community.”
That sentence is from a blog post by the former editors-in-chief of the European Law Journal (ELJ), Joana Mendes (Luxembourg) and Harm Schepel (Kent), announcing their resignation, along with the resignation of all eight members of the journal’s board of editors and all ten of the journal’s advisory board members.
They are resigning over conflicts with the journal’s publisher, Wiley, regarding how the editors of the journal should be chosen:
In 2018, Wiley sought to appoint Editors-in-Chief without as much as consulting the Board of Editors and the Advisory Board, in a process both unfair to the prospective, excellent, new editors and in complete disregard of the integrity and autonomy of the academic community gathered in the Boards. The new editors withdrew, and the Boards resigned in protest. Wiley finally relented and agreed on an open competitive process administered by a committee of Board representatives leading to an appointment by mutual consent of the publisher and the committee. In the end, our recent negotiations with Wiley broke down on our one necessary if insufficient condition for agreeing to new terms: to simply have this process formalized in our new contract. It is a modest point, but one of vital importance: it clears the way to a model where Editors respond to the Board, not to the publisher, and where Editors work for the journal, not as remunerated contractors for the publisher. In other words, it is a fundamental condition for safeguarding academic autonomy.
The editors acknowledge that Wiley had the legal right to act as it did, as the owner of the journal:
It has the rights to the title and associated proprietary paraphernalia, and it controls access to content. It operates the ELJ much as it and other commercial academic publishers operate other journals. It appoints and employs editors as ‘contractors’ who then organize and manage the free labor of authors and reviewers of submissions.
But they claim that this standard organizational arrangement doesn’t fit with how they see the value and purpose of their work:
We saw Wiley as a prestigious publishing house that should be generously rewarded for services rendered to the intellectual project that is the European Law Journal. We saw sales and revenue and impact factors as slightly irritating but necessary means to the end of sharing that intellectual project with the wider academic community. And yes, we thought and still think that the intellectual project of the ELJ is ‘owned’ by the academic community of editors, authors, reviewers and readers whose efforts have made the ELJ into a leading journal of European law.
Wiley publishes many philosophy journals, including Bioethics, European Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Journal of Social Philosophy, Metaphilosophy, Noûs, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophy Compass, Ratio, Southern Journal of Philosophy, to name just some. I doubt that Wiley’s standard business model for journals is unique. I’m curious what editors of philosophy journals think about that model and about the resignation by those at ELJ.[Note: the foregoing list of journals originally named some that are no longer published by Wiley. Thanks to the readers who pointed these errors out.]