#ChiefEditor #Resign @jbiogeography

After almost four years as Editor-in-Chief with the Journal of Biogeography, I have decided to step down. For the most part, these have been four productive years. We did a lot (see “accomplishments” below), working with a truly tremendous team of editors, and good support at the time from our colleagues at Wiley. But there is still much more to do. The challenge (see “challenge” below) — and ultimately the reason why I decided to step down — has been that changes at Wiley mean it is becoming harder to do the new stuff we felt as an editorial team that we needed to do, to support authors, to help effect real change and make step advances in the discipline. But it is becoming increasingly hard to stave off the undesirable consequences of the primary motivations of the the for-profit scientific publishing industry.

Our accomplishments since fall 2019. In no particular order, we:
– introduced a new article type (Letters) for short influential reports
– introduced ‘fast-track’ review, i.e. considering reviews and editorial decisions from prior journals to speed decisions and reduce editor and reviewer burden
– likewise made permission for sharing Journal of Biogeography‘s editorial decisions and reviews with other journals the default if authors wished to try fast-track submission elsewhere
– published special issues on Macroecology in the Age of Big Data and on Geogenomics
– published a virtual issue on Women in Biogeography and on Global Biogeography
– kicked off the 50th Anniversary year with virtual collections of the most cited articles of the past 50 years (vol_1, vol_2)
– established the Journal of Biogeography Innovation Awards, winners of which can be read at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/toc/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2699.Innovation-Awards

We also invested in our community. We:
– started the Editorial Academy (2020, 2021),
– began reporting on our diversity achievements and goals,
– started a fund for biogeographers from under-represented regions in honor of the late Judith Masters, and
– introduced small grants for global colloquia, of which we have funded two so far: one on Rethinking Dispersal-related Traits and another on The Biogeography of the Carpathians.

And we tried to be more connected, doing a better job of communicating biogeography, and providing a little added value:
– re-introduced author’s imagery on the front cover to highlight intriguing articles in each issue, these cover articles were made free to read (for two years),
– all Editors’ Choice articles also were made free to read (for two years),
– started this blog, and facebook and instagram accounts, and grew our presence on twitter, all run by our new and very capable social media editors and featuring primarily early career researchers.

In the next issue, we look forward to building on these accomplishments, introducing two new special sections
Reshaping Biogeography, a suite of papers reflecting on the advances in and the future of biogeography, and
Global Biogeography, to begin to address global issues of inclusion that will improve the discipline.

In addition, we kept the fundamentals going: we published over 200 articles per year, solicited high quality reviews, updated our scope, and increased the journal’s impact factor. We completed the transition started years before that every article required data to be deposited in an open repository before publication. And we also required every article to make a statement about permits in a more explicit attempt to support the Nagoya protocol.

Challenges ahead

In light of all those achievements, it might seem odd that I have decided to step down from the Journal of Biogeography (JBI). Why the change of mind?

I joined JBI after a long stint as deputy editor-in-chief at Frontiers of Biogeography, a society journal published by eScholarship with very low article processing charges. In many ways, it represents the best of scientific publishing. Coming from that background, the challenge joining Journal of Biogeography was, in part, to see whether we could work with new partners in Wiley to make big publishing a better place for biogeographers. Remember, the furore at Diversity and Distributions was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Perhaps I was naïve, but as mentioned above, we have done some good things at the journal over the years. However, recently, the orientation of Wiley to the journal became less collaborative and seemed to emphasize cost-cutting and margins over good editorial practice, a robustly supported journal, and accessibility for all biogeographers.

My main concerns were (and are) that Wiley is no longer willing to even try to explore productive solutions to a suite of current or upcoming challenges facing the journal (quoting from my resignation letter):
“- limitations of proposed targets for growth of the journal, transfer pathways, etc
– strategy for maintaining/increasing the quality and reach of the journal,
– strategy for supporting an effective ‘global biogeography’ initiative,
– concerns about equity and inclusion around flipping the journal to OA
– appropriate recompense for AEs, dEiCs, EiC,
– approaches to the journal that can support and enhance scientific community and thus improve the journal’s long-term prospects.”

In trying to initiate discussions with Wiley about these issues, and being rebuffed multiple times, I came to the conclusion that the opportunities for improvement at the journal that appeared available until late-2022, had receded. What Wiley has failed to understand is that our interests are their interests. These issues seemed symptomatic of larger problems with the for-profit scientific publishing industry. I concluded I could do more by leaving than by staying.

If you’d like to make positive change, here are some ideas.

McGill, B., M.B. Araújo, J. Franklin, H.P. Linder & M.N Dawson. (2018) Writing the future of Biogeography. Frontiers of Biogeography 10:e41964.  https://doi.org/10.21425/F5FBG41964

Peterson, A., R. E. Glor, & J. Soberón (2019). More on the future of publishing in biogeography. Frontiers of Biogeography, 11(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.21425/F5FBG42880 Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9vx8m3qf

If you’d like to learn a little more about some of these issues, here are a selection of additional editorials we’ve published over the years that address some of these topics.

Dawson, M.N., T. Gillespie, V.V. Robin, K.A. Tolley, & T. Vasconcelos. (in press) The Global Biogeography Initiative. Journal of Biogeography 50:xxxx-xxxx.

Dawson, M.N. Celebrating Judith Masters and introducing a memorial fund to support scholars underrepresented in biogeography. (in press) Journal of Biogeography 50:xxxx-xxxx.

Dawson, M.N. (2023) Our debt to reviewers. Journal of Biogeography 50:41-42.

Dawson, M.N, R.A. Correia, & R.J. Ladle. (2023) Five decades of biogeography: a view from the Journal of Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography 50:1-7.

Meynard, C.N., G. Bernardi, C. Fraser, J. Masters, C. Riginos, I. Sanmartin, K.A. Tolley, & M.N Dawson. (2021) Women in Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography 48:2117–2120. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14223

Hortal, J., C. Meyer, D. Bourguet, & M.N Dawson. (2019) Slow publishing in the age of ‘fast food’.  Frontiers of Biogeography 11.2, e42697. doi:10.21425/F5FBG42697

And there is a burgeoning literature — and media coverage — on challenges to and disruption in scientific publishing. Their effects are far reaching.

Look around, get informed, and form your own appraisal. #BetterPublishing #JBI


Published by jbiogeography

Contributing to the growth and societal relevance of the discipline of biogeography through dissemination of biogeographical research.

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