In response to the #Workstoppage by #AssociateEditors of @jbiogeography, the journal’s management at Wiley rapidly issued a largely dismissive reply that resulted in the resignation of deputy editor-in-chief Ceridwen Fraser. We invited Wiley to provide a revised response, but received none. As a consequence, the editorial board has compiled our concerns and called for a dozen issues to be addressed, as described in our answer to Wiley, below.
We particularly found several aspects of Wiley’s initial reply troubling, as follows.
Wiley’s claim: There are no plans to flip Journal of Biogeography (JBI) to open access (OA).
Response: The claim is contrary to the overall trajectory expressed by Wiley that flipping to OA is imminent (e.g. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16815; Wiley Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript) and statements to this effect about JBI on a 2-4 year horizon. In such circumstances, whether or not there is an explicit timeline, there does need to be an explicit plan for how the inequities that currently are being introduced by Wiley’s (and other journals’) appropriation of Open Access will be addressed. These inequities are already a critical issue and will be exacerbated by a full flip of JBI to OA; therefore, the community needs that plan for addressing inequities and the reassurance it will provide now.
Wiley’s claim: Authors can leverage the benefits of OA without having to worry about the costs … due to e.g. recent agreements in South Africa, Mexico, Thailand, and India.
Response: This avoids the facts, as have been raised by JBI AEs & CEs (including who are residents of these countries), in meetings with Wiley, that these agreements have unclear implications and/or are limited to a small number of prestigious institutions and exclude the vast majority of researchers. As such, they decrease relative visibility of research by the large majority of researchers who cannot afford to publish OA. Thus, Wiley’s actual stance on these issues damages the journal goals, as explained briefly here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jbi.14680.
Wiley’s claim: They greatly value the work of Associate Editors … and their goal is to ensure that journals are competitive, attract authors, and to grow journals sustainably … which allows them to reinvest in journals, infrastructure, editorial boards, scientific communities, and programs.
Response: Our experience feels very different. Wiley has in the past 4 years asked CEs to accept reduced honoraria, depreciated honoraria by failing to offer adjustments for inflation, reduced the value of rewards given to AEs, failed to deliver promised marketing, disrespected the editorial board, and disinvested in production thus decreasing the quality of manuscripts and shifting workload to the editorial team. Long before this Wiley chose to monetize language support. The miniscule number of OA waivers offered (estimated mean <1 per journal per year) to a small minority does not offset the inequalities introduced for the large majority. Wiley has failed to invest sufficiently in JBI to maintain, let alone increase, its standing in the field; the evidence is clear, in a wide suite of metrics and the average quality of submitted manuscripts. Wiley offers minimal promotion of the journal, again asking the editorial team to do more while Wiley itself does less. These are issues at other journals too. This disinvestment stands in stark contrast to record revenues of over $2B reported by Wiley for 2022 and large profit margins, with academic publishing being a particularly profitable asset.
Wiley’s claim: they are very open to a discussion to see how they can make things better
Response: The Editorial Board is optimistic about discussions — though our optimism is tempered because our concerns have now been dismissed at four levels within Wiley (by the Journals Publisher for JBI, the Associate Editorial Director for Life Sciences, the Senior Editorial Director for Life Sciences, and the Group Vice President for Publishing), leading to the situation in which we now find ourselves.
As such, we want to be clear about twelve actions needed to resolve the current dispute, which we expect these to be the topics for candid discussion and policy changes.
1. As one of a variety of possible futures, a model must be developed for the possible case of fully flipping JBI to gold OA — irrespective of whether there is or is not currently an explicit plan. In this, Wiley must guarantee a full or partial waiver (as needed) to any author whose manuscript is accepted but who does not have the funds to pay the regular APC.
2. Irrespective of the publication model, OA fees for JBI must be more affordable, reflecting the cost of publication, which will help reduce inequity.
3. Irrespective of the publication model, there must be a meaningful waiver program so that researchers with insufficient funds are not disadvantaged.
4. In addition to the above, other elements supporting the journal’s stated ‘Global Biogeography Initiative’ should be enacted:
· free language support for non-English-as-a-first-language author teams during editorial and peer review
· the Judith Masters Memorial Fund, while appreciated, is insufficient to cover all costs of attendance at an international meeting. The fund should be increased so that it would cover all expenses of attendance at an international conference/lab, for multiple eligible researchers.
5. Revise the ScholarOne interface and transfer scheme to facilitate JBI’s editorial policy on decisions, including transfers, encouraging sharing of decisions and reviews with any journal.
6. Goals to grow must not come at the expense of the quality of the journal. The former should be driven by improvements in the latter. Therefore, goals to grow the journal must be accompanied with matching additional investment. At this point in time, the senior editorial team is against increasing the number of accepted papers. Rather, Wiley must invest in strategies that will increase the standing of JBI in comparison to other journals of comparable scope.
7. Rewards for AEs must be reinstated to prior levels, i.e. at least one OA article per year in JBI (as first or senior author) or equivalent value (depending on the editors’ circumstances)
8. deputy Editor-in-Chief honoraria should be returned to pre-2019 levels. All honoraria should be automatically annually adjusted for Inflation. If more work is shifted to people receiving honoraria, the honoraria should increase accordingly; criteria for calculating honoraria should be transparent.
9. More investment must be made in the scientific (Biogeography) community. We suggest levels akin to those returned to societies as a benchmark, as they are analogs for the biogeographic community that supports Wiley’s business model for JBI. Also see above re. APC waivers, Judith Masters Memorial Fund, honoraria, recompense for AEs. In addition, this means increases in support for global colloquia. And it necessitates annual inflation-adjustment for all such investments; anything less is an effective disinvestment.
10. Non-Disclosure clauses must be removed from editor contracts
11. Independence of the Editorial Board must be reified, and also clarified through contracts (e.g. exclusion of growth targets, transfer targets, NDAs, etc)
12. Reinvestment in Production, revision of workflows, and returning oversight to the Editor-in-Chief.
There are of course important discussions to be held within many of these issues, for example:
– What is the actual cost of publishing against which to benchmark APCs?
– How to determine the availability of funds to pay for OA?
– What percentage of profit should be re-invested in the community/journal?
The JBI editorial board is willing to begin these discussions immediately — we also recommend establishment of an Editorial Advisory Board for the Wiley Biogeography journals — which will be supported by Wiley staff, and provided with necessary information, independence, and standing to help Wiley make better informed decisions that support long term sustainability of the journals. Furthermore, these revisions and commitments must be made publicly. It will be particularly important for Wiley to show its re-investment in the journal, in the biogeography community, and in the future; to demonstrate that Wiley actually does respect editors, reinvest in the journal, and is committed to equitable access. All of which is currently unapparent. Such will reassure the community that JBI (and Wiley in general) is a reliable partner for our work and service.