Jumping Ship: Topology Board Resigns | Allyn Jackson | May 2007 | Notices of the AMS
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"“Why should one spend one’s life maintaining a top-class journal—for Elsevier?” This rhetorical question, posed by Martin Bridson of Imperial College London, expresses one strong current of feeling within the mathematical community. Bridson was one of nine editors of the journal Topology, published by Elsevier, who resigned en masse in the summer of 2006, effective at the end of the year. The following January those editors, together with three new ones, reconstituted themselves as the editorial board of a new publication, Journal of Topology, which is owned by the nonprofit London Mathematical Society (LMS) and which will be typeset, printed, and distributed by Oxford University Press. Despite the resignation, Elsevier has made clear its intention to keep Topology going with a new editorial board.
First Mass Resignation in Math
Boards of journals in other fields have jumped ship in recent years, but this appears to be the first time such a resignation has happened in mathematics. And it happened with one of the field’s top journals: Topology, founded by J. H. C. Whitehead in the late 1950s, has an illustrious history and carried some of the best work in that branch of mathematics in the twentieth century. Whitehead, who was a professor at the University of Oxford, personally knew the controversial publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, an Oxford resident. Because of this friendship, Topology started its life as a journal at Maxwell’s company, Pergamon Press, which, according to Bridson, seems to have been generally viewed as a “benevolent” supporter of the journal. Over the years Topology has retained its close association with Oxford, and many of its editors have been on the faculty there. After buying out Pergamon, Elsevier took over Topology in 1994....
At the time of this writing, there were just under forty signatories. This relatively low number might simply be due to few mathematicians having heard about the Banff Protocol. But there might be another explanation. While most mathematicians would agree in principle that journal prices ought to come down, the reality of the struggle for jobs, tenure, grants, and advancement in the field means that the primary concern of most mathematicians is to get their papers published in the best journals they can. Journal price, if it enters the picture at all, is secondary. Until the balance tips the other way and large numbers of mathematicians start abandoning expensive journals, the status quo of journal cost is here to stay."