K-Theory is a journal published by Springer (and by Kluwer until 2004). In January 2007 the entire editorial board of K-Theory resigned. This was made public in August 2007, together with an announcement of a new Journal of K-Theory, to be edited by most of the old board. According to their resignation letter this is to be published by Cambridge University Press, with a price less than half that of the old journal.
In fact, it seems that in January 2007, Springer had fired head editor of K-Theory, Anthony Bak, for not processing any papers since April 2006. Two mathematicians not involved in the new journal — Wolfgang Lueck and Andrew Ranicki (one of the editors of K-theory until January 2007) — have asked authors to resubmit these papers to K-theory. Bak, on the other hand, has said he will process them for the new Journal of K-theory.
To add to the complexity, Lueck and Ranicki claim that Bak has initiated a lawsuit against Springer, demanding a certain amount of money for himself.
- A branch of mathematics known as K-theory has this month seen its flagship journal bifurcate in a strange dispute, the details of which were still emerging as Nature went to press.
- The events centre on Anthony Bak, a mathematician at the University of Bielefeld in Germany and until recently managing editor of the Springer journal K-Theory. Bak left the monthly journal, due, he says, to production problems and a too-high subscription rate. He has arranged to launch a rival title with another publisher that has offered a lower subscription rate, in the process shedding some editors unhappy at how the shift has been managed.
- In seeking to cut prices, the editors follow the lead of the editorial board of the Elsevier mathematics journal Topology, which quit to launch a competing non-profit title (see Nature 445, 351; 2007).
- The cover date of the last issue of the supposedly monthly K-Theory was April 2006. Bak has withheld all papers accepted by the journal since then a situation that not all of the editors, or the papers' authors, seem to have been aware of until recently.
- In January 2007, the publisher sacked Bak. That month Bak wrote to his editorial board members asking them to resign en masse, which they did. As well as the cost of the journal, he mentioned production problems at Springer. But he neglected to tell Springer of the resignations. "At no point did Bak communicate to Springer directly that the board had resigned," says Catriona Byrne, editorial director for mathematics at Springer.
- It was only in May that Springer learned that the board had resigned. In August, Bak announced publicly that he had arranged to launch a rival title, the Journal of K-Theory, with Cambridge University Press at a lower subscription rate. Springer has now said that it will lower the K-Theory subscription rate.
- Dear fellow mathematicians,
- The Editorial Board of ‘K-Theory’ has resigned. A new journal titled ‘Journal of K-theory’ has been formed, with essentially the same Board of Editors. The members are A.Bak, P.Balmer, S.J.Bloch, G.E.Carlsson, A.Connes, E.Friedlander, M.Hopkins, B.Kahn, M.Karoubi, G.G.Kasparov, A.S.Merkurjev, A.Neeman, T.Porter, D.Quillen, J.Rosenberg, A.A.Suslin, G.Tang, B.Totaro, V.Voevodsky, C.Weibel, and Guoliang Yu.
- The new journal is to be distributed by Cambridge University Press. The price is 380 British pounds, which is significantly less than half that of the old journal. Publication will begin in January 2008. We ask for your continued support, in particular at the current time. Your submissions are welcome and may be sent to any of the editors.
- Board of Editors
- Journal of K-theory
First statement by Lueck and Ranicki
- In January 2007 the editors of "K-theory" resigned, following a request by the then managing editor Professor Anthony Bak. As announced in August 2007, some of them are intending to start a new "Journal of K-theory" to be published elsewhere. Unfortunately no manuscripts submitted to "K-theory" have been forwarded to Springer by the managing editor, since April 2006. We have been asked by Springer to act as interim managing editors, in the first instance to deal with these papers. We ask authors who have submitted papers to "K-theory" which have not yet been published to please contact one of us as soon as possible.
On 17 August 2007, the managing editor Anthony Bak posted the following public reply to the K-theory mailing list run by Dan Grayson:
- Springer: Large backlogs, poor production of manuscripts and high prices
- Professors Lueck and Ranicki reported correctly in their article of August 13 that we did not deliver manuscripts to Springer for K-Theory since April 2006. However, since April 2006 Springer published issues 35/1 - 37/4 (beginning in June 2006). This proves that in April 2006 Springer had a backlog of more than 1200 pages. This backlog contained papers delivered to Springer as early as December 2004. Moreover, as of now Springer has not exhausted its backlog.
- The majority of the former editors of K-Theory felt that Springer was handling manuscript production and publication in an unprofessional way over several years while, nevertheless, charging much too high a price.
- Authors of accepted papers which have not been delivered to Springer were informed that their papers can be accepted for the new Journal of K-theory. Authors of papers in the refereeing process were told that they could resubmit to the new journal and the refereeing of their papers would not be interrupted.
- Anthony Bak
Second statement by Lueck and Ranicki
Later the same day, Lueck and Ranicki posted the following [statement] on the K-theory mailing list:
- K-theory - statement
- In this statement we, Wolfgang Lueck and Andrew Ranicki, want to give some explanations to the mathematical community concerning the journal "K-theory" published by Springer and the anouncement of a new "Journal of K-theory" to be published by Cambridge University Press.
- Three weeks ago we were asked by Springer to do two things.
- 1.) Can we take care of the submissions to K-Theory which were delayed by the former managing editor Tony Bak?
- 2.) Are we willing to try to reconstitute the board for K-Theory so that the journal can be continued?
- 1.) We agreed to do this without really knowing how urgent and unpleasant the problem was. On August 13th we issued a statement on the internet to ask authors of papers submitted to "K-theory" whose papers had not yet been published to contact us, so that we could take care of them. From the answers we have received so far it is clear that not only had Bak deliberately withheld papers from Springer,but he also withheld information about the papers from editors and (worst of all) the authors themselves. By contrast, when the entire editorial board of Topology resigned from Elsevier in 2006 they made sure that all submitted papers were handled correctly, and to our knowledge no author suffered any delay.
- We were also informed that Bak has started a legal proceedings against Springer, demanding a certain of amount of money for himself. The editorial board of "K-theory" were not informed of the lawsuit. The details will only be revealed once the lawsuit is finished. Although we do not know the details, we dislike the idea of an editor starting a legal proceedings against a publisher. There are more elegant ways of handling conflicts.
- 2.) When Springer asked us to relaunch K-theory, we requested that the price should be reduced to 50 cents per page. Springer readily agreed. Incidentally, Bak never discussed the price of "K-theory", either with Springer or the editors. However, since it seems to be clear that the new "Journal of K-Theory" will be launched anyway, we have decided not to try to continue "K-Theory", but simply to make certain that all the papers which have been delayed by Bak can be published in a final issue of "K-Theory". Authors of such papers are free to publish their papers anywhere they choose.
- We think that this is the best solution for the community, which would not be best served by two journals in the field.
- In view of the mess we are encountering and trying to clean up, we ask the question whether the new "Journal of K-Theory" can be launched with Bak as Managing Editor? This should not detract from the excellent work Bak did in setting up "K-theory" in 1988.
- We want to emphasize that we have no personal gain from our actions.
- Wolfgang Lueck (Editor Topology 2002--2006, Journal of Topology since 2006, Math. Annalen since 1998 (Managing Editor since 2004), Comment. Math. Helv. since 2003, Geometry and Topology since 2005, Groups, Geometry and Dynamics since 2006)
- Andrew Ranicki (Editor K-theory, 1990-2007, Forum Mathematicum since 1998, Algebraic and Geometric Topology since 2000)
Statement by Ranicki
On 18 August 2007, Ranicki put another statement on the K-theory mailing list:
- The resignation of the editors of "K-theory" in January 2007
- by Andrew Ranicki
- On 29th January 2007 the managing editor of "K-theory" Tony Bak circulated an e-mail to all the editors asking us to resign, and included a suggested form of words. The reasons for the resignation were to be dissatisfaction with the technical aspects of the publication of the journal, and the high price of the journal.
- The problems with the publication did not seem to me sufficiently major to warrant such a mass resignation, especially as Catriona Byrne of Springer had written to the editors on 17th January 2007 carefully explaining the Springer side. She stated that the technical problems would be resolved by transferring the production of the journal to Heidelberg, but the problem was that the managing editor had not passed on any papers to Springer since April 2006 -- see my statements with Wolfgang Lueck for some further details:
- http://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~aar/editor/state1.txt and http://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~aar/editor/state2.txt
- The journal price had never been discussed by the editors collectively. (I was told later that it was not an issue raised by Tony Bak with Springer.) So I found the suggested form of words in the proposed resignation letter
- I assume you continue being dissatisfied with the price Springer charges for K-Theory.
- distinctly odd. I resigned on 30th January, having first made sure that the one paper I was handling for K-theory was taken care of, only writing to Tony Bak that:
- I am writing to inform you that I am resigning my position as an editor of the journal K-theory, effective immediately.
- In an addendum to the actual letter of resignation I wrote
- As it happens, I was never particularly dissatisfied with the price Springer charges for K-theory. Since practically all interesting work is available on the internet and there are so many journals anyway, the price of journals is not such a big issue for me. Tuition fees, the interest of students in mathematics, and workloads/salaries of professors are much bigger issues! The received dates business seemed a minor (if annoying) technical problem: the submission date to the arxive is a much better way of establishing priority for those that care about such things.
- Tony Bak's email of 29 January 2007 concluded with
- Please keep the matter strictly confidential, till Springer is notified. I shall let you know when this is.
- In retrospect, I should not have gone along with this, and should have sent a copy of my resignation letter to Springer at the time. When Tony Bak circulated the announcement of the founding of the new "Journal of K-theory" on 27th July 2007, I had learnt my lesson, and immediately replied with a copy to all the editors and to Springer
- Dear Tony
- Thank you for the announcement of the new "Journal of K-theory", and the invitation to join the editorial board. However, for a variety of reasons, I cannot accept this invitation.
- Best regards
- PS I am copying this message to Joachim Heinze of Springer.
- At the time, none of the editorial board expressed an interest in my reasons. They know the reasons now.
- 18th August, 2007
Statement by the editors of Journal of K-Theory
On 5 September 2007, the following statement appeared on the Category Theory mailing list, sent by Tim Porter:
- STATEMENT OF THE EDITORS OF THE "JOURNAL OF K-THEORY"
- After several public statements and news articles regarding the Springer journal "K-Theory" (KT), and the new "Journal of K-Theory" (JKT) to be distributed by Cambridge University Press (CUP), the mathematical community has become aware of ongoing changes. On behalf of the entire Editorial Board of the new JKT, we want to give as precise a picture of the situation as we can at the moment, especially to the authors.
- It is very important to us that the authors should not suffer as a result of the transition. Those authors who submitted papers to KT before August 2007, regardless of whether the paper has already been accepted or is just awaiting review, have three choices:
- 1) Choose another journal.
- 2) Maintain submission with KT for final review if necessary and publication if accepted.
- 3) Transfer their article to the new JKT.
- All authors who have not yet done so should please notify Professor Bak on the one hand, Professors Lueck and Ranicki on the other hand, about their choice, as soon as possible. For those who opt for choice #2, Professors Lueck and Ranicki have promised to take over the remaining editorial duties. We can guarantee that the authors who choose option (3) will have a smooth transition, with their articles progressing as if there has been no change. We will also do everything we can to help those who choose options (1) and (2). In particular, if the authors instruct us, we will be happy to forward to the journals of their choice the full information regarding the status of their articles.
- In 2004, because of growing dissatisfaction with Springer, the editorial board of KT authorized Prof. Anthony Bak, the Editor in Chief, to begin negotiations with other publishers. The editorial board was unhappy with the poor quality of the work done by Springer, for example the huge number of misprints in the published version of the articles, the long delay in publication and the high prices Springer was charging. The negotiations came to a conclusion in 2007. A new journal, entitled "Journal of K-theory" (JKT) will commence publication in late 2007. It will be printed by Cambridge University Press. Papers will appear earlier online, as 'forthcoming articles'.
- The title of JKT is currently owned by a private company. This situation is only meant as a temporary solution to restart publication of K-theory articles as soon as possible. It is the Board's intention to create a non-profit academic foundation and to transfer ownership of JKT to this foundation, as soon as possible, but no later than by the end of 2009, a delay justified by many practical considerations.
- This shift towards more academic control of journals is not new. We follow here a path opened by Compositio Mathematica, Commentarii Mathematici Helvetici, and others (see for instance the interesting paper of Gerard van der Geer which appeared in the Notices of the AMS in May 2004). We believe that such changes can help keep prices low.
- We trust in Prof. Bak's leadership for the launching of JKT and forming, together with the editorial board, the foundation to house the Journal. The statutes of the foundation will provide democratic rules governing the future course and development of the journal, including the election of the managing team.
- We hope to have provided a fair picture of the current situation, and we plan to issue another public statement when new developments come up. In case of further questions, please contact any of the signatories.
- Let us conclude from a broader perspective: The editorial board is committed to secure the journal's quality and long-term sustainability.
- A. Bak
- P. Balmer
- S. Bloch
- G. Carlsson
- A. Connes
- E. Friedlander
- M. Hopkins
- B. Kahn
- M. Karoubi
- G. Kasparov
- A. Merkurjev
- A. Neeman
- T. Porter
- J. Rosenberg
- A. Suslin
- G. Tang
- B. Totaro
- V. Voevodsky
- C. Weibel
- Guoliang Yu
Personal account by Wolfgang Lück
On 7 Septemeber 2007, Wolfgang Lück issued a further email to the Algebraic Topology email list, linking to a personal account of the K-Theory situation from his point of view (in German, English translation).
Final statement by Lueck and Ranicki
K-theory: the interim editors' final statement
In August 2007 Springer Verlag asked us to take over as interim editors of "K-theory", to deal with the papers submitted to the journal prior to the resignation of the editors in January 2007, and which had not been processed. We have now dealt with all such papers whose authors informed us that they wish to stay with "K-theory". Thus we have completed our task, and thank the authors and referees for their work. All further communications about the publication of papers in "K-theory" should be addressed directly to Springer Verlag, including any inquiries from authors of submitted papers who have not yet contacted us.
Wolfgang Lueck (Muenster)
Andrew Ranicki (Edinburgh)
5th December, 2007
AMS journal price information
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Peter Woit, Another journal board resigns
Peter Woit, Latest on K-theory journal situation
Andrew Ranicki's webpage, including the statements by Lueck and/or Ranicki and some other material.
Jenny Hogan, Journal presents a mathematical conundrum, Nature 448 (23 August 2007) 846-847. doi:10.1038/448846b; published online 22 August 2007.