Latest on K-theory Journal Situation

As reported here last week, the editors of the Springer journal K-theory have announced that they (or at least most of them) are resigning and starting up a new journal to be published by Cambridge University Press. Earlier this week, an announcement was made (in the comment section here, and on Andrew Ranicki’s web-site) that Ranicki and Wolfgang Lueck would be acting as interim managing editors for Springer, in the first instance to deal with papers submitted to the journal since April 2006 but not forwarded to Springer.

Here’s the latest e-mail about this from Anthony Bak (via the K-theory announcement 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

While what Ranicki and Bak have to say is consistent (no papers were sent to Springer by the editorial board after April 2006, Bak explains what happened to them), there are some odd things going on. One oddity is that the issues Bak refers to (35/1-37/4) as being published since April 2006 carry dates before or at April 2006. No issue of the journal dated after April 2006 has appeared on-line (and presumably not in print, I can’t check since it appears that Columbia is now getting this journal on-line only).

Over at EUREKA Science Journal Watch, some rumors about this have been posted (Update: these rumors have been removed due to concerns about their accuracy) , including one that claims that Bak made over 1 million dollars in the process of switching the journal to Cambridge. Maybe there’s something I don’t understand about the economics of journal publishing, but this seems like a very unlikely number.

Update: From the same source (Grayson), a statement responding to Bak from Lueck and Ranicki. They say they do not want to keep the Springer K-theory journal going, but do want papers already accepted to it to appear in a final issue of the journal if the authors agree. It appears that the rumor about Bak and a million dollars probably refers to a lawsuit that Bak is pursuing against Springer.

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)

17th August, 2007

Update: More from Ranicki:

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// and

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

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8 Responses to Latest on K-theory Journal Situation

  1. anonym says:

    I find it appalling if “not all the editors on record as signing the resignation letter actually signed it”. It is quite disturbing that this accusation is not immeduately refuted or indeed supported by members of editorial board.

  2. Peter Woit says:


    I should stress that the information you are quoting is very much a rumor, something to keep in mind before getting too appalled by it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the truth of the matter was less disturbing. Keep in mind that editorial boards of journals like this are fairly large, including some people who are busy and may not be all that much involved with the journal. There may have been a misunderstanding about who agreed with what action in this case, and the people involved may reasonably feel it is not necessary to publicly respond to rumors by explaining themselves and the details of the situation.

  3. anonym says:

    oh if it is just a rumor not to be taken seriously…but it is still somewhat disturbing that there was distributed a letter claiming the entire board resigned but no resignation letter signed by members of the board. but that’s just a part of the whole mess I suppose.

  4. Anthony Bak says:

    To clarify missunderstandings shown in comments above:
    All members of the editorial board of the journal “K-Theory” resigned in writing. In this regard Prof. Ranicki and I are in agreement.
    I will comment on the statemant of Lueck and Ranicki in more detail soon.

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  8. Matthias Kreck says:

    Open letter to the editorial board of K-theory (old or new)

    Dear editors,

    an article in “Nature” ( appeared containing the following information:

    1.) Accepted articles for K-theory where not forwarded to the publisher by the editorial board since April 2006.

    2.) The editorial board which resigned in January 2007 did not inform Springer about this step.

    You will notice that I say “the editorial board” and not “Bak”. It is my view that the hole board is responsible. Of course it can delegate something to the managing editor but the responsibility remains that of the board.

    It can happen that a managing editor beguiles the other members of the board, but as soon as this becomes clear and the others don’t act, the accuse is the accuse of the full board. It is very hard to believe that nobody in the board noticed the withholding of papers (in which case he had to inform the rest of the board), but since several weeks it is impossible not to know this. And if the statements above are not true there was enough time to correct them.

    To avoid misunderstanding. I am fighting for lower prize for Journals for more than 10 years and had harsh discussions during my time as director of the Oberwolfach Institute with all representatives of publishing houses I could speak to. I am one of the initiators of the Banff protocol. But this fight loses its justification if it is not based on credibleness.


    Matthias Kreck
    Hausdorff Research Institute for Mathematcs
    Universty of Bonn

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