Another Journal Board Resigns

Last year about this time the entire editorial board of the Elsevier journal Topology resigned, this August it’s the turn of the Springer journal K-theory. The editors of this journal have all resigned, issuing the following statement:

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

The subscription cost for the Springer journal had been $1590, $1325 for electronic-only access.

I notice that while the editorial board of Topology has resigned, that hasn’t caused Elsevier to stop publishing and selling the journal. While I’m sure that a recent paper copy of the journal that I saw did not carry the names of the editors that resigned, the online version of the journal appears to still carry the names of the old editors, giving no indication that they have resigned. As far as I know, Elsevier has not been able to recruit a replacement editorial board, but they are still selling the journal, at a yearly subscription price of $1665.

Update: Via the comment section, there’s the related news that

  • The Ecole Normale Superieure has chosen to no longer have Elsevier publish the journal Annales Scientifiques de l’École Normale Supérieure; the new publisher will be the non-commercial Société Mathématique de France. The Elsevier website states:

    As of 2008 no longer published by Elsevier, please contact publisher Societe Mathematique de France for details.

    and, unlike the case of Topology, they appear to be no longer trying to sell subscriptions to the journal. Presumably the ENS controlled rights to the journal and its name so was able to simply remove it from Elsevier, unlike the case of the former editorial board of Topology.

  • Bruce Bartlett reports that a wiki called MathSciJournalWiki has been set up, devoted to providing information about scholarly journals, especially in mathematics. Members of the math community are encouraged to contribute to it.
  • Update: It turns out that there may be more to this story. See in particular the comment posted here by Andrew Ranicki, who says that no papers submitted to K-theory since April 2006 have been forwarded to Springer, and that he and Wolfgang Lueck will be acting as interim managing editors for the Springer journal to sort out this situation.

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    32 Responses to Another Journal Board Resigns

    1. Pingback: Ars Mathematica » Blog Archive » K-Theory editorial board resigns

    2. Coin says:

      As far as I know, Elsevier has not been able to recruit a replacement editorial board, but they are still selling the journal, at a yearly subscription price of $1665.

      What content, if any, has the journal contained during this time?

    3. milkshake says:

      Even if a journal withers, the publishers have copyright to journal archives and those will continue to be valuable source of subscribtion for many years to come. But something should be done now because the current scientific journal subscription rates are a bloody robbery.

      In related news, the profits from CD publishing is way down, the major music publishing houses are laying off their staff and/or are being sold for a fraction of their past market value.

    4. DB says:

      Evidence of a many-journal theory and particularly apposite given:


    5. anonym says:

      Is there an ‘official’ publication of the letter ? The text, as cited above, does not even has a date. The homepage of A.Bak, the managing editor, has no reference to the letter.

    6. anon. says:

      Scientific publishing can be a very lucrative business. The great Robert Maxwell made his first fortune from setting up scientific publishers Pergamon Press, whose journals had no limits on articles sizes (expensive page charges to authors institutions ensured that long articles were in fact most welcome).

      Of course, for readers, you end up with two types of problem:

      (1) The journals either become filled with long papers from collaborations of authors who can share out the page charges, which drives out smaller groups and individual researchers from such journals as they can’t afford to publish there, or alternatively:

      (2) The publisher keeps page charges low but makes a fortune by selling the journal at an enormous cost, so the reader in an out-of-the-way place has extreme difficulty in seeing the journal at all.

      Many college libraries only have a fraction of the total number of paper journals. To keep costs down, most journals are only available online over a university intranet, so the journals become subscription versions of arXiv. I think there’s a problem here, since it’s harder to study a lot of mathematics on a screen than in a printed journal. Hence the three internet layers:

      *The www (no restrictions on authors or readers)

      *Arxiv (authors endorsed by peers; no restriction of readership)

      *Online paid-for journals (papers restricted by peer-review; readership restricted to academic institutions, etc., which pay for access)

      So the more money the poor reader in Outer Mongolia has to pay in order to read your scientific paper, the more elite and respectable you become as a public-spirited scientist!

    7. Peter Woit says:


      The letter was an e-mail dated Monday August 6 from Anthony Bak, forwarded by Dan Grayson to the K-theory announcement mailing list that he manages.

    8. Bruce Bartlett says:

      Dear fellow concerned academics,

      This is great news!

      There have been some discussions going on at the n-category cafe and elsewhere, discussing whether the community should run a wiki devoted to math and physics journals, aiming to fight back against the greedy practices of the large publishing comglomerates by exposing their awful prices and policies.

      If you think the time is ripe for a “MathSciJournalWiki”, then pitch in a hand and help out! The current embryonic site can be found here. So far it has accessed the data from the AMS survery in 2004.

      I’ve just added this great news about the editors of K-Theory resigning to the front page of the site. But I’m an awful HTML coder, and I’m sure one of you could improve things.

      Remember, it’s a wiki. We’re all in this together, we all contribute as equals. You are in charge of the site!

    9. Laurent says:

      Dear Peter,

      You should notice too that the “Annales de l’école normale supérieure” have stoped their publishing with Elsevier. Here is part of an email I recevied a few months ago
      “’J’ai le très grand plaisir de vous annoncer que l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, après avoir dénoncé le contrat avec Elsevier concernant l’édition et la diffusion des Annales de l’ENS, a signé un nouveau contrat de partenariat avec la SMF”
      I would have difficulties to transalte “dénoncé le contrat” in english but this means the contrat has been volontary broken. Starting in 2008 they will be edited by the SMF, a nonprofit association (not a firm) and (knowing the usual prices of the SMF) this will be much cheaper !

    10. Peter Woit says:

      Thanks Bruce and Laurent,

      I’ll add the news from you two to the main posting.

    11. anonym says:

      Thanks for the clarification.
      It is funny, though, that Geometry&Topology (and some others)
      journal has become non-free meanwhile, approximately at the same time when Topology moved to a different publisher.

      And it is funny that on Topology&Geometry old website the papers are still downloadable for free; on the new one, they are not (and it has no link to the old website, and no link to arxiv publications).

      At the same time, we are changing the price structure and access to our journals. The journals were started by a group of enthusiasts who dedicated their time freely. For long-term stability of the journals, this group of enthusiasts is gradually being replaced by permanent paid staff. The income generated by subscriptions in the presence of a free on-line version was not sufficient to cover this new structure and we have been forced to start to charge for on-line access. However all our publications will continue to be stored in the arXiv and therefore freely available to individuals. However access to our main sites will only be allowed from an IP address in a subscribing institution. All readers are encouraged to persuade their libraries to take out electronic subscription. Electronic access will be open and free for all publications after a period of two years.

    12. Bruce Bartlett says:

      Hi Peter,

      It’s great news to hear about the Annales Scientifiques de l’École Normale Supérieure now being published by a non-commercial society. Thanks a lot for adding the link to the MathSciJournalWiki to the main section. I think I’d prefer it if it said something like “Bruce Bartlett reports that a wiki about mathematics journals has been setup, where any member of the mathematical community is free to contribute skills or ideas”, the idea being that it’s a wiki, and that it’s run by the community.

    13. woit says:

      OK, Bruce, I changed the wording. Good luck with that project!

    14. bob says:

      Presumably there are still articles in the pipeline that were accepted under the current Editorial Board, which may make it dicey for libraries to cancel K-Theory immediately. This may also be why Elsevier is able to publish Topology under the names of the resigned Editorial Board.

    15. Putting papers on ArXive would not solve the problem, as they are not peer-reviewed (one can start a standard discussion on whether or not one needs peer review). There are other possibilities — keep journal on-line only (see JHEP) or keep per-page charges, but let the authors keep the copyright and distribute the journal free (see Advances in High Energy Physics from Hindawi publ.).

    16. University research is, in part, funded by the tax payer.

      There seems a basic issue of fairness to demand that the interested amateur pay again to be allowed to read the consequences of his or her investment.

      The point by Alexey about the need to preserve peer review is a good one however.

    17. Pingback: It’s contagious! « Secret Blogging Seminar

    18. Coin says:

      Alexey, is there some obvious way that an Arxiv-like system with peer review could be organized? My understanding is peer reviewers have to be paid; how much of a journal’s operating costs does this make up? Would there be any value in taking a system like the Arxiv with free publication and tacking on the ability for peer review to be provided for some kind of fee?

    19. A.J. says:


      Peer reviewers are generally not paid, not in any sizeable amounts. People peer review because a) it’s essential to scientific progress, and b) the system does not work if no one peer reviews.

    20. David Savitt says:

      The news about K-Theory and Ann. Sci. ENS is heartening, but I’m concerned that at least in the short term this will increase total subscription costs for university libraries rather than decrease them. Many or most university libraries have package subscriptions to major publishers such as Springer and Elsevier, and I have a hard time imagining that the Elsevier price will go down when Ann Sci ENS is dropped from the package (or do I not understand how these packages work?); in the meantime we will need to purchase a new, separate subscription from the SMF. One plausible outcome might be that my library is not able to afford the separate Ann Sci ENS subscription, or at least that it will make it much easier for the library to cancel Ann Sci ENS at some future moment of belt-tightening. So I am nervous. If this is indeed a problem, could various national professional mathematics organizations consider forming a consortium and offering a journal subscription package in the way that major publishers do?

    21. Pingback: K-Theory / Journal of K-Theory « mathematik, bücher & meer

    22. Matt Daws says:

      Following David Savitt’s comment, I have a similar worry. Many of these big journals now have “electronic-only” options, where the subscribing institution gets electronic access, but only while they continue to subscribe. I always thought these were dangerous, as obviously if you cancel your subscription, you loose everything. It’s a pain to have to go and look at paper journals, but as a pure mathematician working in a slightly unfashionable field, I find myself doing this a lot anyway. I guess many libraries thought that with big names like “Topology”, the odds of wanting to cancel the subscription were low. We don’t know what Elsevier will do with Topology, but it’s quite possible it will continue, but as a much weaker publication. Some universities might loose a lot if they cancel their subscriptions.

      This said, the LMS recently moved their publications to Oxford University Press, and they have provided full electronic access to all the past issues (I believe, many of these were scanned and converted by OUP). But then the LMS moved from CUP to OUP in, I guess, convivial circumstances.

    23. Bee says:

      Hi Peter,

      Off topic, but thought you’d be interested: The recent New Scientist issue has a nicely written article about neutrinos which says:

      Last year Päs, who is based at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, together with Sandip Pakvasa of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and Thomas Weiler of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, looked at neutrinos from the perspective of string theory. This led them to suggest that sterile neutrinos, unlike most of the particles and forces that we see, can take short cuts through one of the normally invisible higher dimensions that string theory provides for, and so appear travel through time (NS, 20 May 2006, p 34).
      Their model indicated that if a sterile neutrino time-travelling through extra dimensions has an energy that lies in a particular range, if will flip into a normal neutrino (hep-ph/0611263). “We published a graph predicting just the excess of electron-neutrino events at low energy observed by Miniboone,” says Päs.
      So does this, or one of the other possibilities opened up by Miniboone, mean that it has caught sight of the theory of everything that will, everyone hopes, one day unite the fundamental forces?

      (typos are entirely mine).
      From Neutrinos: The key to a theory of everything (access restricted).

      What do you think about that?



    24. woit says:


      I did see that, but New Scientist articles with over-hyped claims about physics that invoke string theory are just too numerous to take the time to discuss, so I’m mostly just ignoring them.

      As for this particular speculative idea, it also seems best to ignore it. I’d wait to see if there’s any confirmation of the excess of events at low energy seen by MiniBoone, and even then, I strongly suspect there will be a less exotic explanation of the phenomenon than new kinds of particles travelling through extra dimensions…

      Personally I’d really rather continue to ignore this, but if someone has an intelligent comment about this that they must share, please do so not here (where you would be interfering with an interesting discussion of another subject), but at the next posting, which should appear soon…

    25. Bee says:

      Hi Peter:

      Thanks. I agree on the ‘exotic’ explanations. It’s interesting though there is such a large a market for this. Conservatism doesn’t seem to sell well these days. Otoh, maybe it would be misplaced in NEW scientist. Best,


    26. Coin:

      As A.J. said already, referees are not paid for their services. As far as I know from my limited experience, members of the Editorial Board are not paid either. The main costs of online journals are associated with running the servers, processing contracts with subscribers, and paying to people who do all those technical things. I think the closest thing to “peer-reviewed ArXiv” is the Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP). It does require subscription fees (which are infinitesimal compared to Elsevier’s ones). Also, all of the accepted papers are available on ArXiv, which is nothing but a “virtual” preprint storage facility (supplemented by the “endorsement system”).

    27. John Baez says:

      Peter -

      I think if you talk to some of the other editors of K-Theory (not the managing editor), you’ll get a much more strange and disturbing story about what actually happened here.

    28. Statement on K-theory


      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.

      Wolfgang Lueck (Muenster)
      Andrew Ranicki (Edinburgh)
      13th August, 2007

    29. robin2 says:

      A number of years ago my wife temped for a while at one of Elsevier’s offices. She couldn’t understand why academic journals used publishers at all. Obviously the contributors don’t get paid, and as has been pointed out generally neither do the reviewers nor the editors. So all the publishers are really doing for their money is acting as intermediaries between the editors and the printers.

    30. Syksy Räsänen says:

      Commercial journals are indeed redundant. Alternatives for open and free journals have been discussed on CosmoCoffee at and .

      A pilot project, RIOJA, has already been set up: .

    31. In principle journals are also supposed to do copy-editing, which they have to pay for. In practice most commercial journals manage to severely degrade papers by copy-editing them. Geometry and Topology, on the other hand, does a great job with copy-editing in my experience, which may explain why they had trouble covering their costs.

    32. Pingback: Not Even Wrong » Blog Archive » Latest on K-theory Journal Situation