Nature on K-theory Controversy

Nature has an article this week by Jenny Hogan about the K-theory journal situation reported on here, under the heading Strife proves hard to solve for K-theory. The article does show how real journalists do some things much better than bloggers, like calling up and interviewing the relevant people to sort out what happened. Hogan talked to Catriona Byrne, the mathematics editor at Springer, who claims that the managing editor of the journal, Anthony Bak, was sacked in January 2007, since he had stopped forwarding papers to them since April 2006. Also in January, Bak asked the editorial board to resign, which they did, although Byrne claims that Springer didn’t find out about this until May.

Much of the controversy about this has to do with the question of how papers accepted after April 2006 were handled, with claims being made that some editors and authors were unaware that they were not being forwarded to Springer for publication. One of the editors who is unhappy about this is Eric Friedlander:

Eric Friedlander at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a former editor at K-Theory, is in principle sympathetic to the switch. “There is a lot of concern in the mathematics community about the cost of journals,” he says. But on 17 August, Friedlander wrote to Bak to say that despite being named as a member of the editorial board of the new journal, he was not willing to serve “because I cannot endorse the process by which you have withheld manuscripts submitted to K-Theory and proceeded without consultation with authors and the editorial board”…
Friedlander is uncomfortable that papers were held up: “Our responsibility is to review mathematics that is submitted to us and disseminate it.”

Update: For the perspective of one of the authors affected, see here.

: For a letter to the editors of K-theory from Matthias Kreck, see this comment.

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5 Responses to Nature on K-theory Controversy

  1. Pingback: University Update - Northwestern University - Nature on K-theory Controversy

  2. John Baez says:

    How do you know Catriona Byrne is the one who told Jenny Hogan that Bak had been sacked in January 2007? It’s quite possible, but I don’t see that it’s certain — not from from my reading of the Nature article, anyway.

    It’s a small detail — but Byrne works for Springer, so she’s one of the interested parties in this dispute.

    I told you this thing was a can of worms… and I somehow doubt all the worms have wriggled free yet.

  3. Peter Woit says:


    You’re right that it’s just my assumption that Byrne either told Hogan that Bak had been sacked, or confirmed this if she had learned it elsewhere. If Hogan did learn this elsewhere, I can’t imagine that she didn’t at least try and get confirmation from Byrne. And she printed it as fact…

  4. John Baez says:

    Okay, thanks. I’m just trying to get the facts straight over at EUREKA.

  5. Pingback: More on the K-theory resignation « Secret Blogging Seminar

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