Job Action at the Journal of K-theory

Back in 2007 I wrote here several times (see for example here and here) about the story of the resignation of the editorial board of the Springer journal K-theory in favor of a journal published by Cambridge, called the Journal of K-theory. For a detailed history of this, see Eureka Journal Watch.

At first this story fit in with the narrative of a group of mathematicians banding together to do something about high journal prices, but the actual story was much murkier. There never seemed to be any evidence that anyone had tried to negotiate a lower price with Springer. The editorial board resigned in January 2007, but the managing editor Anthony Bak had stopped sending papers to Springer in April 2006, and the resignation wasn’t made public until August 2007, a sequence of events that left some submitted and refereed papers in limbo.

The actual financial arrangements between Bak and Springer were never made public, and Bak was supposedly suing Springer for a significant amount of money, on grounds that also were never disclosed.

Wolfgang Lueck and Andrew Ranicki took over the task of dealing with the manuscripts in process at the Springer journal, and you can read Lueck’s account of that here.

When the new “Journal of K-theory” was started, there was a statement from the editors that:

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.

(a more detailed version is here).

The non-profit foundation did get created, it’s the K-theory Foundation and one thing it does is sponsor conferences, and award every four years prizes for work by young mathematicians on K-theory, with the first two $1000 prizes awarded this year.

The latest news though is that there has been some sort of breakdown between management (the managing editor Bak), and the workers (much of the editorial board), leading to a strike (see news from Scott Morrison). The workers are demanding that the ownership of the means of production be transferred, as promised back in 2007, from Bak’s company (ISOPP) to the K-theory Foundation.

Morrison has more details here, and in the comments quotes a claim that Bak’s company has been been receiving 73-74,000 pounds per year, for services that Cambridge would normally pay 20-25,000 pounds per year for. So, this appears to not just be about the technicalities of ownership, but about significant sums of money coming in from publishing math papers. At Morrison’s site, Andrew Ranicki advises “Follow the money.”

It seems that removing control of the income thrown off by math journals from the clutches of Springer may not solve all problems. The editors on strike say that if Bak doesn’t fold, they start yet another journal.

Update: The text of a recent talk by Tony Bak describing the history of the journal is here.

From Scott Morrison, news last week was that:

As of a few hours ago, Tony Bak is no longer the President of the K-Theory Foundation, having been removed from the board by a unanimous (excepting abstentions) vote.

Editors of the Journal of K-Theory have begun contacting the authors of submitted papers to give them the opportunity to withdraw their papers, or to wait and consider the option of transferring to a new journal.

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2 Responses to Job Action at the Journal of K-theory

  1. Narad says:

    I am reminded that Chandrasekhar almost single-handedly engineered the transfer of ownership of the ApJ to the AAS. JKT came in at just under 1200 pages in 2013. Unless there’s some serious manuscript editing going on, including high-end LaTeX skills being brough to bear, that’s barely an FTE.

  2. Mathematician says:

    So, are they starting a new journal?

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