Mass resignations from diamond journal over £2,500 author fees

Row at Journal of International Students spotlights challenges faced by periodicals that are free to publish in and read, and rely on volunteer labour

December 1, 2023
Over 2,300 people swim out to the sea as they take part in the Danskin Women's Triathlon Series to illustrate Mass resignations from diamond journal over £2,500 author fees
Source: Getty images

Dozens of editors and peer reviewers at a “diamond” journal have quit after the independent publication began charging author fees of £2,500.

The mass resignations from the Journal of International Students (JIS) follow changes to editorial policies that will also ask authors who wish to withdraw their manuscripts after submission to pay £500 to “offset the administrative and editorial efforts that have already been invested in the article up to that point”.

The row illustrates some of the challenges facing diamond journals, in which papers are free both to publish in and to read, with costs covered mainly by universities or academic societies. They have been hailed by open-access advocates as a potential alternative to for-profit publishing, but their operators have complained that their reliance on volunteer labour is not sustainable.

In a LinkedIn post, Chris Glass, professor of practice in higher education at Boston College, announced his resignation as JIS’ editor-in-chief, warning that the introduction of article processing charges (APCs) meant that “our journal and community will be forever changed”.

Professor Glass said he was “not involved in the decision to transfer oversight of the journal” to a “new team overseeing editorial management”, which, he claimed, “does not share our journal’s historic commitment to open access”.

Numerous other editors have also quit, with the journal’s website no longer listing any of its four former section editors, 17 associate editors or its senior and special issues editors. Its list of peer reviewers is also reduced, while its editorial advisory board is not listed at all.

Santiago Castiello-Gutiérrez, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, who has quit as an assistant editor, described the changes as “disheartening, unethical and unprofessional”.

“In a little over 10 years, this journal became living evidence that it is possible to fight a broken publishing system,” he said, pointing to a journal impact factor that placed it among the leading periodicals in its field.

Dr Castiello-Gutiérrez claimed that the journal had “resigned from its mission, and rather than fighting to eradicate predatory journals, it became a predatory journal itself that will now charge so-called ‘processing fees’ of thousands of US dollars”.

Krishna Bista, the journal’s founding editor, said in a statement that he was “empathetic” to colleagues’ concerns and that the title’s commitment to open access “remains intact”.

“Over the past 15 years, personal funds and in-kind support/donations supported the operations of the journal. However, in light of current financial commitments and the increasing technical and non-technical operational costs, we had to make a difficult decision to introduce an article processing charge to cover the operational expenses,” said Professor Bista, professor of higher education at Morgan State University, adding that he would do “everything I can to ensure that no scholar is left behind just because of financial barriers”.

Addressing concerns that he had “circumvented” the journal’s editorial board to make these changes, Professor Bista told Times Higher Education that “the journal remains an independent journal under my operation and management, just as it has been for the past 15 years”.

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