Wednesday, September 5, 2007

News on K-front

Today the editorial board of the new Journal of K-theory put out a public statement, which we reproduce below:


After several public statements and news articles regarding the Springer journal "K-theory" (KT), and the new "Journal of K-Theory" (JKT) to be distributed by Cambridge University Press (CUP), the mathematical community has become aware of ongoing changes. On behalf of the entire Editorial Board of the new JKT, we want to give as precise a picture of the situation as we can at the moment, especially to the authors.

It is very important to us that the authors should not suffer as a result of the transition.
Those authors who submitted papers to KT before August 2007, regardless of whether the paper has already been accepted or is just awaiting review, have three choices:
1) Choose another journal.
2) Maintain submission with KT for final review if necessary and publication if accepted.
3) Transfer their article to the new JKT.
All authors who have not yet done so should please notify Professor Bak on the one hand, Professors Lueck and Ranicki on the other hand, about their choice, as soon as possible. For those who opt for choice #2, Professors Lueck and Ranicki have promised to take over the remaining editorial duties.
We can guarantee that the authors who choose option (3) will have a smooth transition, with their articles progressing as if there has been no change. We will also do everything we can to help those who choose options (1) and (2). In particular, if the authors instruct us, we will be happy to forward to the journals of their choice the full information regarding the status of their articles.

In 2004, because of growing dissatisfaction with Springer, the editorial board of KT authorized Prof. Anthony Bak, the Editor in Chief, to begin negotiations with other publishers. The editorial board was unhappy with the poor quality of the work done by Springer, for example the huge number of misprints in the published version of the articles, the long delay in publication and the high prices Springer was charging.
The negotiations came to a conclusion in 2007. A new journal, entitled "Journal of K-theory" (JKT) will commence publication in late 2007. It will be printed by Cambridge University Press. Papers will appear earlier online, as 'forthcoming articles'.

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.

This shift towards more academic control of journals is not new. We follow here a path opened by Compositio Mathematica, Commentarii Mathematici Helvetici, and others (see for instance the interesting paper of Gerard van der Geer which appeared in the Notices of the AMS in May 2004). We believe that such changes can help keep prices low.

We trust in Prof. Bak's leadership for the launching of JKT and forming, together with the editorial board, the foundation to house the Journal. The statutes of the foundation will provide democratic rules governing the future course and development of the journal, including the election of the managing team.

We hope to have provided a fair picture of the current situation, and we plan to issue another public statement when new developments come up. In case of further questions, please contact any of the signatories.

Let us conclude from a broader perspective: The editorial board is committed to secure the journal's quality and long-term sustainability.

A. Bak
P. Balmer
S. Bloch
G. Carlsson
A. Connes
E. Friedlander
M. Hopkins
B. Kahn
M. Karoubi
G. Kasparov
A. Merkurjev
A. Neeman
T. Porter
J. Rosenberg
A. Suslin
Guoping Tang
B. Totaro
V. Voevodsky
C. Weibel
Guoliang Yu


Anonymous said...

The editors of K-theory pubished their statement after they received the following letter by me in which I pointed at various problematic aspects. Until now I have not been informed that the assumptions I make in my letter are not true. Thus I assume that I am right until the editors tell me the contrast.

As a consequence I ask every earnest mathematician not to cooperate with the Journal of K-Theory unless it turns out that my assumption of violation of law by the managing editor is disproved.

For your information I enclose my mail to the editors from Tuesday, September 4th.

Matthias Kreck
Hausdorff Research Institute of Mathematics
Bonn University

Letter to the editors:

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for sending me your text and giving me the chance to send you my comments before you publish it. I shall try my best to write in a way that can reach you.

In such a situation it is worth summarizing as objectively as possible where we agree and where we do not. Of course I partially have to guess.

I guess that we are all concerned about the price of journals. It was I who initiated the discussion at the Banff Center in August 2005 which led to the Banff protocol. I have talked to all the expensive publishers I met and blamed them harshly for having such high prices. I have talked to many editors asking them to do the step you have now done.

Our disagreement concerns the way such a step has to be done. For me the editing of a journal is a great honor and a high responsibility. The honor needs not to be commented: we all like to see our name on the front page, but there might be different views of the responsibility. Editors are responsible for a high quality of refereeing and after the paper is refereed for immediately passing the paper to the publisher who is responsible for timely publication (although you are aware of this, I would like to point out that problems with production are often related to an enormous backlog - and the main reason for a backlog is that editors accept too many papers!). You accuse Springer of mistakes in the production, and if this is the case, this is completely justified. But as long as the contract with the publisher is not terminated the publisher has not only the duty but also the RIGHT to publish the accepted papers. And one has to give the publisher the possibility to improve their record (this can be checked).

I ask you, was the contract with Springer ever terminated (according to my experience, such contracts can only be terminated in a written form, ask for a copy of the corresponding letter and the contract)? If so, how long is the period according to the contract in which the rights of both sides are unaffected (normally this is a rather long period)? I suspect that the rights of Springer are still valid. If this is the case (and this can be checked by you) the managing editor has violated one of the fundamental rules by withholding the papers for a long time and by offering authors the right to publish a paper submitted to K-theory in JKT. For you this might look like an old fashioned formal point of view, but for me credibility and honesty are indivisible!

We have a second disagreement. I know from numerous discussions (also with several of you) that most mathematicians agree that the service offered by different publishers is of very different quality. Most of the people I talked to agree that Springer is one of the best publishers, who in the past has taken care of the publication of excellent books and journals. Most of us complain about their prices, and I am here in the front row. But I think that a publisher of this quality has the right to be treated as a partner, from whom one can separate, but in a dignified way. I ask all of you and would be grateful if you let me know your personal opinion, do you think the way Professor Bak acted with Springer, is dignified? That is also my requirement of Springer and I will ask them the same question, if they think their behavior in this case was dignified.

After this I come to your statement. There are two parts where I am dissatisfied. When you write that it is very important that the authors do not suffer from this transition it sounds to me dishonest. Objectively, all authors whose papers where accepted suffered by the withholding of their papers. At least online their papers could have been published by now in a journal with a good impact factor (a criterion, I personally hate, but know that it is more and more applied; your new journal will naturally for a while have impact factor 0). They could write in their list of publications: accepted by K-theory, which for all of us counts as a published paper in this journal. (If I write a letter of recommendation I naturally look where the papers are accepted and I would feel misled hearing afterwards that it appeared in another journal).

The second part concerns your trust in the leadership of Professor Bak. I cannot imagine that you all have the opinion that he acted as a good leader, and trust comes from experience. Above, I mentioned points were I suspect a violation of the contract (regulated by law) by Bak, and you have the possibility to check this. But even if this turns out to be false, is he in your eyes a leader to be trusted?

After all my fights for good journals for a fair price I fear that if you proceed, this process is compromised. If you can understand my doubts, please give yourself the necessary time to work towards a good outcome.


Matthias Kreck
Hausdorff Research Institute for Mathematics
University of Bonn

Anonymous said...

Matthias, are you "a leader to be trusted"?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mathias, can you check the reference number 25, page 343 in K-theory Volume 36 (2005) in the printed version
to get an example of the `seriousness' with which Springer has been treating the manuscripts of K-theory!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymus, are you Bak?

Anonymous said...

No, dear Matthias, rest assured that I am not Bak, you don't have to look that far. I am just the blog's "favorite anonymous" - the fool at the king's court, if you wish. I simply suggest that you take a close look at the example suggested above, before continuing to strenuously defend a dead duck (aka Springer). Many mathematicians, whether they are directly involved in the current K-controversy or not, are far more concerned about the way the publisher has been handling mathematical papers than about the fine prints of whatever contract the managing editor might or might not have signed with Springer. The example given above is an extreme case: Nazi propaganda being inserted into a mathematical paper during the publication process (check it out with your own eyes if you don't believe me), but one can find plenty of less dramatic but nonetheless highly annoying examples of mishandling of papers. Mathematicians need some basic assurance that their work will be treated decently and respectfully by those very publishers that make a profit out of it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymus,

I immediately cycled to the library and checked the reference, where instead of "Liptschitz" the word "Auschwitz" stands. I phoned Springer to hear what their explanation is. Here is the answer:

ERRATUM to K-Theory, Vol. 36 (2005), pp. 327-343
In the article by D. Basu entitled “K-Theory with R/Z Coefficients and Von Neumann Algebras”, published in K-Theory Vol. 36, pp. 327-343 (2005), one reference is inaccurate, as a result of a data corruption prior to submission, that affected both the names of the authors and the title of that reference. The author wishes unreservedly to apologize to Jonathan Rosenberg and Shmuel Weinberger for this error overlooked in the proof stage.
The correct reference is :
Rosenberg, J and Weinberger, S., Higher G-Signatures of Lipschitz Manifolds. K-Theory 7 (2) (1993) 101-132.
Devraj Basu
June 2007

I am shocked about the level the fight against Springer has reached.

Matthias Kreck

Anonymous said...

How can a publisher, who pays
copy editors to to do a careful proofreading of the manuscript, let
a reference to an author name be replaced by one to a general in the
SS, with a different alphabetical order, miss the "typo" Lipschitz
manifolds-> Auschwitz manifolds in the same line and leave the
printed volume with such an horror in circulation and not replace
it? Is this acceptable?

Anonymous said...

Dear A.

the episode you are describing resulted from an anonymous making some terrible changes in the references of a math paper. Springer is responsible for publishing that. You noticed those changes and hence it was also your responsibility to speak out right away. You could have gone through one of the German leaders in Mathematics, like Matthias Kreck, and that volume would not be in circulation any more.

Peter Teichner, UC Berkeley

Anonymous said...

My vote is to not take into consideration anonymous comments in this discussion on the future of K-theory publications.

What's at stake is not only a satisfying outcome in the field of K-theory (with a single journal that everybody accepts as being of outstanding quality and reasonable price) but also the future of other mathematical publications. Springer is a huge asset at this time, even though we need to continue fighting their high pricing for journals.

The way the transition of "K-theory" away from Springer seems to have happened is a very bad example of how we mathematicians could destroy the support of a few willing publishers. Having Rob Kirby in my department, I know how much it takes to run math journals on your own and that by itself will not cover the future of publishing. We will also need the help of a certain number of professional companies.

AC said...

Dear Peter

First I (ac) heard about this episode and checked its accuracy only now. If I had known earlier I would of course have done something.
What needs to be done for sure is to remove from all librairies the copy of the Journal with that terrible "data corruption". As you say it is the responsibility of Springer to do that. They have been able to make the author sign an "excuse" as if any sensible person could believe that it was the intention of the author to have his paper appearing in that corrupted form!!! Only Springer has the means to recall the volume and to replace it, and I am writing to them to ask that they do it. I dont see what Kreck has to do with that, except if you consider that he represents Springer. The present crisis has its origin in innumerable printing problems since 2003-2004 (less serious than the above one fortunately), but just to quote examples nilpotent -> impotent everywhere in a paper, 4 pages missing in the middle of a paper, the author of a ten pages paper spending more than a year of back and forth proofs with the publisher before getting a sensible version etc etc...
This resulted in permanent complaints of authors to Bak and no solution was found except to move to another publisher. The only sensible thing to do at this point is to move ahead, get the new JKT on the rails making sure that it will be ran in a democratic manner and stop all this sterile quarelling.

AC said...

Good news!

I just got a positive answer from Catriona Byrne from Springer concerning the corrupted issue of K-theory which was discussed in this blog. I had sent an email asking if the corrupted volume could be destroyed and fortunately the answer is "yes":
"We agree. This is actually in the works right now. The corrected issue will have a covering note asking librarians to destroy the original issue, and pointing out that the online version is correct."

Anonymous said...

Defenders of Springer, look at its book publishing.

There was a time when GTM meant a book by Serre, a pleasant gem one could reread.

Now GTM publishes simultaneously multiple graduate differential geometry (or pick your favorite subject) texts with more or less the same coverage, in competition for the same market.

Many Springer mathematics journals publish articles written in ungrammatical English. If you pretend to publish a journal in English, you should edit the English properly, or demand that the authors do so. Somehow the budget journals published by math departments in places like Princeton and Indiana manage to do this just fine.

AC said...


I am really grateful to Catriona Byrne for her understanding of the situation and her help in removing the corrupted copy of K. I realise that the phrase:
"They have been able to make the author sign an "excuse" as if any sensible person could believe that it was the intention of the author to have his paper appearing in that corrupted form!!! "
could be misunderstood and I would rather say
"They have been able to publish an "excuse" of the author, as if any sensible person could believe that it was the intention of the author to have his paper appearing in that corrupted form!!! "
What I meant of course is that in my opinion the responsability for missing the "typos", and in particular the disordered alphabetic listing of references, should be shared and not entirely endorsed by the author. What happened to the author in that case is something that could happen to any of us: some "data corruption" occured at some point in the publication process and he missed the typo in the proofreading process. Good typesetters ask us to update old bibliographical references and of course they double check things like the alphabetic ordering.

Anonymous said...

1. AC's wild accusation
"They have been able to make the author sign an "excuse" as if any sensible person could believe that it was the intention of the author to have his paper appearing in that corrupted form!!!"
does not accord with my investigations, and should either be supported by some evidence or

2. Anonymous denunciations are inherently disgusting, and have no place in a serious blog.

Andrew Ranicki

AC said...

A Scholarly Society Makes a Logical - and Symbolic - Move to Cambridge U.


In scholarly-journal publishing, as in marriage, love can have very little
to do with one's decision to stay committed to a partner.

Lately, scholarly societies have been tempted to make alliances with
well-heeled suitors. A commercial outfit like Springer or Wiley-Blackwell
commands vast global marketing and distribution networks; a specialized
nonprofit publisher can offer publishing platforms and services that
university presses may find hard to match. And such assets often help seal
the deal.

The American Anthropological Association, for instance, announced in
September that it would leave the University of California Press for
Wiley-Blackwell (The Chronicle, September 19).

And this year the American Astronomical Society abandoned the University
of Chicago Press for IOP Publishing, part of the nonprofit Institute of
Physics (The Chronicle, May 18).

But another society, the Association for Symbolic Logic, has reversed the
trend and decided to ditch a commercial publisher for a university press.
It has severed its ties to Springer, which owns and publishes the Journal
of Philosophical Logic, a journal edited by the association, and formed an
alliance with Cambridge University Press.

Together the association, which is known as ASL, and the press will start
the Review of Symbolic Logic as a successor to the Springer-owned journal.
Revenue from the new journal will be shared between the parties, while the
association will retain editorial control.

All of the ASL editors of the Springer journal are switching over to the
new journal, which will make its debut in June 2008, taking its place
alongside the association's two other publications, The Journal of
Symbolic Logic and The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic. (The group typesets
those publications itself, and the American Mathematical Society handles
printing and mailing.) Dues-paying members of the symbolic-logic group
will receive the journal as a benefit of membership.

Those involved with the new Review say it will be broader in scope than
its predecessor. The association brings together logicians who work in
mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, cognitive science,
and other fields. It envisions its new journal as a meeting place for work
in several complementary areas, with an emphasis on philosophical logic
and its applications, the history of philosophy of logic, and the
philosophy and methodology of mathematics.

Penelope Maddy, president of the association and a professor of logic and
the philosophy of science at the University of California at Irvine,
points to a number of "growth industries" that the Review will spotlight
-- for instance, how scholars in computational linguistics, game theory
and decision theory, and cognitive science apply the tools and methods of
philosophical logic. "It's all about logic," she says, "but you can come
at logic from very different disciplinary perspectives."

"Different perspectives" would be a kind way to sum up the association's
relationship with Springer. Thanks to the vicissitudes of corporate
mergers, Springer is the latest in a line of commercial publishers to own
the Journal of Philosophical Logic, which was founded in 1972. The
association has edited it since 1987.

Working with Springer was a headache almost from the start, says G. Aldo
Antonelli, coordinating editor of the journal and chairman of the
department of logic and the philosophy of science at Irvine. Papers went
missing, typesetting went awry. "Authors were up in arms," he says. The
editors would submit clean manuscripts and "get page proofs back that were
full of typos and errors."

The association even tried to buy the journal from Springer, but its offer
was rebuffed. So in 2006, when Cambridge signed on to handle book projects
for the group, talk quickly turned to a new journal as well.

Charles Erkelens, editorial director for the humanities at Springer, plays
down the troubles in the relationship. "There has been an occasional
article where things have gone wrong and we've fixed them again, but I
have no bad relations with ASL in any way," he says.

The Journal of Philosophical Logic has done well for Springer, and the
company will continue to publish it, with a new editorial board. "It's
fine for philosophical logic to have more outlets for people to publish
in," Mr. Erkelens says. "I still think the Journal of Philosophical Logic
will remain the most important of those."

David Tranah, editorial director of mathematical sciences at Cambridge
University Press, was matchmaker for both the books program and the new
journal. Commercial publishers like Springer "have been vigorously
courting learned societies," he says, but often "what they require is more
than they can offer." Cambridge has vowed not to be so demanding. "We do
not insist on ownership, we do not insist on retaining copyright," he
says. "We want to explore possibilities for them. It's a different sort of

The union may be a meeting of minds, but both partners stand to gain in
financial terms as well. Previously "we were putting in all this work and
Springer was making pots of money," says Charles Steinhorn, the
association's secretary-treasurer, who is a professor of mathematics at
Vassar College. If Cambridge's calculations are correct, he says, "we
should be able to support new scholarly activities" with the extra income
-- a graduate fellowship, perhaps, or research support.

Meanwhile Cambridge has an incentive to be active on the journal's behalf,
spreading the word through its networks of editors and marketers.

The association's officers say they're over the moon. "We were nowhere
near this with Springer," Ms. Maddy says. "Assuming the Review does as
well as we think it will do, this is a great boon to the organization."

Anonymous said...

The reference for the story above is Chronicle of Higher Education, September 27, 2007.