Is this a conflict of interest, if you are an editor?

David Roberts made notes here   about the following event:

“MU Panel 2. Future of Publishing
Date & Time : 18:00 – 19:30, August 19 (Tue), 2014
Moderator: Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, European Research Council, Belgium

Rajendra Bhatia, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India and Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Korea
Jean-Pierre Demailly, Institut Fourier, France
Chris Greenwell, Elsevier, The Netherlands
Thomas Hintermann, European Mathematical Society Publishing House, Switzerland
+Nalini Joshi, University of Sydney, Australia
Ravi Vakil, Stanford University, USA

I am extremely intrigued about this part:

“E[lsevier?]  does pay its editors-in-chief (=academics) and sometimes associate editors – doesn’t go all the way to reimburse them for the time they spend. Q from floor: where are these figures published? A: “We don’t generally make that available, mostly because the individual editors probably don’t want their colleagues to know” (~ Q: this is unfair A: depends on editors. There’s nothing in the contract stopping them from telling people. Most of them probably wouldn’t want to tell you. Averages out at about $100 per paper handled.”

This practice may be OK from the point of view of the publisher, but, in my opinion, the paid editors HAVE to tell in order to avoid a conflict of interest.

The conflict of interest appears when an editor is in a jury, or otherwise in any process which rewards  publication in journals like the ones where the guy is a paid editor (hiring, phd supervising, grants dispensing).  This is something which is worth discussing, I guess. Is not specific to math.

It is not a matter of the editor “wouldn’t want to tell you”, as cynically put by the E[lsevier?] speaker. It is a matter of being honest.

Recall in this context the post

We have met the enemy: part I, pusillanimous editors, by Mark C. Wilson

“My conclusions, in the absence of further information: senior researchers by and large are too comfortable, too timid, too set in their ways, or too deluded to do what is needed for the good of the research enterprise as a whole. I realize that this may be considered offensive, but what else are the rest of us supposed to think, given everything written above? I have not even touched on the issue of hiring and promotions committees perpetuating myths about impact factors of journals, etc, which is another way in which senior researchers are letting the rest of us down”…

Are we living in a research banana republic?

Apparently (some of) the publishers think we are morons, because they secured collaboration of (some of) the academic bosses.

I think there is no difference between this situation and the one of a medical professional who has to disclose payment by pharmaceutical companies.

What do you think?



3 thoughts on “Is this a conflict of interest, if you are an editor?”

  1. I realised that some automatic feature of YouTube and G+ integration mangled the time of the panel in the above – it has been turned into a link to a specific time in the video. I will edit in the original, could you do so here?

    Regarding your final point, I think it an apt comparison. When the JNT board negotiated hard with Elsevier (oh and yes, E=Elsevier in the notes), they were offered to be paid per paper handled, and I commented at the time that we could set up a scam to make money: submit papers that won’t be accepted, but would land the editor some cash we could split.

    1. Thanks, will do the edit the links appear to work from here. In the link to Mark C. Wilson post, there is the following passage. First he quotes a message from an associate editor, the interesting part is: “Although I would like to more precise, I think all I can say is that Discrete Mathematics associate editors get a mid-four figure salary (in US$), enough not to feel taken advantage of, but less than it should be. I also know that the chief editor receives
      quite a bit more, as he should.” Then Mark comments:
      “My own opinion is that this is scandalous. I am sure not everyone will agree. It certainly creates a strong impression in my mind of conflict of interest.”
      His post deserves a lot of attention, in my opinion.

      1. I mean, where it says “” it should say “18:00~19:30”. They were times on the schedule, and Google assumed they were references to times in the video, so turned them into links.

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