Eddy van der Maarel statement
Oct 30, 2001 16:58 PST
[The following statement was written by Eddy van der Maarel on November 8,
1998, to explain the background of his decision to resign as the editor of
_Vegetatio_ and launch the _Journal of Vegetative Science_. It was
originally sent as email to Michael Rosenzweig on the occasion of
Rosenzweig's similar efforts to launch an alternative journal. It has not
yet appeared on the web and I post it here with van der Maarel's
permission. --Peter Suber.]
For me, it all started back in 1974, when the Editorial Board of the
journal Vegetatio was dramatically changed after a coup with Bob Whittaker
(whom I had known well since 1964) and me as motors. We got the then
publisher (Dr. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague) to agree with a new Editorial
Board which was more or less forced upon the old Editor-in-Chief R. Tüxen,
the then leading person in phytosociology. Vegetatio had been founded in
1948 as the official organ of what is now called International Association
for Vegetation Science, in a gentlemen's agreement between Dr. W. Junk,
Tüxen, Braun-Blanquet and a few Dutchmen. The journal had been open to all
approaches but it was mainly classical phytosociology that mattered. This
had to be changed, Bob and I and some others felt and so it happened. Tüxen
was not as angry as one might have expected, but resigned and started a
journal of his own, Phytocoenologia (which still exists). Between 1974 and
1989 several editors - I was first a secretary and later an Editor-in-Chief
- developed the journal into a respected and high-impact journal. Meanwhile
Junk Publishers had been bought by Nijhoff - when Junks' daughter, who had
taken over, had become old. And some years later Nijhoff was bought by
Kluwer. And from that moment onwards things deteriorated. For many years my
contact person ("publisher" ) at Junk/Nijhoff/Kluwer had been Wil Peters;
Wil has certainly tried to defend the old values and decent cooperation
with the journal, but he could not prevent that the prices went up in an
extravagant way. Private subscriptions still existed, but they were half
the price of a library subscription and soon we had only one subscribing
person left. I knew that during the 1980s Vegetatio was Kluwer's most
moneymaking journal, but whatever we suggested, not so much regarding
salaries (see below) but things like getting us a fax, cheap subscriptions
for poor countries, free subscriptions for editors after many years of
(free) service, etc.
The only person who earned a salary during part of the 1980s was Marijke,
my wife. She was both managing editor and technical editor. However, in
view of the amount of amount she spent on the journal she was underpaid all
the time. The editors, not even the chief editor, ever got a salary (I may
add that I never asked for one). All the frustration made me think like "
we can't go on with this; why don't we do it ourselves. Equally low
incomes, probably, but a lot of fun and satisfaction. During a research
trip to the US I had serious talks with some friends who had already been
active as editors for some years and of them Bob Peet agreed to join me as
chief editor of a new journal for which we proposed - and later formally
adopted - the name Journal of Vegetation Science.
Now I start answering your questions - but add some more background
1. April/May 1989 I wrote to all authors and editors about the plan and
asked for solidarity; we even sent out an enquiry about becoming a private
subscriber as member of IAVS - the International organisation - which was
answered massively and positively. So we knew that at least some hundreds
of individuals would be willing to subscribe provided the price would not
be higher than a certain level. To my surprise none of all these people
seems to have warned Kluwer!
2. I wrote to all authors with a manuscript in the mill, whether they would
be willing to withdraw their manuscript and submit it to JVS. 95 % or so
3. I, already a member of the board of IAVS, proposed to the board that the
new journal would be IAVS-owned and that we would look for a publisher
willing to publish a society-owned journal.
4. Opulus Press was an idea which had circulated in the family for some
time. When the opportunity arose to start a new journal and make it
electronically as advanced as possible, our son Joost decided to make a
serious effort to get the journal.
5. June or July I wrote to Kluwer that I would resign as editor-in-chief
and Marijke wrote that she would resign as secretary of the board. I did
not have any contract whatsoever, so in a way it was very easy to resign.
Marijke had some sort of simple contract in which from time to time her
salary was adjusted.
6. Kluwer responded furiously - and my personal contact Wil Peters was
shocked, of course.
I was accused of "economic damage". The best Swedish lawyer firm in
Stockholm was engaged and I was ordered to send the entire archive with
manuscripts and addresses. This I did, gradually, but meanwhile we had
already removed the files of all authors who had withdrawn their manuscript
- assuming that JVS would start.
7. Later in the summer the annual symposium of IAVS took place in Uppsala -
of course as planned some years before. It was there IAVS would have to
decide to start the new journal. Two things happened in the meantime.
First, Wil Peters managed to get Helmut Lieth willing to take over as chief
editor. Second, Kluwer "demanded" that the proceedings of the Uppsala
symposium - which should be published in Vegetatio, as we had arranged much
earlier - should go to Vegetatio and not to the new journal. During the
symposium we had meetings with Lieth, Peters and a legal adviser to Kluwer
and we made this deal. Incidentally, however big and positive the response
was amongst colleagues, Kluwer (Lieth) had no problems at all to hire a new
editorial board and to get scores of manuscripts. I know that some people
were angry with me because my behaviour towards Kluwer was unethical (!!);
some others had economic links as series editor, some people are innocent
and do not really understand what is going on, and the (majority) remainder
are opportunists. I have never judged such colleagues in any negative way,
but you should be aware of the same development with Evolutionary Ecology.
New editors and manuscripts will soon be there.
8. Meanwile I (on behalf of some people, including Bob Peet, I guess) had
written to Opulus Press, Munksgaard (the international distributor of
Oikos, now part of Blackwell) and Cambridge University Press where I
explained what we wished and how we wished to do this (electronically
advanced, society-owned) and what prices they could offer for society
members and libraries. During the IAVS symposium the bids were compared and
Opulus was chosen. From the beginning I made clear that there was a family
relation involved in a contract between IAVS and Opulus. Which could be an
advantage (close and effective cooperation) or a disadvantage (Marijke and
I being interested mainly in the future of one of our children). Apparently
the vast majority of IAVS members considered the advantage bigger than the
potential disadvantage, assuming that I would never risk my reputation in
9. We started with 300 or so private subscribers and soon we had some
scores of libraries. Prices started on a low level and have been increased
only modestly. At the moment members pay 520 SEK (membership included)
which was ca. 80 USD and libraries pay 3200 SEK (a little over 400 USD).
Next year the library price will be the same, but members have to pay more
- after 3 or 4 years of 520 SEK). I should add that for this price we
publish ca. 100 papers on more than 900 pp. double-column pages per year.
10. New member-subscribers started to join us all the time, and especially
after we arranged that authors would either have to pay page charge (if
they were expected to be able to) or become a subscriber. This causes some
irritation amongst a minority of authors but through personal letters
(usually from me, as IAVS board member, not as editor, incidentally) most
of these people are calmed down. At the moment we have not far from 900
individuals taking JVS.
11. Libraries were not plainly informed about the reasons for starting JVS
- fear for Kluwer action - but approached positively on the basis of sample
copies. Since I managed to get JVS in Current Contents already the first
year 1990 and soon included in the Science Citation business libraries were
convinced of the quality of JVS. Now there are about 400 libraries
subscribing. I think it will be extremely effective if you would be
accepted by Current Contents and the Institute of Scientific Information (I
am very negative about this institute which has much too much power and is
an important factor in the economic dominance of the big commercial
publishers; but we cannot avoid using them).
12. From the very beginning I "materialized" my big ambition to put the
journal available for colleagues from poor countries. With a little money
left from the 1989 symposium and an adoption action we started a "Global
Fund" which is growing all the time and with the yearly revenues and
personal contributions from members we were soon able to support 20 members
mainly in eastern Europe and Africa. At the moment we have even 40
adoptions. We put a "reliable" colleague responsible but the adoptions are
to groups and departments rather, so that we may safely assume that JVS is
read by some hundreds of colleagues in more than 10 "poor" countries. This
is about my greatest satisfaction of all! My concern with countries and
scientists in problems has found another outlet in that we have accepted
many students from poor countries. During this academic year (my final one,
I will be 65 in February) I hope to witness our 50th dissertation defence.
Amongst Uppsala plant ecology doctors are people from Argentina, China,
Ethiopia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Also many
postdocs and guests could be accommodated. But the function JVS has in
"poor" countries is almost more satisfactory!
13. We have had an Editorial Office at my institute with partly volunteers
in the beginning and fully paid part-timers later on. With the growing
number of submitted papers (250-300 per year) the Office got real problems
and even with my personal assistance we did not manage any longer. Since
the summer Opulus has hired a full-time head of the Editorial Office.
14. Marijke is still working for the journal, now as a technical editor. At
the same time she keeps the administration of the subscriptions and has
since long a part-time salary from the firm.
15. Regarding the "electronization" of publishing, JVS has from the first
volume onwards been printed from files. At the moment almost all
manuscripts are submitted on file. A novelty is that proofs are sent as PDF
files which can be downloaded by the authors. About 70 or 80% of the
authors can use this system! Next year JVS (and some other OPULUS journals)
will be available (also available that is) for downloading from the Web.
Dr. Eddy van der Maarel, Prof. em. Uppsala University
Dept. of Plant Biology, University of Groningen