The publisher of Building Research & Information, Taylor & Francis, has recently decided to terminate Richard Lorch’s contract as Editor-in-Chief at the end of 2018. This action has sparked grave concern amongst the members of BRI’s editorial board. What follows is an open letter written by the board to the publisher. It details the concerns of the editorial board, the action that they took to try to dissuade Taylor & Francis, and the subsequent response from the publisher. All of the signatories of this letter have tendered their resignation from post.
Dear Mr Heward-Mills & Mr Delahunty,
We are aware that you have decided to terminate Richard Lorch’s contract as Editor-in-Chief of Building Research and Information on 31st December 2018. This is deeply shocking and we strenuously disagree with this decision. It is not in the best interests of the journal or the community served by the journal.
The only apparent criterion given for this decision was that an editor should have a limited period of office. This was claimed by yourselves to be an industry standard. This is not the case; we have presented you with clear evidence of long-serving editors in other excellent academic journals. Some of BRI’s esteemed and flourishing “rival” journals have had editors in post for upwards of 30 years. Indeed, Taylor & Francis’ own Construction Management & Economics editor held his post for 25 years.
As highlighted by one board member:
“The notion that a rotating editorship is ‘ …necessary to ensure the journal continues to evolve, to enable new voices and allow new networks to build on current ones‘ (quoted from correspondence received from Richard Delahunty) is spurious. There are in fact many “new voices” in BRI – a new associate editor and 12 new editorial board members, not to mention the numerous new authors who are added to the journal with each addition, all generating new networks.” (Fionn Stevenson)
We are surprised that you have not taken into account the widespread support that exists for Richard Lorch to continue and his exemplary role. You have failed to consult or involve editorial board members, associate editors, authors, readers or reviewers. Many people are aggrieved by your position:
“An inability to reconsider [your decision] reveals contempt for the associated research community: those that write the articles, review them, read them, pay for subscriptions through their libraries, and in many cases pay directly to have articles published.” (Jennifer Whyte)
Over 40 individual letters of protest from the editorial board members were sent to you. These demonstrated the broad and varied contributions that Richard Lorch makes to the Journal, and the community’s overwhelmingly positive experience of working with him. All of these communications arrived at the same conclusion that Richard must not be dismissed. Your process for arriving at a decision is one-sided and thus betrays our community’s interest and views. You have ignored us.
We have provided numerous valid reasons for retaining Richard Lorch as Editor-in-Chief. In particular, we have highlighted how he captures the diversity of research taking place in this field and keeps the journal current and vital. We noted Richard’s ability to draw a variety of disciplines together; his activity in increasing the readership of BRI, including engaging in new social media outlets and developing BRI’s influence in China; and his commitment to maintaining a diverse range of editorial board members, associate editors, reviewers, authors, and readers. Taylor & Francis have ignored or swept aside all of the evidence that was offered to them.
This dismissal of an excellent editor:
“betrays a failure at Taylor & Francis to understand how successful academic journals work: how they are built up by their editors by patient work over many years, by the editors having rich and widely spread networks of contacts, by their being in touch with all the latest developments in the field, and being able to spot future trends. Above all good editors can harness the good will and hard work – all without financial gain – of all the contributors on whom journals depend. Good editors of this kind are rare and not easily replaced.” (Philip Steadman)
Although you have lauded Richard Lorch and acknowledged his sustained accomplishments in making BRI an outstanding journal, you have been unable to offer substantive evidence-based reasons for your decision to dismiss him. The use of time as a determinant is arbitrary. A decision must be evidence-based and must take into account the performance of an editor and the journal. Clearly, the performance of the journal and its editor are excellent.
We consider an ethical practice as one that would evaluate who benefits and who is damaged by a particular decision. There has been no process to evaluate this and we believe that your decision process was not ethical. You have dismissed the damage done to our community.
We are extremely disappointed that Taylor & Francis were unwilling to consider the reasonable compromise solution offered by BRI’s associate editors and that we all endorsed. We suggested maintaining Richard’s contract to at least 2020 to support the delivery of papers and special issues for which he has already commenced planning. We are now unable to provide guarantees of support to the authors and guest editors who had committed to these.
As a result of Taylor & Francis’ ill-considered decision and the manner in which they have conducted themselves, we are now resigning as members of the Editorial team and Board effective immediately. If Taylor & Francis’ notion of determining the continuation of a successful editor depends upon a single and indicator that is poorly and inconsistently applied, then we find ourselves unable and unwilling to support Taylor & Francis. Our view of the Taylor & Francis management and its suite of journals is negatively affected.
It is unfortunate that the journal will suffer as a result of your decision, as will the reputation of Taylor & Francis by the way that it arrived at it.
Dr Wim Bakens, CIB, Netherlands
Professor Gail Brager, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Dr. Sarah Burch , University of Waterloo, Canada
Professor Edwin Chan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China
Professor Raymond J Cole, University of British Columbia, Canada
Professor Ian Cooper, Eclipse Research Consults, UK
Dr Robert Crawford, University of Melbourne, Australia
Dr Sarah Darby, University of Oxford, UK
Professor Richard de Dear, University of Sydney, Australia
Dr Michael Donn, Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand
Dr Chrisna du Plessis, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Professor Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Denmark
Dr Jessica Granderson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, USA
Professor Guillaume Habert, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Dr Kathryn Janda, University College London, UK
Professor Charles Kibert, University of Florida, USA
Professor Niklaus Kohler, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Mr Adrian Leaman, Usable Buildings Trust, UK
Dr Mark D Levine, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, USA
Professor Kevin Lomas, Loughborough University, UK
Professor Robert Lowe, University College London, UK
Professor Thomas Lützkendorf, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Dr Tove Malmqvist, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Professor Daniel Mueller, NTNU, Norway
Professor Shuzo Murakami, Institute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation, Japan
Mr Robin Nicholson CBE, Cullinan Studio, UK
Dr Sarah Outcault, University of California, Davis, USA
Dr Wei Pan, University of Hong Kong, China
Dr Sofie Pelsmakers, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark
Professor Bruno Peuportier, Mines ParisTech, France
Professor Gary Pivo, University of Arizona, USA
Mr Rajan Rawal, CEPT University, India
Professor Christoph Reinhart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Professor John Robinson, University of Toronto, Canada
Dr Serge Salat, Urban Morphology Institute, France
Professor Kaixun Sha, Shandong Jianzhu University, China
Professor Geoffrey Qiping Shen, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China
Professor Alan Short, University of Cambridge, UK
Professor Elizabeth Shove, University of Lancaster, UK
Professor Stefan Siedentop, Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS), Germany
Professor Philip Steadman, University College London, UK
Professor Fionn Stevenson, University of Sheffield, UK
Dr Yolande Strengers, RMIT University, Australia
Professor Henk Visscher, Technical University Delft, The Netherlands
Dr Faye Wade, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Professor Jennifer Whyte, Imperial College London, UK
Professor Harold Wilhite, University of Oslo, Norway
Professor Yi Jiang, Tsinghua University, China