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Editorial Board Walkout Leads to New Neuroimaging Journal

A new journal covering understanding of brain function and structure through the application of neuroimaging will launch this summer after a well-publicised bust-up led to the entire editorial board of the sector's leading publication walking out in a dispute over fees charged to authors. 

All 42 editors of NeuroImage and NeuroImage: Reports quit in April saying they could no longer ignore the "unreasonably high costs of publication and access" being charged by owners, Elsevier.

On Monday, MIT Press announced  that it was taking on all the former editors for a rival journal, Imaging Neuroscience, scheduled to launch in July. The publisher said it wanted the publication to become the premier journal in the field of neuroimaging.

The journal's new editor-in-chief was named as Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Oxford, who joined colleagues in April this year in resigning to protest at what they called "extreme" processing charges levied on academic authors by Elsevier.

Elsevier's Fees Branded 'Unethical'

A statement signed by all 42 editorial board members of NeuroImage and NeuroImage: Reports, said they were acting "with deep regret" but could no longer ignore the "unreasonably high costs of publication and access".

NeuroImage, which began in 1992 and became open access in 2020, publishes almost 1000 articles a year and currently has an impact factor of 7.4, whilst NeuroImage: Reports is an online-only companion journal set up in 2021.  

Elsevier pitched the article processing charge for NeuroImage at $3450 US dollars (around £2755), which editorial board members described as "unethical". They estimated that actual publication costs meant the figure should have been set at least $1000 (£798) lower.

In their resignation statement, dated 17 April, they wrote: "Scientists and funders increasingly feel that it is wrong for publishers to make such high profits, particularly given that the publishers do not fund the original science, or the writing of articles, or payments to reviewers, and pay minimal editorial stipends."

'Immensely Proud'

Both editorial teams said they were "immensely proud" of their work at the journals and greatly regretted having to take their course of action. They said they had approached Elsevier in June last year with a formal request to reduce fees to under $2000 (£1597). When the original fees remained in place, they informed the publishers in March this year that they would quit en masse unless charges were reduced. According to the statement, Elsevier told them its article processing charge was supported by "market forces".

Professor Chris Chambers, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Cardiff, who was among the 42 to stand down, said in a tweet at the time of the resignations that "Elsevier continues to prey on the academic community, claiming huge profits while adding little value to science".

In a statement sent to Medscape News UK, a spokesperson for Elsevier said the company valued its editors highly and was "disappointed" by the decision of the editorial board to step down from their roles. "In line with our policy of setting our article publishing charges competitively below the market average relative to quality, the fee that has been set for NeuroImage is below that of the nearest comparable journal in its field," the spokesperson added, basing the on field-weighted citation impact.

The company said it had appointed an interim internal editorial team while it sought a permanent solution.

Commenting on his appointment as chief editor of the new journal, Professor Smith said he and his team were excited by the move, "not least because it allows us to fix the problem of high publication fees to authors".

MIT Press confirmed that article processing charges would be set initially at $1600 (£1280), with waivers for low- and middle-income countries.