This afternoon I was at the LMS SGM, convened to debate the motion that the LMS council be instructed to reverse the closure of the Journal of Computation and Mathematics.
The motion was lost by 158 against to 131 for, with one abstention.
This despite the fact that the majority at the meeting were in favour (I would
estimate at least four to one). The speeches for the motion were (in my humble opinion) honest and well-argued. The same could not be said for the speeches against (it pains me to say that, since I have a lot of respect for the publications secretary John Hunton). For example, mention was made of quite a few of the international mathematicians who have written in support of the journal, citing the quality of the papers. The argument against was: “someone told me that the papers were not very good, but they didn’t want to be quoted”, the journal has achieved 20% fewer downloads than another journal on the CUP website, a general mathematical journal which has been running for a century (I am not exactly sure how long), impact factor (which rightly drew cries of derision from the room – but did you know that the JCM has had an impact factor for just two years, and it doubled from the first year to the second?), and … well, that was about it really.
Moreover it is clear that the LMS moved with great haste to close the journal. A Council meeting (at which several members including the Treasurer admitted they had not been present) decided to close it, rejecting an alternative suggestion from Publications Committee; as I understand it, the decision was implemented the next day, and many LMS members first learned of it from Tim Gowers’ blog.
Prudence should surely dictate that if, as they say, they want to support this area of mathematics, they should have put off closing the journal until whatever they put in its place is ready to hit the ground running. As it is, they haven’t even thought about that (or at least, no evidence of planning was presented), and the President invited us to send him suggestions about what might be done.
Anyway, as a result of the vote, Council is not instructed to do anything, and so they can do what they like. You might think that the relative closeness of the vote might encourage second thoughts. But don’t hold your breath waiting. The assassination was so efficient that I think a change of heart is extremely unlikely.
Given this, I am not sure whether I can continue to be an LMS member. I have no vested interest in the JCM as such but I think this shows that for a charity which exists to support mathematics the LMS has its priorities badly wrong.