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Several years ago an academic publisher I worked for were setting up a new journal. We approached the prospective editor-in-chief, lined up some plans for the first issues, signed a contract, and paid him the first installment of his honorarium. Then he ceased being contactable. We knew he's still alive & active because he was writing papers, supervising students and attending conferences, but he didn't answer our emails and phone calls.

If we had chosen to pursue the matter then, should we have taken it up with his department/university/research institute, or with the police?

If it matters, the prospective editor-in-chief is from India.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Apr 3 at 2:16
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    This question describes a situation that is (1) highly unusual, (2) almost certainly criminal, and (3) largely unrelated to Academia (e.g., this exact same story occurs regularly in every field; the fact this is about a journal is largely irrelevant). As such, I agree with the other close votes and have voted as such. If anyone wishes to disagree they may definitely post on Academia Meta. – eykanal Apr 3 at 2:19
  • @eykanal: yes to (1),(3). Not (2), it's civil but probably not criminal unless it was clear fraud. People agreeing to do stuff for money then having a dispute is generally not criminal. Anyway yes it seems offtopic. Unless the OP's recourse included complaining to the professor's university, but the OP attacked me repeatedly for asking if they meant. – smci Apr 4 at 22:28
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Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a lawyer...

This sounds like a contract dispute: whether the editor has discharged his side of the agreement. As such it is likely to be a civil matter rather than a criminal one. I very much doubt the police will be interested in pursuing anything. In general terms, the legal recourse would be to sue the editor in the civil courts. I suspect that the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits.

Could you report it to the editor's university? Yes. However, it isn't clear what this would achieve. As @ZeroTheHero says, they (apparently) have no involvement in the dispute so far. From their perspective it will be your word against the editor's; even if they wanted to resolve the dispute, it is not clear how they would go about doing so.

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  • The first paragraph is correct. The second is not. Taking such a dispute to a third party (the university which is not part of the contract) simply because they have a relationship with the professor would probably be considered defamation and could generate a lawsuit of its own against the ones complaining. – Buffy Apr 3 at 11:11
  • @Buffy I suspect the University's role in this is legally 'interesting', and a lot will turn on the details of the various contracts (between editor and publisher, and between editor and university). The fact that this person was a professor at the university was undoubtedly central to them getting appointed as editor. My contract of employment has a clause about not bringing the university into disrepute. I'm sure a good lawyer could find something to work with... – avid Apr 3 at 11:40
  • @Buffy Doesn't defamation inherently involve making false statements which have caused injury? I confess to ignorance of Indian law on this but I doubt it's all that different from the British or American systems... – Kevin Arlin Apr 4 at 22:32
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    @KevinCarlson, in the US, yes, but not everywhere. But when making accusations it is easy to go beyond the actual facts. Especially if you impute motives. This is a civil matter. Going outside civil procedures, I repeat, is fraught. Sue the professor if you need to. There would be enough publicity in that alone. – Buffy Apr 4 at 22:37
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What do you hope to achieve by contacting his current institution, which does not have any skin in this dispute? As you describe it, this person is doing well at his current place of employment so it seems unlikely admin there would get involved.

Somehow, I cannot imagine that the police would treat this with significant priority now.

A better alternative might be to work through the publisher. I presume this publisher may have formal or informal communication channels with other publishers, and thus might be able to organize some sort of pressure campaign through collective action (v.g ban on publication of papers by this person, or this person is not allowed on editorial boards of journals, etc).

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  • Such a ban would probably be illegal in many places. Civil law, at least. – Buffy Apr 2 at 0:08
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    @Buffy A journal is under no obligation to publish a manuscript. Indeed a publisher recently refused to publish a Woody Allen biography. – ZeroTheHero Apr 2 at 0:44
  • @ZeroTheHero There's a big difference between individual publishers making decisions not to publish something, publishers jointly agreeing to boycott something, and a person organising a boycott – JenB Apr 2 at 8:20
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    IANAL but they absolutely have a skin in this dispute. The behavior of their professors is a core part of the reputation of the institution. Plus in may well be that the University itself might be the ones to repay the money if he's spent it on work done for the university. Plus as the university has lawyers they are better positioned to negotiate an outcome that sees the money returned. I suspect the police would just tell you its a civil dispute, not a criminal dispute unless evidence of intentional fraud (And intents hard to prove) was produced. Contact the university via your lawyers – Shayne Apr 2 at 16:48
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    Its a money dispute. Administration wonks are genetically programmed to take it seriousy. Accusations of fraud look very poorly in the eyes of the public. And most people have no idea what the deal is with predatory journals. Its an internal matter. Profs running off with journals money is a potentially very public matter. Granted its probably not a lot, its still serious. – Shayne Apr 2 at 17:06

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