History of a joint venture: The Journal of Neurochemlstry
C.F.B.: The history of the ASN is tied to more than one publication. Although the publication of the Journal of Neurochemistry is the primary responsibility of the ISN (the International Society for Neurochemistry), the Journal is run as a joint venture with the ASN. You may have heard or read about the stormy history surrounding the transferof the Journal from one publisher to another. Herman Bachelard (the present Historian of the ISN) has written about these trials and tribulations as viewed by a European member of ISN. Today, Kuni Suzuki, a member of ASN and the Journal' s former Editor in Chief for the Western Hemisphere, will provide you with his perspective of these events.
History of a joint venture: The Journal of Neurochemlstry - Kunihiko Suzuki
As Claude mentioned, the Journal of Neurochemistry is officially not an ASN endeavor; it is a major responsibility of the ISN. However, to many ASN members, the Journal is just as important as it is to many ISN members. This is because of the close working relationship between the two societies and the complete overlap in the membership of the Journal's Editorial Board. I was involved with the Journal operations as the Chief Editor for the Western Hemisphere from 1977 to 1982, which included the period of transition from Pergamon Press to Raven Press as its publisher. I recall some events during this period that were not publicized but may be of interest to ASN members.
The Journal of Neurochemistry was first published in the mid-1950's by Pergamon Press as one of its own house journals. After the ISN came into existence in the middle of the 1960's, some sort of agreement was reached with Pergamon Press that made the ISN responsible for providing the editors for the Journal and also gave to the ISN the exclusive right to determine its scientific content. Nevertheless, the Journal remained the legal property of Pergamon Press. Toward the end of the 1960's, Robert ("Captain") Maxwell, the colorful, flamboyant President of the Pergamon Press, had a legal run-in with the British publishing/Commerce laws. As a maneuver to avoid his legal problems, he offered to transfer the ownership of the journal to the ISN at no cost to the Society. Financially, this was an extraordinarily generous transaction, although one suspected that Maxwell did not have much of a choice. At that point, the Journal became legally the property of the ISN, and has remained so to this day. Much later, a clearly written clause in that legal document of the ownership transfer became the source of a bitter dispute The clause said that Pergamon Press would continue to publish the Journal for ten years after the transfer, but that the ISN was free to decide on who should publish it after the ten years. (. For any of you who might be interested, there is a revealing book entitled "The Rise and Fall of Robert Maxwell and his Empire" which was available from Simon & Schuster. Its author, Roy Greenslade worked under Maxwell at Pergamon and later became the Editor of the Daily Mirror. In his book, Greenslade recalls the details of these happenings and describes Robert Maxwell the man, his life and his mysterious death in the Atlantic ocean ).
ISN became the owner of the Journal of Neurochemistry just before I became involved in the Journal in 1971. During the third ISN meeting in Budapest, Derek Richter and Don Tower, then respectively the Chief Editors for the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, offered me a place on The masthead of the Journal. This was the beginning of my continual involvement in the Journal affairs during the next 25 years. I was associated with the Journal operation consecutively as an Editor, a Deputy Editor, Chief Editor, and then as the chairman of the ISN Publications Committee, and finally as ex-officio member of the Publications Committee until my term as an ISN Officer ended in 1995. In 1975, at the ISN meeting in Barcelona, Eric Shooter, who had been a Deputy Editor, decided to leave the Journal in order to devote his efforts to building his newly created Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University. So I became a Deputy Editor. (We all know what a magnificent job Eric has done for his department since.) At the next ISN meeting in Copenhagen in 1977, when Lou Sokoloff decided to step down, I became Chief Editor in the Western Hemisphere.
Until I became a Chief Editor, I had no knowledge that the ISN had been receiving only about $3000 - $4000 every year from Pergamon Press as its share of the profits from the Journal operation. It was abundantly clear to many of us that this amount did not reflect accurately the profits the Journal was generating. The ISN did make some efforts through the then Company Secretary, Brian Ansell, to audit the journal books (kept at Pergamon Press) in order to obtain an accurate profit figure for the Journal. Although Pergamon told us that we were welcome to audit their books, they also told us that the operations of Pergamon Journals were recorded, for each year, in a single ledger. Thus it would be necessary for us to examine each annual ledger and sort out those entries that pertained specifically to the operation of the Journal of Neurochemistry. It turned out that the accountant's fee, required to conduct such an extensive audit, was beyond the means of the ISN. ( since ISN income was almost exclusively derived from membership dues).
The decision to change publishers
I do want to emphasize here that, at that time, our primary motivation for considering a change of the publisher was not financial. You might say we were naïve about finances. The primary complaint against Pergamon Press was that Journal issues never appeared on time. They were always sent to subscribers 2-3 months after the cover dates. Also, the time between acceptance of a manuscript and its publication was unacceptably long. By late distribution of issues, Pergamon was promoting the illusion of a deceptively short publication time. If a manuscript was accepted at the beginning of January and published in the June issue, for example, it gave an apparent publication time of six months after acceptance. But, the actual publication time was 9 months, because the June issue did not appear until September. Therefore the ISN decided to exercise the legal prerogative of searching for an alternate publisher or at least to look into possibilities for making a change at the end of the ten-year period with Pergamon. Several publishers sent proposals in response to the solicitation from the ISN. In 1978, Brian Ansell, Lou Sokoloff, (who was my predecessor and 1 believe was the Chairman of the Publications Committee), Les Iversen, (who was the Eastern Hemisphere Chief Editor) and I, gathered in the office of Abel Lajtha on Ward's Island, New York, and listened to proposals from representatives of the six or so different publishers including Pergamon Press, all of whom had expressed an interest in publishing the Journal. We were completely open-minded in listening to them. However, at the end of the day we all agreed that Alan Edelson's proposal from Raven Press was superior to all others and that, in principle, Raven Press should be selected as the next publisher for the Journal.
Pergamon Press was notified of our intention to move the Journal to a new publisher in accordance with the stipulation in the transfer document. And that is when the altercations with Pergamon started ! I am under the impression that Captain Maxwell had never anticipated our move. He insisted that, although the transfer document did say that the ISN was free to change the publisher after ten years, there had been a verbal agreement between him and "some senior members of the ISN" that, in fact, Pergamon Press would remain the publisher of the Journal of Neurochemistry in perpetuity. He tried everything to dissuade us from changing the publisher, including a threat of a lawsuit. He indicated that he legally owned the name, " Journal of Neurochemistry" and would continue to publish a journal with that name no matter what the ISN did. In retrospect, had we known Maxwell a little better, we could have anticipated his reaction. Fortunately, we received assurances from our legal counsel that the ten year old transfer document was on firm legal ground and we could ignore Maxwell's threat. Nevertheless, you can imagine the trepidation of the ISN Officers, Company Secretary and Chief Editors who were involved in the decision to make the transfer. If the ISN were to have been on the losing side of a lawsuit, it would have meant bankruptcy and the end of the ISN. Luckily, Maxwell did not follow through with his threats.
Although Maxwell's threat of a lawsuit remained just a bluff, he and Pergamon Press decided to be completely uncooperative in the transfer of the journal to Raven Press. They kept throwing major road-blocks in the path of the transition. In July of 1979 we asked that Raven Press be sent the subscription list, one of the critical bits of information for a smooth transition. Pergamon not only refused to provide the list, but sent out renewal notices for the Pergamon Journal of Neurochemistry for the calendar year 1980. This was in keeping with their threat to continue publication of the Journal of Neurochemistry, despite our formal notification that Pergamon's role as publisher would end on December 31, 1979. As you can imagine, this tactic created enormous confusion among our subscribers. We made concerted efforts to re-create the subscriber list. We notified universities and medical libraries, as well as neuroscientists throughout the world. We advised them of the change in publisher, and pointed out to them that payments should now be made to Raven Press for a smooth continuation of their subscriptions. However, Pergamon's invoices had already been received, and subscribers were understandably confused. Not only that, but some had already paid Pergamon for 1980.
Then came the realization that we were facing a second and even more alarming difficulty. As I mentioned earlier, the Journal issues were running three months late at Pergamon Press. Since they would no longer give us any information as to the status of unpublished manuscripts in their hands, it became impossible for my office to decide how many more manuscripts would be needed to just fill the last Pergamon issue to be dated December 1979. Based on recent history, we did not expect that issue to appear until March 1980. Nor could we decide which manuscripts should be sent to Raven Press for the January 1980 and subsequent issues. It eventually turned out that we had sent, from my office, about 35 too many accepted manuscripts to Pergamon Press. They came to be known, and are still known to this day, as the "hostage manuscripts". I believe the total number of such "hostage manuscripts" was over 50, because Les Iversen's European office was sending accepted manuscripts directly to the publisher. My office had complete copies of some of the "hostage manuscripts" in their final accepted form. But for others, we had to call the authors and ask them for a new set of their already accepted manuscript. This was before the days of word processing and computer-generated graphics. You can imagine the anguish this request caused for some authors. I still remember very clearly one author in Madison, Wisconsin. She called me back almost in tears. Her manuscript included a figure of protein gel electrophoresis. She had spent a whole day in the darkroom with a technician to get the print exactly right and now she faced doing it all over again !
At this point the officers of the ISN decided that they had no choice but to bring suit against Pergamon, despite the risks involved. It seemed quite conceivable to us at the time that some or all of these "hostage manuscripts" might appear as papers, not in the ISN's Journal of Neurochemistry, but in some other neuroscience journal published by Pergamon Press. Accordingly, our solicitor and barrister brought suit in London. The judge's decision was handed down with surprising speed. It gave the ISN everything it had asked for, including the "hostage manuscripts" and an order blocking Peramon from publishing any journal with the name "Journal of Neurochemistry" or any other name that might be "confusingly similar." Moreover, the judge ordered that the subscription list be turned over to the Society forthwith. Despite this legal victory, the "hostage manuscripts" were never returned to us. However, it was clearly more important to us that Pergamon Press never published them in any of their journals; and they never did. Despite all the difficulties we experienced in moving from Pergamon Press to Raven Press, I personally believe that it was one of the best moves the Journal of Neurochemistry, the ISN and the ASN ever made. The ISN's share of the Journal profits jumped nearly 100-fold in the first year with Raven Press. In the early 1990's, when I was ISN Treasurer, the income from the Journal constituted approximately 90% of the total ISN income. It would be difficult to think how the ISN could have operated without this income source in the past twenty years. Concerning the primary complaint that prompted the change of the publisher in the first place: For the past twenty years with Raven Press, I cannot recall even a single issue of the Journal that has not appeared during the month preceding the cover date. Naturally, everybody has gained including the ASN and its members. So now you have heard my story about the Journal of Neurochemistry and how it extricated itself from the embrace of Maxwell's Pergamon Press.
Most of the work for the foundation of ISN was done at Oxford in 1965 at a meeting that Brian Ansell organized. Later on, after he served the Society (ISN) as Treasurer and Chairman, Brian also became the Company Agent. He was in charge of supervising the solicitors for the ISN when there was a lawsuit against Maxwell and Pergamon Press. It was a very stressful time for him because he knew, that if ISN lost that lawsuit, the Society would be bankrupt. I think that stress sent him to an early grave