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South African science journal’s editor-in-chief to step down

Cites desire to focus on research—and ‘disturbing changes’ in academic publishing

Jane Carruthers, the editor-in-chief of the South African Journal of Science, has announced that she will be stepping down after less than two years in the post. 

In a statement sent to colleagues, Carruthers said she is resigning to focus on her research activities, which had been “left unattended” since taking up the post in April 2019. “I have come to realise that the responsibilities of the work on the journal have not allowed enough time for me to pursue my other activities and commitments,” she writes.

She says her decision was “reinforced” by the “disturbing changes” taking place in scholarly publishing. Those changes came to the fore following the publication of a controversial article in the journal probing the dearth of Black conservation science students at the University of Cape Town. That article, which some observers said was insensitive and racist, sparked a special issue of the journal in which nearly nearly all submissions were critical of the paper. 

“The unexpected upheaval following the publication of the commentary by Nicoli Nattrass and the consequent special issue of the SAJS revealed that many academics and public intellectuals are reluctant to speak against popular ideologies that erode academic freedom and freedom of speech,” Carruthers writes in her statement. 

“At this late stage in my career, I would like to pursue my academic interests without the added responsibility of editing a journal in this difficult environment,” she adds. 

Carruthers says she initially had wanted to resign by the end of the year, but that following discussions with the Academy of Science of South Africa, the journal’s publisher, she will stay on until 31 March 2021 unless a successor is found before then.