Brian Richmond steps down as a guest editor of Journal of Human Evolution special issue on Koobi Fora

Earlier this month, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) held in Atlanta, members of the editorial board of the Journal of Human Evolution met to discuss a long-planned special issue focusing on footprints and fossils found at the hominin site of Koobi Fora in Kenya. Brian Richmond, curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), was supposed to be the lead guest editor for this issue (Richmond has long worked at Koobi Fora and made important discoveries there.) However, in light of allegations of sexual misconduct against Richmond--he is currently under investigation for the third time by the museum for allegedly sexually assaulting a colleague, and for an alleged pattern of sexual harassment over the years--the editorial board initially voted in Atlanta to cancel the special issue rather than let it go forward under Richmond's leadership.

Subsequent to the vote, however, Richmond offered to step down as guest editor to save the special issue. I am now informed by JHE special issues editor Mark Teaford, in a statement copied below, that the issue will go forward under two other guest editors. In an email to me, Richmond declined to comment on the matter.

The anthropology community is actively struggling with the consequences of the allegations against Richmond, who has not been allowed to work on the AMNH premises while the current investigation is going on (it has been dragging on since last December.) At stake are his collaborations with other researchers and about $1.3 million in National Science Foundation grants on which he is still either principal investigator or co-PI.

The statement provided by Mark Teaford:

"At the Journal of Human Evolution (JHE) Editorial Board Meeting held at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) in Atlanta on April 14, one of the topics discussed concerned the JHE Special Issue on analyses of fossils and footprints from the Okote Member at Koobi Fora.  As a result of those discussions, it was initially decided that each of the papers from that volume would be treated as individual submissions rather than as part of a Special Issue.  In light of that decision, and after subsequent discussions with David Braun, René Bobe, and Brian Richmond (the proposed Guest Editors of that Special Issue), the Editors of JHE (Sarah Elton, Mike Plavcan, and Mark Teaford) received a request from Brian Richmond to voluntarily remove his name as a Guest Editor of that issue.  Under that scenario, David Braun and René Bobe would handle most of the guest editorial work, taking exceptional care to provide thorough, productive reviews of each paper.  Whenever they couldn’t oversee the review process (for instance, when they’re co-authors on the same paper), Mark Teaford, the Special Issues Editor of JHE, would handle those duties.  As in all JHE Special Issues, final oversight of the reviews, revisions, and decisions on all papers would rest in the hands of Mark Teaford.

        The Editors of JHE, felt that this option was worth considering.  Thus it was suggested to the Editorial Board this week and approved. As many of the papers were ready for submission earlier this month, the review process for them shall begin as soon as possible and the journal plans to proceed with the publication of the Special Issue with David Braun and René Bobe as Guest Editors."

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