Meanwhile, academic institutions pay millions for subscriptions to the publishers’ products—even Harvard, one of the world’s richest academic institutions, has decried the high costs of journal subscriptions. Journal editors are paid for their work, though Rooryck says it’s not much. “If I wanted to do it for the compensation, I would be better off using that time to flip burgers or go wash windows,” he says.
Hot on the heels of the Lingua situation, the Cognition petition comes at a particularly awkward time for Elsevier. The company has drawn considerable criticism from scientists and libraries over the last few years. In 2012, more than 12,000 researchers vowed to boycott Elsevier for supporting the Research Works Act (RWA), a bill that would have made it illegal for federal grants to require grantees to publish the work in open-access journals. Members of the academic community saw this as a move to protect big publishers’ business interests while restricting open-access options. More recently, Elsevier was hit with another wave of negative publicity for issuing takedown notices to scientists sharing copies of their published research on their personal websites and on Academia.edu, a social-networking site for academics.
Now, Glossa supporters are encouraging colleagues not just to submit to Glossa, but also to abandon Lingua, which they now call “zombie Lingua.”
“Glossa is the new Lingua—same [editorial] processes, same team, same editorial board, same editors. Only the name changes,” says Rooryck. On blogs and online message boards, Glossa supporters have been rallying their colleagues to refrain from submitting, reviewing, or editing papers for Lingua. Scores of authors are moving their Lingua submissions to Glossa; Rooryck says that thus far, between regular submissions and a Lingua special issue, authors have pulled around 100 papers from Lingua and transferred them to Glossa.
Harry Whitaker, the interim editor-in-chief of Lingua, disapproves of the Glossa editorial board’s approach. “What’s the point of trying to tear down Lingua?” he asks. “It doesn’t add anything to whatever luster Glossa may acquire.”
Whitaker, who founded two other Elsevier journals and has a combined 50 years of editorial experience with the company, came into his new position after he heard about the former Lingua board’s actions and contacted Elsevier to express his dismay. “I disagreed with just about everything they were doing,” he said. He came out of retirement to sign a new contract with Elsevier in early January, and has since recruited several interim editors. He says that he and his editorial staff have received a fair amount of animosity from Glossa supporters.
But Whitaker stands firmly in favor of for-profit publishing; noting that publishers’ profits allow them to invest in new projects. (Elsevier gave Whitaker funds to found two new journals—Brain and Cognition and Brain and Language.) Plus, he says, profits ensure longevity. “That’s one of the many reasons I support the idea of a publisher that makes money,” he says. “Lingua will be here when I retire, and Lingua will be here when I die.”
The fate of Cognition, meanwhile remains to be seen. Barner and Snedeker plan to submit their petition to Elsevier on Wednesday. “The battle has been taken from a very small region—linguistics—to a much larger one,” says Rooryck. Barner and Snedeker are staying silent about their long-term plans, but their request sends a clear message to publishers: Scientists are ready for change.