More Support for 'Lingua' Editors

Higher education and library organizations, led by the Association of Research Libraries, side with the Lingua editors and criticize Elsevier.

November 13, 2015

More library and higher education groups on Thursday threw their support behind the editors of the linguistics journal Lingua, upping the pressure on publisher Elsevier.

Lingua’s editors and editorial board members last month resigned en masse from the journal to protest Elsevier’s policies on pricing and open access. Since then, what started as a dispute between a journal and its publisher has grown into a wide-ranging debate about the sustainability of publishing, open access and ownership of intellectual property.

The debate expanded again on Thursday as the Association of Research Libraries said it supported the Lingua editors. In a statement, the organization said the departing editors' new journal, Glossa, will make it easier for researchers to fund and share their work.

“As organizations committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation and improves education, we share the significant concerns raised by the Lingua editors and we support sustainable open-access models,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, research is becoming increasingly international and we must develop a system that fosters global participation, regardless of geographical location or size of institution. To that end, we strongly support the Lingua editors’ decision to pursue an alternative solution, which will better serve the needs and values of higher education and the public that sustains it.”

Joining the ARL are the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, the Confederation of Open Access Repositories, Educause, and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. While many library groups have long pushed for open access as a solution to rising subscription costs, organizations that represent college presidents have not always been as vocal or involved.

The Association of American Universities released a stand-alone statement, saying it “takes no position on this disagreement” but supports all efforts that promote open-access publishing. The statement is available here.

A spokesperson for the AAU said the organization was approached about signing on to the joint statement but decided it “wanted to focus more on the future of scholarly publishing than on the dispute itself.”

Brad Fenwick, senior vice president for global strategic alliances at Elsevier, took a conciliatory approach in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. The AAU’s statement, he said, signaled that the organization realizes “we need to figure out how to work together to address some of our common challenges” instead of attacking one another through press releases and the media.

“Publishers, whether for profit or not for profit, aren’t the enemy here,” Fenwick said. The challenge, he added, is shrinking funding for higher education and libraries, which he said is creating “misplaced aggression” toward companies such Elsevier.

Despite more organizations coming out in support of the Lingua editors, Fenwick said he has yet to hear of any organization or library canceling Elsevier subscriptions.

Mass resignations have happened before in scholarly publishing, but the Lingua case has lingered in the news as other organizations have joined the conversation. Last week, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities issued a statement criticizing the rising cost of journal subscriptions and applauding the Lingua editors for their decision.

“The system is fundamentally broken,” the APLU said in the statement.

To build support for open-access publishing, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, or SPARC, earlier this week said it plans to capitalize on the support from groups outside publishing and scholarly communications. SPARC is among the groups that endorsed the joint statement.


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