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Board members at an Elsevier journal are threatening to walk out over the publisher’s push to dramatically increase acceptances and its replacement of the editor in chief.

Peter Lloyd, professor of design methodology at the Delft University of Technology, was told in an email sent last month that his term as editor in chief of Design Studies was ending.

The change came without warning, although the executive publisher assigned to the journal said in a February message that the journal’s slow editorial and financial growth was “a recipe for closure.”

Design Studies was launched by the Design Research Society in 1979 and acquired by Elsevier through mergers and acquisitions in 1995. The interdisciplinary journal focuses on design processes spanning engineering, product design and architecture.

It gets about 600 submissions a year, typically publishing around 35, a similar number to journals in the field of comparable quality.

But in the February email, executive publisher Lily Khidr set a target of publishing 250 papers in 2023. At the time, Lloyd pushed back on the target as “unrealistic” and said he wanted to grow acceptances to a more modest 50 a year.

Now Elsevier’s decision to replace him with Cara Wrigley, professor of design innovation at the University of Queensland, has provoked a rebellion among the journal’s editorial board. Critics have highlighted that Wrigley has not previously published or been involved with the journal and is not a member of its parent society.

Nigel Cross, emeritus professor of design studies at the Open University and editor in chief of Design Studies from 1984 to 2017, said he believed that most of the board members would resign if Wrigley and Khidr were not removed from the journal.

Linden Ball, a board member and professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, said that the board members were “appalled” by Elsevier’s decision to remove Lloyd and that the journal was being “effectively destroyed.”

“This focus on the quantity of published articles rather than their quality appears to be purely motivated by a desire for large profits,” he said.

Robin Adams, professor of engineering education at Purdue University, said she was still making up her mind whether to join any walkout, but she said she was “deeply saddened” and “extremely upset” at Lloyd’s removal. “[It shows] disrespect and lack of professionalism—if this is the new culture, I cannot support this, and won’t,” she said.

The pushback follows mass resignations in April at the Elsevier journal NeuroImage, which was triggered by the publisher’s decision to raise article processing fees from $3,000 to $3,450. More than 40 editors announced in an open letter that they would leave and work with MIT Press to establish new nonprofit journal.

Lloyd told Times Higher Education that if Elsevier did not reverse its decision he would likely try to set up an alternative journal. “The shocking thing is the lack of consultation, the disrespect, the assumption that it’s just about numbers of papers,” he said.

A spokesman for Elsevier said the publisher had followed a “rigorous” process to appoint Wrigley, who had “excellent academic and leadership credentials.”

“We are looking forward to working together on the sustainable growth and continued excellence of the journal and to broadening its appeal within the design community,” he added.

Wrigley said she was unable to comment.

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