Elsevier journal board follows through on mass resignation threat

Editorial board of Design Studies quits alongside long-standing editor-in-chief, who blamed publisher’s ‘deeply exploitative’ approach to running the title

July 15, 2023
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The entire editorial board of the Elsevier journal Design Studies has followed through on its promise to quit alongside the editor-in-chief, after the publisher moved to replace him without consultation.

At the beginning of July, editor-in-chief Peter Lloyd, professor of integrated design methodology at Delft University of Technology, told Elsevier he would walk out and take the editorial board with him, citing its push for more publications per year and the way it revealed he was to be replaced.

On 10 July he resigned, writing in a letter that Elsevier had been “deeply exploitative” in trying to steer the journal to increase its acceptances sevenfold and broaden the scope of design studies it would consider, without seeking the cooperation of the editors or board.

All 29 members of the editorial board also quit, along with four editors and an emeritus editor-in-chief. In a joint statement, they said Elsevier had taken several actions “that seem likely to undermine the academic integrity of the journal”, referring to the push on output and scope.

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The Design Research Society, which launched Design Studies in 1979, confirmed it too would “sever all links with the journal” and asked its members to tell their university libraries “what Elsevier has done”.

The editors and board said they were making “rapid and substantial efforts” to set up a replacement periodical and were seeking alternative titles for papers pulled from Elsevier’s, also asking authors not to submit new work to it and for other colleagues to decline review requests.

They quoted an extract from Professor Lloyd’s resignation letter, which was addressed to Elsevier’s publishing director, David Spencer, and senior vice-president Peter Harrison.

“I do not understand the aggressive approach that Elsevier has taken in its communication and action,” the letter says. “You had an outstanding team of talented editors, committed to growing the journal, and an editorial board with exceptional knowledge of the design discipline. Your actions over the past six months have laid waste to this and caused nothing but bad feeling.”

Elsevier has replaced Professor Lloyd with Cara Wrigley, professor of design innovation at the University of Queensland. Critics have highlighted that Professor Wrigley has not previously published or been involved with the journal and is not a member of its parent society.

Elsevier was invited to comment on the mass resignation but had not done so at time of writing. In a statement after the move was threatened late last month, a spokesman said it stood by the appointment of its replacement editor-in-chief and was “looking forward to working together on the sustainable growth and continued excellence of the journal and to broadening its appeal within the design community”.

The move 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 (£2,370) to $3,450. Recently, the entire 44-strong editorial board of Critical Public Health announced its resignation after a split with the UK-based publisher Taylor & Francis over the direction it was taking the periodical.


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