Grassrooting Glossa

by on November 30, 2015

In the field of academic publishing, things often move slowly. Papers take a year or two to get to print, after rounds of editing going back and forth between reviewers and authors. Which is why I was surprised when the news that the entire editorial board behind Lingua, one of the most respected journals in linguistics, was resigning en masse spread like wildfire. And not just at some point in the near future either: they are resigning by December 2016 and will launch a new open access journal called Glossa in 2017. That’s about a month from now!

As a linguistics undergraduate, I was, and still am inordinately proud (even though admittedly, I had as much to do with this as I have control over global affairs, which is to say, nothing). But this fight has been brewing for a while: we’ve seen the costs of journal subscriptions go up even though the paper copies that have been printed are almost untouched, and the far cheaper electronic versions are used. Hands up, how many of you would be crippled in writing essays and doing research if you didn’t have access (from your kind university library, no less, who paid lots for it) to all the papers you look for? I’ve always dreaded graduation, because that would mean my access disappears, and I know I can’t afford it otherwise on my own.

But the fact is, the revolution has begun. While there have been other journal declarations of independence, this seems to be the one of the largest. And I’m signing up to show my support for the new journal Glossa, because I believe in renegotiating the way things are done too. It doesn’t make sense at all, that while research is funded by taxpayers and then done by undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, the privilege to read about the people who did the research and wrote about it must be repurchased by the same people who have funded it and the same people who have done it. Something doesn’t add up: it sounds like a giant scam to me (I’m not discounting the possibility that I don’t know how much it costs to run editing and publishing, but given that the editorial board works for a nominal sum, I’m suspicious).

But what can we do, as undergraduates? Much has been written about what faculty can do in support, like here and here (including a proposed name for what used to be Lingua, but will from now on be published by Elsevier: Zombie Lingua). But what about those who do not publish, and hence cannot “submit their best research to Glossa” or “boycott Zombie Lingua”? Well, hopefully you’ll be in such a position one day, but for now, I have a few suggestions:

  1. Sign the petition for Fair Open Access in Linguistics. Because all action begins with petitions, right?
  1. Talk about Glossa and the controversy behind Lingua. Get the word out! Let more people find out about the racket that is academic publishing, with its huge profit margins.
  1. Donate to Glossa, if they run donation drives. You can forgo that one cup of Starbucks coffee to chip a few dollars in for sure. Their papers will be the ones you start citing soon anyway, right?
  1. Buy Glossa swag and wear it, if they start selling them. I know it’s a lot of work to set up a journal, Professor Johan Rooryck, but please start selling nice shirts/caps/scarves with Glossa’s name on it. I promise to buy them and wear them around.
  1. Read Glossa. It’s free anyway, you might as well look there if you want to get something to read. It’ll be as high quality as Zombie Lingua, but better, because it’s free.


And it’s that simple. Remember, while you might not be the one writing and producing research that will appear in Glossa, there’s lots to be done at the grassroots level, for a new journal that was set up by linguists who are concerned about the future of the field. Time to take action, and join the larger part of the linguistics community of researchers, students, and people interested in language to make history and make change. Viva Glossa!

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