International Communication Association on Open Access

Update April 24: I just realized that the ICA’s Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication is open access (on the Wiley site).

Quotable from Wolfgang Donsbach, Finance Committee Report, International Communication Association 2007 Annual Report (downloadable from the ICA website):

“Publications…yield a surplus of between $500,000 – $600,000 because expenses for the editors’ offices stay far below the income.” (The ICA journals are published by Wiley Blackwell). Note that this is just the surplus returned to ICA; the profits retained by Wiley Blackwell are another matter.

According to Donsbach, “ICA’s budget requires a close look at developments in the business of academic publications.” The remainder of the paragraph talks about open access and federal funding agency policies.

Comment: ICA should definitely have a close look at its budget. According to my rough calculations, if the 541 articles published in ICA’s 5 journals in 2009 had all been published as OA using the average PLoS article processing fee of $1,600, the total expenditure would have been about $132,000. In other words, ICA’s entire publication program could be open access at top quality for less than a quarter of the present surplus.

Members of the International Communication Association should demand change. If we are wondering why our libraries cannot afford all of the books and journals that we would like to have in our libraries – this is why.

The ICA Mission, from the ICA website, is:

The International Communication Association aims to advance the scholarly study of human communication by encouraging and facilitating excellence in academic research worldwide. The purposes of the Association are (1) to provide an international forum to enable the development, conduct, and critical evaluation of communication research; (2) to sustain a program of high quality scholarly publication and knowledge exchange; (3) to facilitate inclusiveness and debate among scholars from diverse national and cultural backgrounds and from multi-disciplinary perspectives on communication-related issues; and (4) to promote a wider public interest in, and visibility of, the theories, methods, findings and applications generated by research in communication and allied fields.

There is nothing in this mission statement about profiteering from publication – or about purchasing real estate in Washington, DC, another prominent feature in the Financial Report. Every single element of the ICA mission would be advanced by open access.

Methodological note: to calculate the PLoS average article processing fee, I counted all the articles in each of the PLoS journals for several months, multiplied by the APF for each journal, then divided by the total number of articles, earlier this year. Since the lowest-cost PLoS One is the fastest-growing of the PLoS journals, I would anticipate that the average APF will decrease over time.