Bridging Learned Society Publishing and Open Access: an International Collaboration and Webinar Series – Transitioning Society Publications to OA

“Scholarly or learned societies enable geographically diverse scholars to build and engage with communities that share and discuss ideas and findings, with the aim of promoting knowledge exchange for social value and the common good. Traditionally, societies achieve this convening function through a subscription-based publishing model in which society membership or institutional support affords scholars access to society publications. As global publishing shifts toward open access (OA), societies are wrestling with the need for new revenue streams and publishing strategies not only to ensure cost recovery, but also to sustain other important society functions—like educational programming, grant awards, professional development, and advocacy—once supported by membership or library subscription spends.

New financial models to support learned society publishing have significant implications for society operations and organizational structures, as well as the ability of authors and academic institutions to participate in society publishing. Whereas authors could once publish in society journals for free, many are now being asked to contribute article processing charges to subsidize OA publication costs. And many of the libraries and research organizations that once engaged in large licensing arrangements to provide their affiliates with access to aggregated society journal titles are now left exploring how to repurpose subscription budgets to support both access and publishing, including by undertaking society journal publishing directly. The mileage of these different OA financial models for societies may also vary: OA publishing is a global enterprise, subject to and reflecting different pressures, mandates, and opportunities within local or regional communities. 

Society publishing stakeholders may need support in navigating these contoured pressures. On the heels of Plan S, societies have begun organizing to bring clarity to the emerging OA landscape and its relationship with society publishing needs and infrastructures. In the UK, the Society Publishers’ Coalition (SocPC)—a group of like-minded, not-for-profit learned societies, community publishers, and membership charities who publish—has formed to help societies, funders, and research organizations collectively explore funding solutions that enable OA publication while buttressing core society functions and missions. In the United States, Transitioning Society Publications to OA (TSPOA) is a similar group seeking to connect society publishing stakeholders with support and useful resources related to an OA publishing transition. (Other resources and efforts are also underway. For instance, the Societies and Open Access Research project catalogs OA society journals in an effort, among other things, to help society publishers who have yet to commit to OA find peers at other societies.)…”