Learned society attitudes towards open access

29 May 2014

Learned societies are “a critical part of the research environment ”, and many rely largely on subscription income from their journals publishing programme to support the other services they offer to their members in the promotion of their academic dis c ipline. As a result, they are facing enormous challenges as the journals publishing landscape becomes more complex and established revenues are threatened. Following the publication of the UK Finch Group’s report on expanding access to research publications, there is genuine concern that learned societies could potentially stand to lose out significantly if Open Access is widely adopted. They are understandably worried about the future sustainability of their organizations and the knock - on effect on the subject research communit ies they support and serve.

Questions are being asked about how societies, especially those that are small with limited resources, can remain viable in an Open Access world? How should publishing partners be help ing to support societies with their journal publishing programme s to allow them to continue their mission on behalf of their members?

With these issues in mind TBI Communications, on behalf of EDP Sciences, undertook a programme of research to help understand more fully the attitudes of professional and learned societies towards Open Access (OA), their evolving needs ; and how a publishing partner can effectively support them in an OA environment. There were two steps to the research, 1) an online survey to professional and learned societies and to supplement these findings, 2) a focus group to a wider range of representatives from the academic publishing industry.

The survey was answered by 33 learned societies and the results were further supplemented by a focus group held at the annual UKSG meeting in Harrogate in April.

Key findings include:

  • Learned societies overwhelmingly agree that Open Access will inevitably place some learned societies’ journals into financial jeopardy.
  • Competing with large Open Access specialist publishers was also considered a significant challenge for learned societies.
  • Gold Open Access is the Open Access method that is least offered by learned society journals, however nearly two-thirds of learned societies indicated that they would like to be offering this option.
  • More than ever before, with so many journals being published Open Access of dubious origin, learned societies should look to endorse content with a stamp of quality and authority.
  • Collaboration between learned societies could help in the transition to Open Access, by pooling resources and sharing complex tasks.
  • Two-thirds of all learned societies are also looking for support on best approach to OA, and compliance with funder mandates.
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