Society journals take a fresh look at open access publishing


A notable trend at BioMed Central during 2007 has been the increasing number of inquiries from scientific societies interested in starting new open access journals or transferring their existing journals to BioMed Central, in many cases converting to open access from a previous subscriber-only model.

Society journals that have recently signed transfer agreements with  BioMed Central include Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance. Several further such transfers are in the pipeline.

This surge in interest seems to result from a combination of factors. Firstly, the so-called ‘serials crisis’ continues to bite, in that subscription costs are rising faster than library budgets, and so many libraries find they need to cancel journal subscriptions each year. This has hit smaller society journals hard – especially those which do not form part of one of the major commercial publisher ‘Big Deal’ arrangements.

Secondly, open access publishing has now established itself as a viable and attractive alternative to the traditional model – it is no longer a new-fangled experiment. Learned societies are rightly cautious about change, and wish to avoid risk, but the risk of moving to the open access model now seems more and more attractive compared to risks of sticking to what is in many cases the increasingly unsustainable subscription-based model.

Lastly, but not least, there is the underlying mission of scientific societies, which is typically to support and promote research and researchers in a given field. As the open access publishing model becomes more familiar, it is more and more widely recognized that open access journals can provide a natural and financially sustainable means for societies to achieve their objectives, and increasing numbers of societies are seizing that opportunity.

Of course, change does not happen overnight, not least because societies are often signed-up to multi-year publishing arrangements with their existing publishers. But a recent study by Peter Suber and Caroline Sutton has revealed the surprisingly large number of scientific society journals (collated here as a spreadsheet) that already operate on an open access or hybrid open access model. BioMed Central looks forward to working with many more societies in 2008, to bring the benefits of open access to their society journals.

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Great trend.

One thought:
The copier was the main way to take the articles out of the library. As things become more Web-based, will libraries make it easier to print out articles?