What is the BioMed Central and SpringerOpen Membership Program?

Alicja Dobrzynska
Alicja Dobrzynska gives the lowdown on our membership program

Did you know that BioMed Central has had various Membership options for more than 8 years now? Even though some of the world’s best known research institutions are our Members (think Princeton and King’s College London to name just two), we’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t 100% sure what our Membership Program is or what it provides them. Here, Alicja Dobrzynska from our Membership Team answers some of the questions we get asked on a regular basis.

When I go to conferences, one of the questions I get asked a lot is ‘what exactly is BioMed Central Membership?’ There’s a lot of confusion it seems about how our Membership system actually works, and we’ve seen people calling it ‘sponsorship’ or ‘subsidy’ in the past.

With that in mind, I thought it was about time I laid out – as simply as I can – exactly how BioMed Central’s Membership Program works and why it’s useful to our Members, by answering some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive.

What is our Membership and what different types are there?

Because our journals are open access – i.e. anyone can read the articles published in them for free – we charge authors an article-processing charge (APC) to cover the costs of publishing. Our Membership options essentially remove some of that cost from the author – their organization or institution covers all or part of the APC by becoming a Member. Membership covers all BioMed Central publications, as well as SpringerOpen and Chemistry Central.

We’ve got four different types of Membership to choose from, which makes things a bit more flexible for everyone. Our most popular model (with 275 members) is our Supporter Membership, where organizations pay a flat annual fee. Researchers with these organizations receive a 15% discount when they publish with us.

Our second most popular type (with 182 members) is our Prepay option. It works in a similar way to a prepay phone, with organizations putting money into their account, which can then be used by their researchers to pay the APCs. With this Membership, the whole cost of the APC is covered by the organization, and they receive a discount on the standard charge.

Our Shared Support model is similar to this, but with this option, the organization or institution covers 50% of the APC cost, while the researchers pay the other 50%. At the same time, they still get a discount on the APC cost.

Last, but by no means least, is our Foundation Membership. We cover the costs of these Memberships, which are available to institutions in developing countries. Researchers at these institutions don’t pay anything to publish with us, which means money isn’t a barrier to publishing their research, or to anyone reading it for that matter.

How much does a Membership cost?

The answer to this question depends on the Membership model. With our Supporter Membership, the annual fee paid by institutions is based on the number of researchers and graduate students they have. And of course, Foundation Membership costs nothing.

Prepay and Shared Support models can be set up with any amount of money (and the discount received on the APC is reflective of the amount deposited). Any money not used in a particular year is automatically transferred to the next one.

So what exactly is the point of Membership?

A good question. Our Memberships are designed to help researchers and institutions by making the publishing process as quick and easy as possible. Being a Member means that keeping track of spend on open access publishing becomes much simpler, and it helps and encourages researchers to consider the open access route.

We’ve got lots of tools to help Members keep track. They can see account balances if they’re a Prepay or Shared Support Member, as well as check details of all submitted and published articles. All Members can receive notifications of new submissions from their researchers, as well as being told of the final decisions on those submissions.

Members can run reports and view metrics about the articles their researchers have published, and all of these articles appear on their Member webpage. Plus, all articles can be automatically deposited in their Institutional Repositories.

These are just a few of the benefits and I could probably go on about them for a while (surprisingly enough, I’m an advocate!), but I probably need to move on to the next question.

How do researchers know their organization has a Membership?

Of course, if you’ve paid for Membership, you want to make sure that your researchers know about it and use it. We’ve come up with a few ways to make that more straightforward.

The most important of these is probably the IP recognition that we use. Researchers are automatically told about their organization’s Membership if they visit one of our websites using a recognized IP range for the organization.

We also give every Member their own customised webpage, with their logo, a link to their homepage, articles published by their researchers, and a link to their repository (if there is one).

To raise awareness, we can arrange a marketing campaign to let researchers know about the Membership, and we also send promotional materials which can be used around buildings and laboratories to help spread the word.

What if there are problems?

We have a dedicated team to support our Members – that’s my team! – and make sure they’re getting the most from their Membership. We do everything from letting them know that they’re getting near their account balance, to working with them to encourage their researchers to make use of the Membership.

One of the best parts of my role is helping our Members make the most of all of their benefits, and I regularly run webinars and visit different organizations to show them how to use the tools and resources available to them. I’m pretty confident we can resolve any problems that come up!

You can find out more about our Membership Program on our website.

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