A few months ago Stuart Sheiber, the primary architect of Harvard’s open access policies, wrote about why open access is better for scholarly societies.
As he notes, many societies (as well as universities like Virginia Tech) use the word “disseminate” in their mission statement, yet it’s only recently that some are taking a closer look at how dissemination is carried out. It’s been an afterthought, though it should be an integral part of the research process. Obviously, it is far more effective to disseminate knowledge openly than behind a paywall. But removing the paywall leaves the question of a society’s sustainability.
More recently Heather Piwowar has posted a very helpful guide to some of the open access options for journals that her society has been looking into, and Eric Kansa has a great post that takes a wide-ranging look at sustainability for archaeological societies.
Sheiber argues strongly for author-side charges (sometimes called author processing charges or APCs) rather than reader-side charges (subscriptions). I agree that this should provide a more competitive market, largely due to increased transparency. And though author-side charges are working well for a number of journals, I have mixed feelings about them. Some fields don’t get much grant support, so charges can’t be written into them. Though Virginia Tech has an open access publishing fund to support these charges, most universities don’t. Those who do have grants may want to use the money for things other than publishing. Some funders may not allow charges to be covered, instead requiring article archiving.
Support for the costs of publishing is not limited to subscriptions or author-side fees, though. There are many possible funding models. One option is subsidized publishing from the university. Virginia Tech’s University Libraries is now promoting its journal publishing services. The library hosts the journal, and the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software allows editors to manage submissions and peer review (OJS also allows societies to charge author-side fees if desired).