This post explores the publishing policies of the American Society of Civil Engineers as one example of a society publisher that is obviously making some progress in the transition to open access. A strong feature of ASCE is clear information for Authors, including permission to post the author's open postprint within 90 days after publication. Weaknesses include the 90-day embargo and the requirement for authors to transfer copyright. Like many societies, ASCE has reasonable subscription fees; for example, Cold Regions Engineering is less than 10% of the average subscription price for an engineering journal. This suggests that ASCE, like many society publishers, would likely be very competitive in an open access environment.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has a webpage called Authors Services which links to another page on Posting Papers to the Internet.
Authors are permitted to post their own copy of their own works (not the publisher's PDF) on the open internet 90 days after publication in an ASCE journal, as long as they point to the official ASCE version.
This is a good model for providing clear information to authors. No embargo on self-archiving would be preferable, but 90 days is better than some.
ASCE requires authors to transfer copyright to ASCE. Many publishers are now moving to a License to Publish, and no longer requiring copyright transfer. ASCE could easily make publishing in their journals more attractive to authors with this small change.
Like many societies, ASCE's subscription prices are reasonable; for example, the online-only version of the quarterly Cold Regions Engineering is a modest $198 US per year (institutional price), or less than 10% of the average price of an engineering journal ($2,071 US per year as reported by Lee C. Van Orsdel & Kathleen Born in Library Journal's 2007 Periodical Price Survey.
This low price strongly suggests that ASCE, again like many society publishers, would prove to be very competitive in an open access environment. For example, with an article processing fee approach, ASCE is in a great position to offer high-quality publishing at a fraction of the price that other (mostly commercial) publishers would be likely to charge.
Another option worth investigating: institutional memberships to allow OA publishing. Libraries could pay for the publishing of their faculty, either in full or on a membership basis so that their faculty could publish at a reduced rate.
This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.