Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Open Access: the Membership Fee Subsidy Model


The majority of open access journals do not charge processing fees. Such journals operate on a variety of models and combinations of approaches. This blogpost looks at the simple membership-fee-subsidy model. For a very large society, a small subsidy from membership fees could create a very substantial pool of money for open access publishing. For example, if the world's largest scientific society, the American Chemical Society, were to set aside $10 from the fees of each of its 158,000 members, this would create an annual fund of $1.5 million to subsidize open access publishing. For an organization of this size, it is not out of the question to find such money by shifting internal priorities, without raising membership fees by so much as a penny.


No-fee journals operate on a variety of business models, from volunteering to subsidies from various sources to advertising revenues to combinations. In this post, I will focus on a membership fee subsidy approach, for learned societies and associations.

Many traditional journals produced by societies and associations have always operated on a subsidy basis, with the subsidy funding coming from such sources as membership fees and conferences.

A large and wealthy association could no doubt subsidize a very substantial open access publishing program, if it chose to do so.

Picture, for example, how many journals and articles the largest scientist organization in the world could publish OA, if they chose.

According to their web site, the American Chemical Society is the world's largest scientific society, with 158,000 members. If $10 from every membership were devoted to OA publishing, this would create an annual subsidy fund of over $1.5 million per year.

It is not at all out of the question for an organization of this size to find this kind of money internally, without having to raise membership fees a penny.

Considering how important the benefits of open access are, perhaps the ACS should give this some thought.

If any of the organizations I belong to were to ask me if this were a suitable use of my membership funding, I would not hesitate for a second to say yes.

This blogpost is one of the answers to a question recently posed on the Liblicense listserv.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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