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Institutional membership

Institutional memberships are one method for open access journals to generate revenue. The model was developed to enable libraries to divert subscription funds towards open access publications; although other types of organizations, such as library consortia, research funding agencies, etc. can also become members. Institutional memberships allow libraries (and others) to provide tangible support for open access, and in some cases, offer incentives for authors to publish in those open-access journals.

The fee structure for institutional memberships varies from publisher to publisher. In some cases, institutional memberships are simply mechanisms by which institutions can provide financial support for OA journals. This is the case for journals that do not charge article processing fees. In other cases, institutional memberships are accompanied by discounts in article processing fees for affiliated authors (ranging from 10% to 100%). Institutional membership costs are usually tiered according to the size of the institution; with smaller institutions paying less than large ones.

Examples of publishers that offer institutional memberships

Bioline International is a not-for-profit scholarly publishing cooperative committed to providing open access to quality research journals published in developing countries. Bioline’s membership program costs $500 per institution per year on an ongoing basis. Bioline also seeks additional support and sponsorship from foundations and other organizations whose interests align with Bioline. Sponsorship levels and terms are negotiated with the interests of the individual sponsor in mind.

BioMed Central is one of the larger open access publishers. BioMed Central publishes scientific and medical databases, review journals and 197 peer-reviewed research journals in the fields of biology and medical research community. BioMed Central members receive discounts on article processing charges and discounts on other itemes. They also provide a list to each member of all relevant research papers published in BioMed Central’s Open Access journals by the members affiliated authors. See the Case Studies for more details of how this works.

Hindawi Publishing Corporation is a rapidly growing academic publisher with more than one hundred Open Access journals covering all major areas of science, technology, and medicine, and a book publishing program that spans all scholarly disciplines. Hindawi offers institutional memberships to organizations that would like to encourage their authors to publish in any of Hindawi’s journals. The membership program is based on a flat rate annual payment that covers all accepted articles that have one or more authors from any of Hindawi’s member institutes. The cost of the membership depends on the research output level of the institute and the historical publishing pattern in Hindawi journals.

Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. PLoS offers institutional memberships consisting of an annual fee that varies according to the needs of the organization. The membership entitles affiliated scientists to reduced charges for publication in all PLoS journals. As well, member institutions are listed on the PLoS Web site Members page, and they recieve a list of the articles published in PLoS journals by affiliated authors.



Open Access Publishing Fees: case studies

Here are two case studies – one of a publisher whose portfolio consits almost entirely of Open Access journals (BioMed Central) and one of a subscription-model publisher who offers authors the option of paying to have their particular article made Open Access in an otherwise Toll Access (subscription-based) journal (Springer).

BioMed Central

BioMed Central is an Open Access publisher that publishes scientific and medical databases, review journals and 197 peer-reviewed research journals in the fields of biology and medicine. The article-processing fees range from no charge to €1580 (US $2095) depending on the journal, with an average cost of €1025 (US $1360) per article. A list of the fees for all BioMed Central journals is available on their website.

If the submitting author’s organisation is a BioMed Central member, the cost of the article-processing charge is covered by the membership, and no further charge is payable. In the case of authors whose institutions are supporter members of BioMed Central, a discounted article-processing charge is payable by the author. Submitters can review a list of membership institutions.

There are no fees for submitting articles, only for articles that have been accepted for publication. For those who cannot pay fees, individual waiver requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted. Authors must apply for a waiver during the submission process and a decision on the waiver will normally be made within two working days.

Following peer review, once a manuscript has received editorial acceptance in principle, the article-processing charge becomes payable, and copy editing of the manuscript will begin. The submitter of the manuscript is responsible for making or arranging payment of the fee. Once payment has been received, the article will be published.

Some funding agencies and institutions have set up special funds for use by authors to pay article processing fees. BioMed Central maintains a list of these on the website.

Springer Open Choice
Springer is a subscription-based publisher that offers an Open Access option for authors through an article-processing fee. The fee for making an article Open Access is $3000 US regardless of which journal it is. This fee does not include any surcharges that also may also apply.
Upon acceptance for publication, authors can sign up for Open Access via the online Springer Open Choice order form. The order must be placed and the fee paid prior to publication. Springer Open Choice may also be ordered by the author or the author’s institution directly via Springer.com. Authors are required to certify that they are the original authors and vouch for the integrity and lawfulness of the articles. When authors opt for Springer Open Choice to publish their articles they retain their copyright but are required to agree to the Springer Open Choice License. Articles are then published.
Springer Open Choice articles will be identified as freely available with Open Access on SpringerLink, and in the print editions. Springer will also indicate in the metadata for all Springer Open Choice articles that these articles are freely available from the publisher’s site.

Paying Open Access Publishing Fees

In some areas of the natural sciences paying for publication is nothing new because page charges or colour page charges have been levied for decades by publishers in these fields. For other disciplines, though, the idea of paying for publication is novel and there may be concern over where the money will come from. It should be noted that the majority of Open Access journals do not charge article-processing fees at all, but support their operations by other means. It should also be noted that many Open Access publishers will waive the fee for authors whose circumstances do not provide them with the funds.

There are three main sources of fees to pay for article-processing charges that are required by some Open Access journals – the author, the author’s research funder and the author’s institution. Librarians will be most interested in the last of these.

Libraries can set up special funds at their institutions to pay for authors who wish to publish in journals that charge Open Access fees. These types of funds have been created at number of institutions, including Nottingham University, University of Amsterdam, University of California, Berkeley, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Calgary.

Example: University of Calgary: Open Access Authors Fund

At the University of Calgary in Canada, the Open Access Authors Fund was created in 2008 to pay for article-processing fees in Open Access journals. The fund is open to all faculty, staff, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Calgary and will support article-processing fees of any amount. However, before applying for funding through this programme, authors must have exhausted all other options for paying Open Access fees, such as using a portion of their research grant. The fund will pay the Open Access fees of peer-reviewed journals that meet the following eligibility criteria:

a) Journals which are fully Open Access. That is, all of the content of the entire journal is freely available online immediately (after peer review and editing) upon payment of the article-processing fee. Examples of publishers with suites of fully Open Access journals that charge article-processing fees include: BioMed Central (BMC), Co-Action Publishing, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, PhysMath Central (PMC) and Public Library of Science (PLoS). Fully Open Access journals from publishers who have few such journals are also eligible. For example, Oxford University Press has Nucleic Acids Research, DNA Research, and Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

b) Journals which are not fully Open Access but which allow individual articles to be made freely available online immediately upon payment of the submission fee. These are known as “hybrid” Open Access journals. To be eligible for funding in this category, the publisher must plan to make (in the next subscription year) reductions to the institutional subscription prices based on the number of Open Access articles in those journals. To date, the only publishers that have done this are Oxford University Press, which has reduced subscription fees for the hybrid journals in its Oxford Open program, and the American Institute of Physics, which has done the same for its Author Select program. Other publishers may follow this lead in the future.

The $100,000 (Canadian dollars) fund is for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. According to administrators, there has been widespread interest in the fund from researchers in all disciplines. In the first six months, there were about 30 submissions, all of which were accepted and received payment. The fund is administered by library staff, but there are plans to establish an advisory body of librarians and researchers than will deal with larger policy matters as they arise.

See the Case Studiespage for examples of Open Access publication fees.

For an up-to-date list of funds to support publicaiton fees, see the Open Access Directory page here.

Further information

Pinfield, Stephen. A Wel(l)come development: research funders and open access. Learned Publishing, 19, 3, July 2006, 45-50. http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/410/1/LP_0602_Wellcome.pdf.

Library Support for Open Access Journals

While open access journals are free to read, there are still costs involved in publishing them. Open Access journals finance their operations in a number of ways; through subsidies from governments, foundations, or scholarly societies; advertising revenues; article processing fees; or some combination of the above. To date, no single approach has emerged as dominant, although, the majority of Open Access journals (an estimated 67%) do not charge authors fees.

Subscription costs for Toll Access journals should decrease as more of their content becomes Open Access paid for by article-processing fees (see below), freeing some library funds to support Open Access journals. New funding models are being developed that enable libraries to support Open Access journals.

Article-processing fees: Fee-based Open Access journals require a payment on behalf of the author to the publisher. These fees are variously referred to as “author fees”, “author payments”, “open access charges”, “article processing fees”, or “submission fees” (there are a wide variety of terms). The money may come from the author, the author’s institution or the author’s funding agency. In cases of economic hardship, many journals will waive all or part of the fee, including instances where the authors come from developing countries. Reputable Open Access journals charging publication fees normally take steps to ensure that editors conducting peer review do not know whether authors have requested, or been granted, fee waivers or to ensure that every paper is approved by an independent editor with no financial stake in the journal. These measures ensure that the peer review process is not biased by the promise of income – or lack of it. The costs of Open Access fees range from about €500 to €3000 ($250-$4000 US), depending on the publisher. Libraries can set up a fund to pay article-processing fees for Open Access journals.

The fee-based model has the advantages of being very transparent and of awakening researchers to the costs of the publishing system. As noted by Stephen Pinfield (reference below), in the subscription-based system there is a disconnect “between researchers and the economic realities of the market”. (pg. 5). With article-processing fees, authors are aware of publication charges and able to draw comparisons between different journals and publishers.

Institutional memberships: Another way of supporting Open Access journals is through institutional membership programmes. Some journals that charge article-processing fees offer institutional memberships which then reduce or eliminate the per article fees they charge. The fee structures for institutional memberships vary from publisher to publisher, but fees are usually tiered based on the size of the institution; with smaller institutions paying less than large ones.

Hybrid journals: Some subscription-based journals also offer Open Access options to authors. This generally involves authors paying an Open Access fee, after which the journal will make the article freely available. The SHERPA-ROMEO site maintains a list of such hybrid publishers’ paid Open Access options, and the associated pricing.

One of the issues with the hybrid model is that institutions that pay Open Access fees for hybrid journals are also still paying subscription fees for those same journals to the publishers; in essence paying twice for the same content. A few publishers, such as Oxford University Press, do offer discounts on their subscription charges in proportion to the level of income from article-processing fees, but such publishers are in a minority. Mechanisms “need to be identified which will help to ensure that the shift in income levels does occur” (Pinfield pg.4). The University of Calgary, which has set up an authors fund has chosen not to pay Open Access fees for hybrid journals unless publishers agree to reduce subscriptions to reflect payment.

It should also be noted that many of the publishers who offer Open Access options may also allow authors to deposit an article into an Open Access repository without payment of a fee, which may be a better solution for authors.

Further resources

Poynder, Richard. Open and Shut: Open Access: Doing the Numbers. June 11, 2008. http://poynder.blogspot.com/2008/06/open-access-doing-numbers.html

Pinfield, Stephen. A Wel(l)come development: research funders and open access. Learned Publishing, 19, 3, July 2006, 45-50. http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/410/1/LP_0602_Wellcome.pdf.



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