By Kevin Smith

This is a guest post written by Kamran Naim, Director of Partnerships & Initiatives, Annual Reviews; Rachael Samberg, Scholarly Communications Officer, UC Berkeley Library; and Curtis Brundy, AUL for Scholarly Communications and Collections, Iowa State University.

The Story of Society Publications

Scientific societies have provided the foundations upon which the global system of scholarly communication was built, dating back to the 17th century and the birth of the scholarly journal. More recent developments in scholarly communication–corporate enclosure, financial uncertainty, and open-access policies from funders and universities–have shaken these foundations. Recognizing the crucial role that societies have played–and must continue to play in advancing scientific research and scholarship–a group of OA advocates, library stakeholders, and information strategists has organized to provide concrete assistance to society journals. The aim is to allow scholarly societies to step confidently towards OA, enabling them to renew, reclaim, and reestablish their role as a vital and thriving part of the future open science ecosystem.

Aiding a Transition

To continue the progress towards an open scholarly ecosystem, a group of like-minded individuals from libraries, academic institutions, publishers, and consortia have organized to provide support, advocacy, and referral services within the publishing community and related professional organizations.

Our group, aptly called Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (or, TSPOA), took root at the October 2018 Choosing Pathways to OA working forum. The forum brought together more than 125 library and consortium leaders and key academic stakeholders to engage in action-oriented deliberations about a range of OA funding strategies so they could leave with customized plans for how they intend to support the global transition towards openness.

As participants closely examined how their own organizations might fund or otherwise support OA journal publishing, they were inspired to be proactive. A diverse group of participants expressed particular interest in providing support to trusted society publishers, given the uncertainty these publishers are facing under the current scholarly communications climate. Some participants wished to help societies with better understanding their OA publishing options and to share experiences and provide support in OA transition and outreach strategies. Others wanted to undertake OA advocacy within professional societies–helping to generate society OA principles or set standards for professional evaluation within various disciplines. What united us as forum participants was a desire to act–our intention to leverage our collective experience and expertise in order to yield a more open society journal universe.

Five Objectives

Drawing on the momentum from the forum, in November 2018 we established TSPOA. Our principal objective is to connect society journal editors and publishers (and any libraries or consortia that support or fund them) with useful resources and consultation services related to transitioning society publications to OA.

In doing so, we celebrate the work already being done by our colleagues elsewhere in offering guidance to society journals making the OA transition. Our efforts should complement existing undertakings, and hopefully can help draw even more attention to contributions in this regard.

We are also OA publishing model agnostic: We are not promoting any particular OA funding model, such as collectives or article processing charges. Rather, we seek to provide relevant resources/experience working in collaboration with society publishing partners to help them develop an open access publishing model that is appropriate, effective and sustainable.

With all this in mind, we aim to:

  1. Support: We will serve as a communication forum, clearinghouse, and advisory group in providing support for libraries, publishers, and scholarly societies working toward transitioning scholarly publishing from subscription-based to open access.
  1. Incubate & pilot: We will engage in community discussions to assess opportunities for piloting new ventures and evaluating possible co-investment opportunities to support OA society journal publishing.
  1. Refer: We will help connect willing partners with resources or consultative services that support libraries, publishers, and scholarly societies interested in transitioning to open access publishing.
  1. Advocate: We will advocate within research communities and professional organizations or societies for open access publishing by scholarly societies.
  1. Report: We will issue a fiscal year-end public summary of activities and projects completed or underway, with an included statement about future group directions.

What do these objectives look like in practice?

  • We will cultivate our website to collect and offer useful tools and guidance for society journal editors and publishers, and the libraries or consortia who work with them.
  • We will help connect those of you who contact us with localized groups, individuals, or consultation services to support you in your OA transition aims.
  • We will evaluate opportunities to support or encourage new society journal OA publishing models or projects.
  • We will advocate within professional societies through existing administrative positions or at society meetings, and will conduct outreach and presentations to promote OA outcomes.
  • We will work to highlight successful initiatives/partnerships through publishing case-studies.
  • We will keep the scholarly publishing community up-to-date on our efforts with a year-end summary of our goals and progress.

Group Membership

As set forth in our group charge, TSPOA members are expected to actively pursue these group objectives. We are not merely setting up a listserv through which group members can stay informed about society journal publishing; rather, this is a working team in which we members commit to undertaking efforts and projects that advance an OA transition. For purposes of both member accountability and group agility in achieving our TSPOA objectives, for our first year (through January 2020) we are experimenting with limiting membership to fifteen persons during this time. We hope to be able to grow membership in subsequent years once TSPOA workflows and activities are more firmly underway.

We will also be forming sub-committees to undertake particular projects that may solicit broader community involvement, and invite participants to engage. We will keep the community posted about projects with such opportunities.

In the meantime, if you are engaged in parallel efforts at your institution, we welcome the opportunity to highlight them.

We’re here to help

TSPOA is getting its sea legs as a resource for transitioning society journal publications to OA. Please check out our expanding web site and reach out to us if you edit or publish a society journal looking to transition, or a library supporting society journal editors who wish to learn more.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a librarian, a lawyer focusing on copyright issues, a scholarly communications advocate, and the Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas.

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