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Bridging Learned Society Publishing & Open Access: an International Collaboration and Webinar Series

A joint post from SocPC and TSPOA


Scholarly or learned societies enable geographically diverse scholars to build and engage with communities that share and discuss ideas and findings, with the aim of promoting knowledge exchange for social value and the common good. Traditionally, societies achieve this convening function through a subscription-based publishing model in which society membership or institutional support affords scholars access to society publications. As global publishing shifts toward open access (OA), societies are wrestling with the need for new revenue streams and publishing strategies not only to ensure cost recovery, but also to sustain other important society functions—like educational programming, grant awards, professional development, and advocacy—once supported by membership or library subscription spends.


New financial models to support learned society publishing have significant implications for society operations and organizational structures, as well as the ability of authors and academic institutions to participate in society publishing. Whereas authors could once publish in society journals for free, many are now being asked to contribute article processing charges to subsidize OA publication costs. And many of the libraries and research organizations that once engaged in large licensing arrangements to provide their affiliates with access to aggregated society journal titles are now left exploring how to repurpose subscription budgets to support both access and publishing, including by undertaking society journal publishing directly. The mileage of these different OA financial models for societies may also vary: OA publishing is a global enterprise, subject to and reflecting different pressures, mandates, and opportunities within local or regional communities.


Society publishing stakeholders may need support in navigating these contoured pressures. On the heels of Plan S, societies have begun organizing to bring clarity to the emerging OA landscape and its relationship with society publishing needs and infrastructures. In the UK, the Society Publishers’ Coalition (SocPC)—a group of like-minded, not-for-profit learned societies, community publishers, and membership charities who publish—has formed to help societies, funders, and research organizations collectively explore funding solutions that enable OA publication while buttressing core society functions and missions. In the United States, Transitioning Society Publications to OA (TSPOA) is a similar group seeking to connect society publishing stakeholders with support and useful resources related to an OA publishing transition. (Other resources and efforts are also underway. For instance, the Societies and Open Access Research project catalogs OA society journals in an effort, among other things, to help society publishers who have yet to commit to OA find peers at other societies.)


With this announcement, SocPC and TSPOA express our mutual desire to help bridge society journals’ transition to OA by elevating publishing stakeholders’ understanding of learned society publishing and operational needs, and empowering them to make decisions about how to support society publishing. In doing so, we aim to promote knowledge exchange and community-building between societies, universities, funders, and authors.

As a first effort in our collaboration, we will be partnering to bring three webinars to the public this Fall:


Understanding Learned Societies (expected Nov. 2019)

This webinar offers a deep dive into the modern purposes, functions, and needs of scholarly societies—-with particular attention to the publishing opportunities and challenges they face within an evolving scholarly communication ecosystem. Libraries and research organizations will come away with a better awareness and understanding of learned societies’ operational needs and academic impacts, positioning them to engage in strategic decision-making about how they wish to support society-related publishing endeavors. Suggested audience: libraries, research organizations, societies, and funders.

Funding Pathways for Learned Society OA Publishing (expected Nov. 2019)

We next provide an overview of a variety of funding models that scholarly societies may consider in transitioning to open access publishing. We will explore the implications of each funding strategy—the pros and cons—as well as associated implementation needs or partnership dependencies. This will help libraries and consortia understand their potential roles in supporting emerging OA funding models, and help societies begin to evaluate which funding strategies might work for them. Suggested audience: libraries, research organizations, societies, and funders.

Engaging Societies and Society Journals in Transitioning to OA Publishing (expected Dec. 2019)

The webinar series concludes with an exploration of how authors and libraries can work with and support society journals and publishers as they prepare for and undertake an OA transition. We will examine the kinds of resources, consultations, and advocacy both needed and available for authors, libraries, and society journals. Suggested audience: society journal authors and editors, and libraries.

More details about dates and times for these informative webinars is forthcoming. As a webinar participant, you will also have an opportunity to provide feedback to further inform support and efforts by SocPC and TSPOA.


We hope you will share this information widely to encourage diverse engagement as we explore how changes to society publishing affect us all.

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