The Role of Scholarly Societies
The principal focus of most scholarly societies is to encourage the creation and dissemination of new knowledge within their discipline by publishing scholarly books and journals, which greatly benefit their own members and the progress of knowledge generally. When societies use their scholarly output as a revenue generating vehicle to cover costs beyond publication expenses, they create barriers to access and reduce the potential impact of the scholarly work.
December 2005 the University of California's Academic Council distributed a white paper titled Scholarly Societies and Scholarly Communication. In that paper the UC faculty committee calls upon societies to follow these principles:
- Reaffirm that development and dissemination of scholarly information is the, or one of the, most important purposes of the society;
- Set publications policies to sustain publication and dissemination of knowledge, without requiring high or rapidly rising subscription prices to support other society operations;
- Acquire only those copyrights for scholarly works that protect their investment in publication, while allowing scholars to retain rights which will facilitate other non-commercial use and dissemination of new knowledge;
- Work collaboratively with universities and publishers to develop and adopt the most economical and technologically effective methods of publishing that also maximize quality, dissemination, and impact; including placing work in open access fora; and
- Provide transparency in society and publication finances to promote efficient and economical resource use in scholarly communication.
Society Best Practices
The principles above can be put into practice by doing things like:
- Eliminate the use of publication revenues to underwrite other activities which places upward pressure on publishing revenue; generate publishing revenue at or near the cost recovery point, thereby minimizing price inflation and maximizing use and impact of scholarship.
- Avoid partnering with or outsourcing publishing operations to profit-maximizing commercial publishers.
- Provide authors the maximum flexibility to use their scholarly work whenever possible by retaining only the "right of first publication" for the society.
- Maximize the use of research findings in journals and other publications by minimizing price and other access barriers; preferably include an option of open, free access to all potential readers.
- Provide alternative forms of dissemination that are timely, broad-based, and use technology effectively to enhance the knowledge base of readers.