[Taxacom] Journal of Hymenoptera Research

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Jan 31 16:21:48 CST 2013


Fabio Moretzsohn wrote:

>Interesting thread! I'm the managing editor of the American 
>Malacological Bulletin, published by a small society (American 
>Malacological Society) through a commercial publisher. I would be 
>very interested in learning more about Open Access options, 
>including some successful models. As Dean correctly mentioned, many 
>societies, including mine, just keep the status quo because they 
>don't know other alternatives--or are not informed of a model that 
>would allow the society to continue to survive AND publish their 
>journals in Open Access. Currently, it is the belief of many that 
>small society journals are only possible through a paid model, and 
>that if the journal is published in open access few members would be 
>compelled to pay dues, and thus, the society would be in financial 
>trouble.

It seems to me, as an outside observer, that this discussion is 
linking two things together which do not *necessarily* have to be 
linked. Specifically, I have to ask why people seem to assume that 
the only possible function a professional society can perform - and 
the only reason they can justify dues - is if they produce a 
specialized journal?

Three things come immediately to mind:

(1) If we suppose, for argument's sake, that the journal of Society X 
costs Y dollars to produce, and therefore requires dues sufficient to 
cover Y (but not much beyond that, in terms of overhead), why would 
the Society collapse if the journal suddenly cost vastly less to 
produce (e.g., if they went to online publishing with no print 
version)? Wouldn't that mean they could reduce their dues to a much 
smaller amount, and therefore make membership more affordable? 
Wouldn't open access to their journal increase public awareness, and 
make it easier to find new people to *become* dues-paying members 
(maybe even - *GASP* - laypeople)?

(2) Also, is it *indisputable* that having a dedicated topical 
professional journal is *necessary* for its members to get their 
research into print, or delievered to a targeted audience (or, 
conversely, to be part *of* a targeted audience)? If I am interested 
in a specific topic, be it bees, or butterflies, or barracudas, can I 
not just type appropriate search terms into Google and have virtually 
all of the existing literature at my fingertips, regardless of where 
it is published? If I want my colleagues to all get my publications 
in a timely manner, can I not just post a URL where they can download 
it, or - at worst - e-mail PDFs to everyone myself? In *that* 
respect, any publication of any society that is NOT being made 
available electronically is doing LESS to promote the exposure and 
impact of an author's research than would otherwise be the case, and 
the argument could therefore be made that publishing in 
limited-distribution specialist journals is *bad* for one's 
professional development, regardless of how well-targeted the 
audience may be. Isn't that the academic equivalent of inbreeding? 
Ultimately, are specialized society journals that can't be accessed 
online really the best place for taxonomists to be publishing, 
especially if taxonomy as a discipline is desperate to attract and 
support young, bright scientists-in-training for careers in taxonomy?

(3) Even further in peripheral vision, why couldn't a professional 
society shift the focus of where their dues are being spent, and 
abandon journal production altogether in favor of OTHER things that 
would justify the collection of dues and still promote their 
discipline? For example, if the hypothetical Society of Romanian Fern 
Systematists decided to use their dues to support graduate student 
research into the systematics of Romanian ferns by underwriting a 
fellowship, or a grant program? If there are enough Romanian fern 
systematists to pay enough dues to print a journal, doesn't that 
imply that there is enough money to pay for something like a 
fellowship, and might that not be a better long-term investment in 
the future of fern systematics? In other words, in times like these, 
would it not be helpful if professional societies DID use their funds 
to actively support taxonomists, rather than simply giving them a 
comfortable place to publish?

As you can see, I look at the phenomenon of professional society 
journals as the tip of an iceberg of significant dimensions, and 
believe that this discussion would be far more productive and 
enlightening if it included consideration of these broader issues. 
I'm not saying that I have defnitive answers to the questions I pose 
above (my perception could easily be wrong), but I do think it would 
be useful to keep such things in mind.

Sincerely,
-- 

Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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