Research Remix

May 11, 2013

OA options for a society journal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 10:52 pm

Does your society want to embrace Open Access but not know where to start?  Maybe this will help.

I was invited to be part of an OA Exploration Taskforce last fall: AMIA is/was considering OA for its society journal JAMIA and deciding what it wanted to do, if anything.  As the person on the taskforce most familiar with current OA trends I was in charge of reporting back on possible OA options.  Others on the taskforce surveyed current membership, did financial modelling, and so on.

I was surprised how confusing and time-consuming it was to gather and sift information on options, so hopefully blogging the report here (belatedly) will save others time and spur conversation.  Thanks very much to all the publishers I contacted for their information, and for permission to post this information, especially the specifics provided by BMJ and Ubiquity Press.

Here is my initial post with notes, thoughts, and contact details, and the organized list of options is below.  Much has changed in the OA landscape since last fall when this was written, so some of this might already be out of date…. please check with the publishers for current information.  Sorry it has taken me months to post this; it has been busy.

I’m not actually sure of the current status of JAMIA and OA, since my participation on the task force has ended.  I know they took a subset of these options to the Board and there was active consideration of options.  Nancy Roderer summarized the situation to me this way, a few months ago:

“I believe they are committed now to OA, but worry about the finances, and what you have given helps in convincing them that if they say what the want and put out a request, publishers will make some good offers and the best ones will come from the newer publishers.”

I’m very glad to have contributed to the task force.  I felt honoured to be invited, and it was empowering to have an opportunity to help make AMIA the open society I think it can and should be.

Overview of options (details follow)

  1. Continue with current OA offering

  2. Increase openness within current framework

    1. change Unlocked license to CC-BY

    2. make all papers CC-BY when they become free in PMC

    3. shorten time until papers are free in PMC

    4. lower Unlocked fee

    5. offer discount Unlocked fee to AMIA members

    6. offer “coupons” for Unlock fees to organizations that subscribe to JAMIA

  3. Introduce new OA journal possibly to complement JAMIA

    1. through BMJ

    2. through F1000Research and F1000Posters

    3. others

  4. Transition JAMIA to 100% OA with a publisher

    1. through BMJ

    2. through BioMed Central

    3. through Ubiquity Press

    4. others

  5. Publish JAMIA within AMIA as 100% OA

    1. hosted internally

    2. hosted by a journal-management system hosting service

    3. others

  6. Other options

    1. probably out of scope: publishing cooperative, overlay journal, etc.

    2. related revenue and cost-saving possibilities


OA Options for a society journal: details

Edited to add:  a number of people have said my original post didn’t highlight the financial positives from openness.  I’ll try to add this.  In the mean time, I’ve added a “positives from openness” placeholder to possible financial implications below.  The potential financial positives include increased membership numbers due to more exposure and future-embracing leadership, more interest in publishing in the journal due to wider readership and openness, and so on.

1. Continue with current OA offering

The current offering:

  • JAMIA published by BMJ
  • All articles are free after 12 months in PubMed Central

  • “Unlocked” articles are Open under a CC-BY-NC license immediately

  • Articles become “Unlocked” either by authors paying a $2000 article processing charge (APC) or by nomination by the editors

  • JAMIA authors may self-archive after 6 months on their personal website or through their institution’s repository, but may not post the publisher’s version or PDF


2. Increase openness within current framework

Some small changes could increase the Openness of JAMIA content.

– Change Unlocked license to CC-BY

“Unlocked” articles could be made Open under a CC-BY license rather than a CC-BY-NC license.  CC-BY is generally considered the best OA practice because it facilitates most reuse. NC means “non-commercial”: it prohibits reuse by companies without further negotiation.  Startup and established commercial companies often want to reuse article text for indexing, building research tools, text-mining for research, and disseminating reprints.  Restrictions can be surprising: images and text can not be used in Wikipedia when licensed CC-BY-NC, for example.  For more discussion on NC clause, see:

BMJ has confirmed they would support this change.

Financial implication: positives from openness; eliminate reprint revenue.


– Make all articles CC-BY when they are available for free in PMC

JAMIA could choose to make articles available under a CC-BY license once they are available for free to PMC.  “Free in PMC” is not the same as Open Access because it does not allow Open reuse and redistribution; moving to a delayed OA license would facilitate this reuse.  RUP uses this model: subscriptions are needed to view the content for the first N months, then the articles are OA.

Financial implication: positives from openness; decreased reprint revenue, possible drop in subscriptions.


– Shorten time before papers are free in PMC

All JAMIA articles currently become free in PMC after 12 months.  This could be shortened to 6 months.

Financial implication: positives from openness; possible drop in subscriptions (though no evidence of this to date)


– lower Unlocked fee

JAMIA could decrease the Unlocked fee.  Many hybrid journals have Unlocked fees similar (or higher) than JAMIA’s, but the article-processing-fee for most OA journals is lower.

Financial implication: positives from openness; decreased revenue per APC.


– offer discount Unlocked fee to AMIA members

JAMIA could offer an Unlocked discount to AMIA members.

Financial implication: positives from openness; decreased revenue per APC.


– offer “coupons” for Unlock fees to organizations that subscribe to JAMIA

JAMIA could offer coupons to subscribers to offset Unlock fees.  This would make it easier for authors of subscribing institutions to publish their work as Unlocked articles.  The Royal Society of Chemistry has recently proposed a similar idea to facilitate  community transition to OA.

Financial implication: positives from openness; decreased  revenue per APC.


3. Introduce new OA journal, possibly to complement JAMIA

– through BMJ

AMIA could launch a companion journal through BMJ to complement the existing journal.  It could take the same form as BMJ Open: 100% open access, peer-reviewed on scientific rigor but not anticipated impact or novelty, online-only, and agile with respect to emerging publishing practices.  Authors could submit directly to “JAMIA Open”, and also editors of JAMIA could suggest JAMIA Open to authors of papers submitted to JAMIA that are sound but not appropriate for JAMIA.  JAMIA Open would be a standalone journal which would be indexed.

Financial implication: positives from openness; possibly increased revenue from new Journal article charges.

– through F1000Research and F1000Posters

JAMIA could launch a novel publishing collection through F1000Research and F1000Posters.  Authors could submit papers, data papers, posters, and presentations to F1000Research and F1000Posters: these could then be consolidated into a “JAMIA page”, similar to the emerging institution pages.  This would be a diverse collection. Many of the research papers would be indexed in traditional indexes (based on post-publication peer review status), but the collection itself would not be a standalone journal.

Financial implication: positives from openness; more discussion would be necessary with F1000.  Submission to F1000Research will have a fee.

– others

There may be other possibilities to partner with PLOS Currents, PeerJ, etc.  More research would be needed.

4. Transition JAMIA to 100% OA with a publisher

– through BMJ

AMIA could transition JAMIA to a 100% OA journal with BMJ.  This would retain the existing infrastructure with BMJ, but eliminate the subscription base and require that all articles (except those with waivers) pay an Unlock fee.  BMJ does not do this with any of its other society journals at the moment — its only 100% OA journals are BMJ and BMJ Open — but could be open to this. The Unlock fee could change, depending on how much revenue JAMIA wanted.

Financial implications: positives from openness; Costs and Ad revenue would continue as before.  Eliminates subscription revenue.  Would receive more Unlock revenue.

– through BioMed Central

AMIA could transition JAMIA to a 100% OA journal with a publisher who publishes many 100% OA society journals.  BioMed Central (BMC) is such a publisher (OA society journals it publishes).  See feature list BMC has provided to the JAMIA OA explorations taskforce.

Detailed financial and operational terms would require a conversation about AMIA’s goals and requirements, but BMC has offered example terms based on its experiences with other societies.

Financial implications (rough estimates: bespoke agreement would be based on detailed discussion):

  • ‘standard’ article processing charge (APC) is currently £1075.

  • This increases by £175 if editorial office support is required and by £195 if copy editing, provided by the publisher, is required. If both services are required the there is a discount, and the APC increases by £360

  • The Standard APC level provides a small honorarium to the society. The APC can be increased, by a surcharge, to raise the potential revenue available to the society

  • Typically the society receives a 50% share of advertising revenue where they have brought the advertiser/contact to BMC.

  • No reprint revenue because OA

  • AMIA could offer discounts to members, or prepay APCs for other reason.  Discounts are available when APCs are prepaid.  For example, a society depositing $100,000USD would automatically qualify for at least a 15% discount on the APCs it covers for its members

  • Print can be a major cost and revenue stream so knowing about JAMIA’s plans for print will also help us tailor our proposal more appropriately. BMC does not print any journals on a monthly or issue basis but we often prepare special and anniversary printed collections for a number of our titles, such as Arthritis Research & Therapy. If regular printing was an absolute requirement, we could discuss providing it but have found that the limitations of print – in terms of article length, publication delays etc – are challenging for all concerned (authors, the society as well as the publisher).


– through Ubiquity Press

AMIA could transition JAMIA to a 100% OA journal with an emerging publisher of OA society journals.  Ubiquity Press is such a publisher.  See feature list Ubiquity Press has provided to the  JAMIA OA exploration taskforce.

Detailed financial and operational terms would require a conversation about AMIA’s goals and requirements, but Ubiquity Press has offered example terms.

Financial implications (rough estimates: bespoke agreement would be based on detailed discussion):

  • A suggested article-processing charge (APC) of $200

  • At an APC of $200, UP production and hosting would cost between $1,000 per year (production and hosting only) to $15,000 per year (production and hosting plus peer review management, copyediting and marketing)

  • print-on-demand is available and could be a source of revenue for the journal

  • back issue conversion is available, with cost TBD


– others

Wiley Open, Elsevier, Copernicus, and MedKnow would also be interested publishing JAMIA as an OA journal.  They require a detailed conversation on JAMIA’s needs before suggesting financial terms.  Wiley Open and Elsevier would both be willing to publish with a CC-BY license (Copernicus and MedKnow: unknown).

  • Wiley details: fully gold OA journals pricing ranges between $1650 and $3500 at the moment.  APC’s are set on a range of factors including field of research and level of funding, IF, brand and positioning of the journal, pricing of other titles in the discipline, etc.  Could be flexible in terms of model based on discussion of needs and goals.

  • Copernicus details: We finance our Open Access publication services by charging Article Processing Charges (APCs) on page basis from the authors. Therefore, these APCs depend on the length of the article as well as on the journal format (traditional vs. interactive). In most of the cases this results in the APCs range between €500 and €1000 per article.   If a journal is already established, and has an Impact Factor, as JAIMIA has, we suggest to start with reduced APCs and then by stages raise them to the full level. However, the journal owners have to decide upon the range of the APCs because they would need to subsidise any reduction.


5. Publish JAMIA within AMIA

– hosted internally

AMIA could run an online-only JAMIA journal itself, using self-hosted open source journal management software.

Financial implications can be assessed based on expenses and time estimates in


– hosted by external sources

AMIA could run an online-only JAMIA journal itself, using externally-hosted open source journal management software.

Financial implications can be assessed based on expenses and time estimates above, and also these estimates for external hosting:


6. Other

Other ideas that are probably out of scope:


– related revenue and cost-saving possibilities

  • could move to print-on-demand, or eliminate print

  • could release openly, have HTML available for free, but charge per-article or membership fee for PDF access (ie JMIR)

  • could charge for expedited peer-review (ie JMIR)

  • could charge submission fees in general

  • could charge for iphone apps, etc


Misc Resources:


  1. Minor point but going CC BY needn’t and doesn’t eliminate reprint income. Both PLOS and BMC make some money on reprints though not a whole lot because we’ve not put a lot of work into it. I need to write this point up but trying to make money off simple printing is a muggs game anyway. Making money from a production package that makes a big thing of the journal brand and *trademark* with covers and additional material is a value offering that can be made effective whatever the copyright status.

    Comment by Cameron Neylon — May 12, 2013 @ 1:25 am

  2. More detailed info, from publisher Pendoft:

    We have published FAQs imposed by society journals that want to move to advanced open access publishing model:

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — May 12, 2013 @ 6:21 am

  3. Thanks for the details, very useful for discussions with colleagues whose main concern with OA is the health of their society.

    I suggest adding:
    Explicitely allow submission of manuscripts deposited in ArXiv and the like. For example the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution journal forbids it (personnal communication wit EiC, confirmed by several colleagues and by a Twitter discussion with SMBE official account []). Allowing it would be an easy and painless step in the right direction.

    Comment by Marc RobinsonRechavi (@marc_rr) — May 12, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

  4. Cutting a deal with a major university library to develop and host the journal as an OA project.

    Comment by Greg Laden — May 13, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  5. Recent complementary post by @ekansa: Sustainability at Any Price is not Sustainable: Open Access in Archaeology

    “It’s high time we get out of the ideological trap at the center of most debates about sustainability, and make a clear case that publication needs to reflect our scholarly values and our obligations to the public.”

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — May 13, 2013 @ 9:18 am

  6. Scholastica ( is a fantastic option for scholarly societies. It’s a turn-key solution that makes it easy to manage and publish an OA academic journal from manuscript submission to publication. 

    Comment by rob (@robwalsh0) — May 13, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  7. Heather, in July I’m taking over as EIC of a society journal published by Wiley-Blackwell and the Editorial Board is very motivated to do whatever we can to move towards more OA. This summary was immensely helpful, thanks very much. One problem we have is that a very large percentage of our authors are in developing countries, so moving towards any OA format that includes APCs will be a tough sell. Any suggestions or insights on how other societies may have dealt with this concern?

    Comment by Emilio M. Bruna — May 15, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    • Emilio: for a Wiley title, it is likely it is already distributed free in low-income countries via the reserch4life programme (; if it is a subscription model journal, it could continue to be sustainable via subscriptions from higher income countries but at the same time be free to publish to authors regardless of their economic status. Journal could also have an open archive. I realise this is not quite the subject of this blog but I wanted to address your query. Good luck with your editorship.

      Comment by Andrew Miller (Elsevier) — May 15, 2013 @ 9:53 am

      • Thanks – will look into all of these possibilities and keep you posted. Looking forward to meeting someday.

        Comment by Emilio M. Bruna — May 15, 2013 @ 10:28 am

      • BTW, Andrew – Thanks for the offer of good luck, but if you could burn some incense, do some chanting, and make some offerings to your favorite deity that would be welcome as well.

        Comment by Emilio M. Bruna — May 15, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  8. […] für das gesellschaftseigene Journal (JAMIA) prüfen sollte. In Ihrem Blogposting “OA options for a society journal” macht sie die Überlegungen, Optionen und Entscheidungswege der Arbeitsgruppe transparent, in der […]

    Pingback by Infobib » OA options for a society journal — June 3, 2013 @ 12:27 am

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