Nurturing exploitation (2 of 2)

October 27, 2011

In recent months there has been much debate in the press on the issue of academic publishing, mostly either criticising publishers for monopolistic profit-making or pushing for an increase in "green" open-access publishing, in particular toll-free access to the results of publicly funded research.

Through all of this, the elephants in the room have been the learned societies. The UK has an estimated thousand or so of them, many of which run publishing programmes. Most of them rely to varying degrees on income via expenses, royalties or profit shares from academic publishers to sustain their activities and engage with their members, the academy and the wider community, including the world of policy and practice.

In the case of the Regional Studies Association, we publish two journals ranked in Thomson Reuters' Journal Citation Reports of the Social Science Citation Index, with an additional journal launching in 2013. Income from this publishing activity is the largest part of our revenue profile, which also includes conference income and membership fees.

What do we do with our publishing income? We support our editorial teams, providing editorial assistants, special issue events and financial help for them to attend conferences.

But more broadly, we have also used this income to support our members through reduced-rate territorial pricing on membership fees and our annual conference. We have also launched an early-career grant scheme, and we offer funding for research networks, travel awards, an event support scheme and conference bursaries.

This level of backing for scholars in our field would not be possible without income from our journals.

So by all means, let us continue to proactively explore open-access publishing business models and to expand philanthropic schemes for wider journal access, but let us also be aware that for most learned societies, income from publishing activity is recycled straight back into the academy.

Our associations make an important contribution to the research life cycle, and publishing income is important in achieving this.

Sally Hardy, chief executive, Regional Studies Association

Martin Jones, chair, journals management committee, RSA

David Bailey, chair, RSA

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