A Learned Society's Perspective on Publishing

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Abstract

Scientific journals that are owned by a learned society, like the Journal of Neurochemistry (JNC), which is owned by the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), benefit the scientific community in that a large proportion of the income is returned to support the scientific mission of the Society. The income generated by the JNC enables the ISN to organize conferences as a platform for members and non-members alike to share their research, supporting researchers particularly in developing countries by travel grants and other funds, and promoting education in student schools. These direct benefits and initiatives for ISN members and non-members distinguish a society journal from pure commerce. However, the world of scholarly publishing is changing rapidly. Open access models have challenged the business model of traditional journal subscription and hence provided free access to publicly funded scientific research. In these models, the manuscript authors pay a publication cost after peer review and acceptance of the manuscript. Over the last decade, numerous new open access journals have been launched and traditional subscription journals have started to offer open access (hybrid journals). However, open access journals follow the general scheme that, of all participating parties, the publisher receives the highest financial benefit. The income is generated by researchers whose positions and research are mostly financed by taxpayers' or funders' money, and by reviewers and editors, who frequently are not reimbursed. Last but not least, the authors pay for the publication of their work after a rigorous and sometimes painful review process. JNC itself has an open access option, at a significantly reduced cost for Society members as an additional benefit. This article provides first-hand insights from two former Editors-in-Chief, Kunihiko Suzuki and Leslie Iversen, about the history of JNC's ownership and about the difficulties and battles fought along the way to its current success and reputation.

Scientific journals that are owned by a learned society, like the Journal of Neurochemistry (JNC) which is owned by the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), benefit the scientific community in that a large proportion of the income is returned to support the scientific mission of the Society. The income generated by the JNC enables the ISN to organize conferences as a platform for members and non-members alike to share their research, supporting researchers particularly in developing countries by travel grants and other funds, and to promote education in student schools. These direct benefits and initiatives for ISN members and non-members distinguish a society journal from pure commerce. However, the world of scholarly publishing is changing rapidly. Open access models have challenged the business model of traditional journal subscription and hence provide free access to publicly funded scientific research. In these models, the manuscript authors pay a publication cost after peer review and acceptance of the manuscript. Over the last decade, numerous new open access journals have been launched and traditional subscription journals have started to offer open access (hybrid journals). However, open access journals pertain to the general scheme that, of all participating parties, the publisher receives the highest financial benefit. The income is generated by researchers whose positions and research are mostly financed by tax payers' or funders' money, reviewers and editors, who frequently are not reimbursed. Last but not least, the authors pay for the publication of their work after a rigorous and sometimes painful review process. JNC itself has an open access option, at a significantly reduced cost for Society members as an additional benefit. This article provides first-hand insights from a long-standing Editor-in-Chief, Kunihiko Suzuki, about the history of JNC's ownership and about difficulties and battles fought on the way to its current success and reputation today.

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