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A Strategy to Deal with Increasing Journal Costs

To The Faculty Newsletter:

Carol Fleishauer raises the important issue of the high and increasing costs of professional journals and suggests some sensible steps to take to mitigate the problem. ["Journals Purchasing Environment Poses New Problems to Faculty Research," MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XV, No. 3.] Based on a recent experience I had serving on the governing board of a professional society, I advocate an additional strategy that may prove effective.

Many of the journals we subscribe to are published under the auspices of professional societies that are (at least nominally) run by their members. These societies can choose among different printing houses and can distribute costs between page charges and subscriptions. Sometimes they use revenues from journals to subsidize other activities. In my case, the members, acting through the governing board, directed our professional society to make each of its activities independently self-sustaining, and to price journal subscriptions to reflect the actual production costs, which favors on-line over printed subscriptions. Both of these measures reduced costs and appear to have at least slowed the rate of increase of subscription prices. We also persuaded the society to provide free and open electronic access to all of our journals more than four years out of date, thus virtually eliminating the issue of future access.

If you are a member of a professional society that publishes journals, I urge you to inquire about the costs and pricing policy associated with journal publication. A few concerned members can often steer their professional society onto a course more consistent with their stated mission of supporting research and education.

Kerry Emanuel
Professor of Meteorology