Your guide to Open Access publishing and Open Science

An overview of the institutional membership programs offered by Open Access publishers

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If you are a researcher, a librarian or an administrative worker in a research facility, you may want to suggest for your institution to enroll in one of the membership programs offered by Open Access publishers. These programs are designed to decrease the cost of publishing Open Access works and to diminish the administrative issues related to paying them.

Open Access books and journals are generally funded via Processing Charges (APC or BPC), which must be paid every time a new work is being published. Usually, these are not paid by the authors themselves, but by the institution supporting the author – his/her employer or research funder. However, institutes that have already published a lot in this model, or that simply would like to promote Open Access among their authors, may facilitate this process (and save money) by signing an agreement with one or more chosen publishers, instead of paying separately for the publication of every single work.

At present, almost every Open Access publisher offers membership programs. Some of them only apply to publishing in journals, while others (including the ones from De Gruyter Open) may also be adapted to Open Access book publishing. Although most programs differ when it comes to the details, it is not difficult to identify a few major models.

1) The first, and probably most popular, is the ‘partners fee model’, which is offed by several publishers under different names. In this model, research institutes pay a custom annual fee based on their number of researchers, and they receive a discount (usually around 15%) on each article/book processing charge. However, this model forces all authors working for the institution to publish a given amount of research every year. As a result, it is possible that the institute in question may only save very little money – or no money at all.

2) The second most popular model is the ‘pre-paid institutional membership’, whereby the institution deposits some funds on the publisher’s account. In turn, this money is used to cover further article/book processing charges for any of the researchers, including a discount ranging from 10 to 25% (depending on the publisher).

3) The ‘partners fee extra’ – which is offered by Hindawi under the name of ‘annual membership’ – is a custom annual fee that covers the costs of all works published by institution members in the following year, regardless of how many articles they write. The actual fee is based on the number of researchers affiliated with the institute, as well as their research output level. In this model, the obligation to publish a given amount of research with the contracted publisher is even stronger.

4) Finally, the ‘post-paid institutional membership’ is a model in which the institution only pays once for all the articles published by its authors in a given elapsed period of time. However, this form of membership, which PLOS calls ‘direct billing’, does not certify any discounts. It is simply a system of monthly billing for all published articles.

5) On the other hand, the ‘post-paid institutional membership’ that was recently introduced by De Gruyter Open also includes a 15% reduction of processing charges for all contracted institutions (without any additional fees). As a result, the institute pays for all the books and papers published by its authors at the beginning of the following year, while also benefiting from a discount.

Therefore, if you work for an institution that supports its authors by paying article/book processing charges, it may be a good idea to approach your administration and discuss joining an institutional membership program. If your research institute does not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of Open Access publications, try to establish it. Do not let your colleagues rely on aunt Agatha any more!

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  1. A few years ago, I had to put together an overview of the different OA fund models for administrators in our library. Wish this guide would have been around then, would have made my job a lot easier! :)

  2. Haha, thank you for this comment. I hope that I will be able to help you in your current work one day. This is what we are running this blog for :)

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