July 18, 2006
BioMed Central Membership Cancelled at UIUC
Recently the University of Illinois Library chose not to continue its membership in BioMed Central (BMC) http://www.biomedcentral.com/. This decision was made in consultation with the then-Acting Provost and the Vice-Chancellor for Research. The discussion with the campus administration was precipitated when BMC changed its membership plan. Formerly, there was one type of membership: member institutions paid a modest fee and in return, authors were given free publishing rights in BMC journals. Waiving of the article processing charge is no longer a benefit of the standard 'supporter’ membership.
The discussion with the Provost and Vice-Chancellor revolved around the following questions:
- If the University were to support the costs of individual scholars to publish in peer reviewed venues, how would we distribute our limited funds?
- Where would these funds come from, if not from Library collection funds?
- Would we pay page charges for faculty who don't have grants to cover these costs, whether or not the journals are open access?
- Would we support subventions for faculty to have monographs published?
- How would we ensure that we wouldn't run out of money before the end of the year? Would we really tell a junior scholar that she has to wait for the next fiscal year to pay her costs?
- How many "memberships" are we willing to support? BMC was one of the first to offer the membership option. Public Library of Science (PLOS) and Nucleic Acids Research have followed. How many of these can we afford to support?
- If we provide such support, should we require that the authors retain their copyrights and deposit a copy of their work in our institutional repository, IDEALS < http://ideals.uiuc.edu > ?
What would we get were we to continue our membership in BMC?
- 'Supporter Membership' in BMC (about $5,500/yr) would give UIUC researchers a 15% discount on the Article Processing Charge (APC) when publishing in BioMed Central's journals. The majority of BioMed Central journals charge an APC of around $1300. This means that, after discount, an author at a member institution might have to pay $1100 per published article. The end result is that the research becomes universally accessible.
- The institution receives a 20% discount when purchasing subscriptions to any of the BMC products. Currently we subscribe to the Faculty of 1000 Biology database and the journals, Arthritis Research & Therapy, Breast Cancer Research: BCR, and Genome Biology; with a membership we would save about $2153.
Some faculty have erroneously concluded that a Library membership in BMC would grant them cost-free publishing rights in BMC journals. Although this used to be the case, the new Supporting Membership model does not provide this feature.
BMC offers another type of BMC 'membership' called 'PrePay Membership', which gives individual authors free publishing rights. Under this model, the University would pre-pay the article processing charges upfront, based on the number of successful submissions it expects its authors to make. The more the institution pre-pays, the lower the APC that is charged against the pre-paid account. Under this plan, the individual researcher would pay nothing; the University would pick up the APC bill ahead of time. So, for example, if the University estimates that there might be 30 submissions to BMC from UIUC, it would pre-pay around $30,000 to BMC. We do not feel this is a sustainable model, and are not considering becoming a 'prepay member' of BMC. To learn more about the types of BMC memberships, see:
There are a handful of other BMC-published journals for which we don't hold subscriptions -- the research articles in most of these are open access, but the reviews and commentaries are not. See this page for a list of the titles that UIUC has access to from BMC:
In 2004 Nature held a forum on the issue of Open Access. Don King and Carol Tenopir analyzed the pros and cons of the open access system as well as its long-term sustainability. See: http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/26.html
Ultimately, if we are to have 'open access', someone has to pay. This is just the opening salvo of a conversation that will surely span many months, and occur in many venues. We welcome hearing your comments on this issue.
A final word...
If you are interested in making your research more accessbile -- more widely read and cited -- consider putting a copy of it in the UIUC scholarly respository, IDEALS. Or, if appropriate, put it in the NIH respository, PubMed Central or some other subject-based resource. Over 90% of the "traditional" publishers will allow you to do this, so go ahead and publish where you like, but later consider putting the final version of the articles in one of these publically accessible repositories. If you do this, the whole world will be able to read and profit from your research!
Posted by Katie Newman at July 18, 2006 3:23 PM