April 11, 2021

“ACM, SIGCHI, and the Economics of Open Access Publishing”

From a Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI) Blog Post by Julie R. Williamson, the Current Vice President, Publications, ACM SIGCHI:

ACM could transition to universal gold open access and make all content in the ACM Digital Library freely available.  This would have significant implications for the ACM as a scholarly society. For example, whether we are able to continue financially supporting community activities like student travel grants, career development events, underwriting conferences,  and other good works. This post explores the finances of non-profit publishing, addresses common misconceptions about publishing with scholarly societies, and what this means for our values as a community.

Publishing has real costs in terms of software, storage, bandwidth, and professional staff. To fund universal open access, organisations like ACM would need to replace publication revenue streams or reduce community activities. One approach would be to increase conference fees to cover these costs. As an example, SOUPS increased registration fees by 86% from 2013 to 2019 after transitioning to open access with USENIX in 2014.  Alternatively, community initiatives that are not economically self-sustaining like student travel grants, regional development activities, educational events, and career development could be cut.  For example, IEEE spent $15 million on public engagement and outreach in 2018 as part of their “public imperatives” program. These are difficult tradeoffs that require careful consideration.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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