AAUP Issues Report on New Business Models: "Sustaining Scholarly Publishing"

Within the scholarly communications ecosystem, scholarly publishers are a keystone species. University presses—as well as academic societies, research institutions, and other scholarly publishers—strive to fulfill the mission of making public the fruits of scholarly research as effectively as possible within that ecosystem. While that mission has remained constant, in recent years the landscape in which it is carried out has altered dramatically.

The AAUP Task Force on Economic Models for Scholarly Publishing, chaired by Lynne Withey (then director of the University of California Press) was charged with studying that altered (and altering) landscape. The Task Force's powerful, report, "Sustaining Scholarly Publishing," was issued in March 2011. The report explores many current scholarly publishing experiments and initiatives, defines characteristics of effective business models and the challenges of transitioning from a traditional sales-based model, and presents several recommendations to help sustain high-quality scholarly publishing throughout this time of change.

Among the report's recommendations:

• Active and open sharing of lessons learned by participants in existing digital publishing projects should be an ongoing process.

• The support of foundations, libraries, and university administrations in providing funds to work toward the digital future has been, and will remain, crucial.

• Open access is a principle to be embraced, if publishing costs can be supported by the larger scholarly enterprise. University presses, and nonprofit publishers generally, should be fully engaged in these discussions.

• Proposals and plans for new business models should explicitly address the potential impact of the new model on other parts of a press's programs, as well as explicitly address the requirements, both operational and financial, for making the transition to a new model.

The AAUP report has already proven influential in shaping conversations about the future of scholarly publishing. Designed to speak to university administrations as well as presses, scholars, and librarians, a number of member presses have shared the report with their advisory board, provosts, deans, and campus partners.

Perhaps the most exciting development was the report's re-publication in the CommentPress format, allowing an open, dynamic conversation to take pace in the space of the report's own text. Thanks to the creative generosity of Monica McCormick (NYU Press and Libraries) and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (NYU Visiting Scholar and Professor of Media Studies, Pomona College), MediaCommons Press was able to post the report almost immediately. Since March, hundreds of comments have been added to dozens of threads, carrying our explorations of the future of scholarly communications further with every one.

In addition to the lively debates within the MediaCommons edition, the report has been the subject of numerous reviews, blog posts and exchanges. AAUP looks forward to continuing these conversations at the AAUP 2011 Annual Meeting, where the conference theme "The Next Wave: Toward a Culture of Collaboration" is sure to expand on many of the AAUP report's findings, recommendations, and questions.

The members of the AAUP Task Force on Economic Models for Scholarly Publishing are: Lynne Withey (California Press, chair); Steve Cohn (Duke); Ellen Faran (MIT); Michael Jensen (National Academies); Garrett Kiely (Chicago); Will Underwood (Kent State); Bruce Wilcox (Massachusetts); Richard Brown (Georgetown, ex officio); Peter Givler (AAUP, ex officio); Alex Holzman (Temple, ex officio); Kathleen Keane (Johns Hopkins, ex officio).

Brenna McLaughlin
Electronic & Strategic Initiatives Director, AAUP