February 17, 2018

Yale Drops Membership in Public Library of Science

By Norman Oder

Cites budget pressures; not a trend, according to PLoS

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  • Increased number of Yale authors in PLoS
  • Library hopes to continue support of OA journals
  • Will loss of discount on author fees affect submissions?

In August 2007, the Yale University Library (YUL) dropped its membership in BioMedCentral, raising questions about the feasibility of that open access (OA) business model.

Now, YUL will discontinue its Public Library of Science (PLoS) membership as of May 1, 2010. PLoS Institutional Memberships help make scientific and medical literature freely available and also give researchers incentives to publish in PLoS’ open-access journals.

“While our Library continues to support the principles of open access publishing, we need to make difficult decisions regarding resource allocation to remain within our budget,” read a statement from Ann Okerson, Associate University Librarian for Collections & International Programs, Yale University Library; Andy Shimp, Interim Director, Science Libraries; and Daniel Dollar, Head, Collection Development and Management, Medical Library.

Cost to institutions and authors
Unlike with traditional STM publishing, where revenues come mostly from subscriptions, PLoS journals charge authors a fee and those authors who are affiliated with an institutional member can get a 10% discount.

“The Yale University Library originally chose institutional membership not only to help offset author costs, but also to support the open access model,” the librarians stated. “The number of Yale-authored articles in PLoS journals has regularly increased since the Library joined as an institutional member.”

That meant a cost to the library of about $8,000 a year, according to Okerson. (By contrast, the cost to YUL of BioMedCentral for the final six months of membership neared $30,000.)

“We hope that the discontinuation of the discount is not so burdensome that it will deter researchers from publishing in the numerous well-respected PLoS journals,” the librarians stated. “The Library hopes to find alternative methods to continue our support of open access journals.”

PLoS comment
“We’re very grateful for the support that Yale Library has shown as an Institutional Member of PLoS over the years," Mark Patterson, PLoS Director of Publishing, told LJ. "Such support has been instrumental in making PLoS and open access an established part of the publishing landscape."

"Beyond Institutional Memberships, there are now many other ways for Institutions to support open access, for example through educational initiatives, supporting or developing institution open-access policies, and the establishment of central funds for open-access publication fees," he added.

Is the Yale move a trend? “We’re not seeing any trend in our own institutional memberships, but much more significant is the trend towards increasing engagement of institutions in open access through educational initiatives and policy development,” Patterson responded.

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