One of the big announcements about the society made by ESA in the run up to the annual meeting in Baltimore this week was the news that ESA has chosen to partner with John Wiley & Sons as publisher of the society journals. At the time of the announcement few details about the deal or the process by which this decision was made were available. I was attending the ESA Council as the incoming Chair of the Paleoecology Section where some further details were provided and members of Council were able to ask questions about the deal. These are my notes from that meeting.

Headlines

  • Deal brings financial stability for the society
  • Wiley will pay ESA a guaranteed royalty payment, annually
  • The deal allows for profit-sharing should Wiley increase subscriptions/income beyond some point (specifics not specified)
  • All ESA members will receive electronic access to the society journals, and membership dues will not increase (beyond usual annual 2% increase)
  • ESA members will have a print-on-demand option for those wanting hard copies
  • Frontiers will continue to be produced as a hard copy for all members
  • No hybrid Open Access option for papers (for now, Wiley & ESA will look at this going forward)
  • Page charges remain
  • Ecosphere charges (expected to) remain the same, full open access
  • Ecological Archives is likely to move to a new home and ESA and Wiley are currently discussing options for this though moving existing archives to Figshare is main option being explored
  • Somewhere in Ithaca there is a single computer running DOS(!) that performs a critical part of the current journal publishing platform used by ESA...
  • In contrast, Wiley's publishing platform, whatever you might think of Scholar One or ReadCube, is light years better than EcoTrack...

Some detail

Council were expected to vote to approve, or not, the budget as presented by the VP Finance. The slides presented to Council to facilitate this included financial details of the Wiley deal. I asked whether these were for public consumption and had it confirmed that the numbers were public. The payment to ESA from Wiley in the 2015--16 budget is $1,350,357. This number includes

  • The royalty payment
  • An amount to cover some of ESAs costs with the journals (details of what this involved & the amount were either lacking or I didn't catch them)

This number is only half what the income will be each year as ESA's financial year runs July--June and hence the 2015--16 budget includes half a year of ESA self-publishing and half a year with Wiley publishing. I confirmed that in 2016--17 the payment from Wiley will be $2,700,714 and income from publications from subscriptions and page charges will drop to 0 at the same time.

I didn't fully get down in my notes how the expenses/costs due to publications would change in 2016--17 and in the current year the picture is complicated because there are significant costs associated with migrating the journals to Wiley's platform. Therefore, I don't know exactly what the anticipated "profit" will be going forward. What is, I think, indicative is that the senior ESA staff and academics were clearly anticipating significant improvements in the "profit" generated by the Society's journals that can be directed towards activities the Society does on behalf of its members and its support for ecology.

There are still many details about the deal and the process that are not clear or not covered in the Council meeting. What was abundantly clear was that the people present that were involved in the Publications Transition Committee, the senior ESA staff, the President, were all clearly acting in the best interests of the Society when they set out to investigate options for the Society's journals and when they made the decision to choose Wiley as publisher. From what I saw, the Committee has certainly secured the good financial stability of the Society for the immediate future.


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