22 August 2023

The AAS Publication Support Fund: Preserving Author Access to the AAS Journals

Ethan Vishniac

Ethan Vishniac American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This editorial was recently published in the Bulletin of the AAS: Vishniac, E. T. (2023). Editorial: The AAS Publication Support Fund: Preserving Author Access to the AAS Journals. https://doi.org/10.3847/25c2cfeb.f5d1e2f2

The switch to full open access at the AAS journals, with the corresponding increase in author charges to cover lost subscription revenue, has left many authors looking for funds to support the publication of their journal articles. It is important to know that authors can ask for financial support through the AAS Publication Support Fund.

The AAS journals went to a fully open access model in 2022 for several reasons. We were concerned with ensuring access for readers throughout the world; we were convinced that ease of access was best for scientific progress; we thought it likely that paywalls were ineffective and relying on cash-starved university libraries was not a sustainable funding model; and we were aware of growing pressure to switch to open access for the results of publicly funded research. This switch is healthy and necessary. Allowing access to researchers everywhere increases the visibility of our publications, promotes the health of scientific research, and allows the public access to research that it has paid for through taxes. However, we could not continue to fulfill our vital role without funding. The journals spend money running peer review and conducting the process of publication and archiving. The latter includes copy editing, reference and data linking, converting to a useful presentation format, and providing persistent and reliable archiving. The income we lost by ending subscriptions needed to be replaced.

Making the transition to open access has meant that our publication charges have risen. Of course, we expected this and anticipated that not everyone would be able to afford the new charges. In fact, not everyone could afford the old charges, and we have always offered financial support to authors. As part of the transition, we increased our budget for publication support substantially. Our goal is to ensure that quality science can always be published, even if the authors have little or no access to publication funds. Even in countries with generous levels of research support, the quality of a paper is not necessarily linked to the availability of publication funds. In many places there is no prospect of procuring funds for publication.

As Editor in Chief, I spend time every week reviewing requests for publication support. These range from minor adjustments to an invoice to complete coverage of author publication charges. Typically, authors offer to pay what they can, although that number can be zero. I am currently in the enviable position of being able to grant every reasonable request. I suspect that part of the reason for that is that some authors are hesitant to submit manuscripts if they do not have sufficient funds. There are many justifiable reasons to request publication support. Scientists working in countries with limited resources, retirees who have lost access to grants, and junior scientists — including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows — can find themselves with exciting results that do not fit into the scope of any available support. Even established researchers can find themselves between grants and unable to access institutional resources. It would be much better if no one hesitated to ask for needed assistance to publish their work, and if I were straining to grant requests for publication support. The ideal is that we publish as much good science as we can possibly afford, from the entire international astronomical community.

When you submit a manuscript for publication in one of the AAS journals you will be asked during the submission process if you need publication support. If you do, don’t hesitate to click on the appropriate button and enter your reason. This is an important part of the submission process.

Funding, from one source or another, is necessary to operate our journals — but more than that, the AAS journals exist to serve the community, and you are all part of it. For our part, we pledge to work to maintain high-quality journals and to continue to charge only what is necessary to support this work.