Pricey Cost per Page Hurts Humanities and Social-Science Journals

September 01, 2009

The final version of a report, "The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations," is available on the Web site of the National Humanities Alliance. The report, which The Chronicle previewed in July, examined three years of recent data for the flagship journals published by eight scholarly associations.

Mary Waltham, an independent publishing consultant, undertook the study at the request of a task force on open access and scholarly communication organized by the humanities alliance. Participating societies were the American Academy of Religion, the American Anthropological Association, the American Economic Association, the American Historical Association, the American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, the American Statistical Association, and the Modern Language Association.

Among some of the report's more intriguing findings: For publishers, the average cost per page of the eight humanities and social-science journals was $526, compared with $266 per page for science, technical, and medical journals published by groups in those disciplines. (The latter figure is from a study that Ms. Waltham conducted in 2005.) The new study also concluded that, according to the cost data provided by the eight associations, the author-pays model of open-access publishing used by publishers of science, technical, and medical journals "is not currently a sustainable option" for the humanities and social-science journals studied.