From Fee to Free: The Move to an Open-Access Digital Publication

As groups consider an open-access model for their publications and other resources, three associations recently made the decision to offer their joint project for free online. The move is expected to benefit members, while not negatively impacting finances.

For many years, the American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), and National Council for Measurement in Education have jointly produced and sold Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. However, the groups recently decided to make the electronic version of the publication available for free to provide better access to their member communities and other stakeholders.

“After assessing the very strong upsides to the broader research and testing communities of making the Standards open access, we felt the time had come to make this invaluable resource freely accessible,” said AERA Director of Communications Tony Pals.

The standards are used by members of the organizations who work in clinical, educational, and applied settings to guide “the development and evaluation of tests and testing practices,” said Marianne Ernesto, director of testing and assessment for APA.

According to Ernesto, moving the publication from a paid product to open source fit in with the three organization’s long-term goal of access. “It has always been the intent of the three Standards sponsoring organizations that the document be easily accessible to all users,” Ernesto said. “With an increased demand for the electronic version of the 2014 edition, it seemed the next logical step was to make both the English and Spanish versions of that edition, as well as the previous edition (1999), available electronically via open access.”

AERA will continue to sell hardcopies on its website, for those who prefer that format. While open access can often come with significant financial consequences, this change is less pressing as sales revenue was spread across three organizations and it had very limited use.

“Historically, the proceeds from sales of the Standards were exclusively used to fund future revisions of the document,” Ernesto said. “Before the decision to move to open access was made, it was determined that there were sufficient funds available to support future revisions of the Standards. Funding will be sustained by print sales and returns on investment of current funds.”

For other organizations considering moving a product to open access, Ernesto had some advice. “Seriously consider the associated consequences of moving a hallmark product to open access,” she said. “The Standards are unique in that they are jointly copyrighted and are financially self-sustaining. Moving the Standards to open access aligned closely with the sponsoring organizations’ intent for accessibility and subsequent usage, and the action had virtually no significant financial consequences for any of the organizations.”

So far, members have been excited about the change. “Once people are assured that funds are available for current as well as future Standards-related activities such as revisions, the next question people often ask is, ‘Why did this take so long to happen?’” Ernesto said of APA members.

Similarly, AERA member are excited. “This decision to make the Standards open access has been overwhelmingly popular with our membership, who share our belief in advancing equitable knowledge,” Pals said.

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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