Saturday, August 21, 2010

The AEA is missing a golden opportunity

The American Economic Association is asking its membership to approve a drastic restructuring of its dues. There are two reasons for this. One, the AEA is swimming in money (despite last year's fiasco with the Economists calendars) and would have difficulties maintaining its non-profit status with fiscal authorities. Two, by default members get hard copies of the journals and need to opt out to reduce their membership fee. By making the default membership without journals, the AEA hopes to save on printing costs and thus can lower the average membership fee even more.

I will vote against the change not because I dislike a decrease in the fee, but because I believe the AEA has missed here a tremendous opportunity of putting its journals in open access. This is a society with a sound financial basis that could set an example for the rest of the publishers by showing that good research should not be gated. Would this be a money losing proposition? I do not think so, first because the AEA will always have good income from its meeting registrations, and second because it would not need to maintain anymore a whole infrastructure to keep outsiders away from its journals. The AEA could probably cancel membership fees altogether and still make it work.

NB: I realize that the Journal of Economic Perspectives was recently partially put in open access. This shows that the AEA is open to the concept.

4 comments:

agentcontinuum said...

I disagree. I'm poor and I can get all the journals I want "for free" on campus. Show me the $$$!

Not that journals are useful in the first place, since most of the stuff therein you've seen as working papers 1-2 years before...

Re: the calendar, I did hang it up but it's sort of lame. That's what you get for putting economic historians in charge of things!

AfricaForEver said...

AC, think about the poor who could access AEA pubs for free.

Anonymous said...

Africa, you're joking yourself if you think they'd read them or use them...

AfricaForEver said...

Libraries in emerging and developing countries paid big money to Edward Elgar for its compilations of classic works. That money could be better invested if those works were in open access.