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Squeeze on academics poses threat to learned societies

Loss of voluntary labour is a more immediate problem than the disruption of publishers’ business models, say Michael Hewitt and his colleagues.

Even though nearly every UK academic belongs to a learned society, the part that these bodies play in the ecosystem of knowledge exchange and dissemination is poorly understood. This blind spot makes them vulnerable to the unintended consequences of actions by others in that system. One such threat is the disruption of the economics of journal publishing by open-access models.

We have just published the results of a study of the state of 44 learned societies, carried out in 2012-13 for the Academy of Social Sciences with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. We looked at what societies did, where their income—£40.8 million during 2012—came from, and what risks they faced.

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