Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema
Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema

All journals operated by non-profit scholarly societies and associations share one key differentiating factor — when scholars publish with them, they intrinsically support the advancement of research in their fields.

Learned societies and associations are vital to disseminating knowledge, fostering collaboration within and across disciplines, educating the next generation of academics, and influencing public policy. Of course, journal teams already know this. But it’s crucial that they remind their research communities in order to keep attracting new authors and readers, which can, in turn, help grow their organization’s membership base.

In this blog post, we delve into steps society and association publishing programs and individual journals can take to convey their sense of service to constituents and the broader public and illuminate the unique value they offer with examples. Let’s get to it!

Leverage organization-wide awareness opportunities

One of the best places to start raising awareness of how your journals contribute to your organization’s mission is breaking down silos between your publishing team and its other departments. In particular, focus on connecting with folks who work on marketing and communications, programs and partnerships, events management, strategy, and impact. If you work at a smaller organization (as many do!), that may mean reaching out to “departments” of one or two people, and that’s OK. Whether your team is large or small, opening up communication channels between its different members will help you surface new collaboration opportunities that can amplify everyone’s efforts and spread the workload.

Start by reaching out to relevant colleagues to schedule a brief introductory call during which you can get to know more about their priorities, preferred modes of communication, and how you may be able to collaborate or complement each other’s efforts in the future. Below are some ideas to get you started:

Secure your publications team a place at the table in strategic planning: If you haven’t already, reach out to your organization’s leadership to learn how members of your journal publishing team can contribute to organization-wide strategic planning efforts. By actively participating in strategic planning (whether submitting publication performance reports with recommendations, joining meetings, or both), your team can contribute insights into emerging information dissemination and discovery trends and surface opportunities to leverage them across departments. In doing so, you can help strengthen the impact, reach, and relevance of your journals and society or association’s other educational offerings while ensuring that you’re staying aligned with the broader mission and goals of the organization as it evolves.

Develop a symbiotic relationship with marcomms: At the highest level, you’ll want to ensure marketing and communications folks at your organization are factoring your publications into their broader awareness and engagement efforts, starting with giving publications a prominent place on your website if that’s not already the case (don’t bury them in the bottom nav!). From there, schedule regular check-ins (email updates or quick meetings work!) with your marcomms point person to plan and execute co-promotion initiatives like including your journals in membership recruitment and retention campaigns (e.g., organic social media, web content/videos, and paid ads), featuring journal issues in general member newsletters and other relevant content outlets like blogs/magazines, and cross-promoting journal and member news on social media between dedicated publications accounts and organization-level profiles.

Feature your journals at industry events: Another low-hanging fruit opportunity to raise awareness of your journals is featuring them at industry events. If you’re not already, start setting up a publications exhibit at your society or association’s annual meeting where members can learn about your journals, how to submit their research, and even how to become a reviewer (always look to recruit referees!). From there, if your organization exhibits at any external conferences/events, ensure representatives are knowledgeable about your publications program and equip them with promotional materials (e.g., a banner/fliers) showcasing your top titles).

Seek opportunities to repurpose journal content for educational resources: Additionally, consider your journals in the context of your organization’s broader educational offerings and seek opportunities to collaborate with those involved in general educational content and program development, such as featuring curated collections of articles on timely topics on your organization’s member resources page or hosting a knowledge sharing webinar with authors who’ve written on similar subjects speaking to their domain expertise, experiences, and recommendations for others doing similar research.

Spotlight how you’re working to advance equitable research access (even if you’re making a plan!)

Most scholarly societies and associations support the aims and principles of the OA movement. But if you ask the leadership at many whether they have a fully-baked plan to replace subscription revenues that have helped fund their organization and move to fully OA publishing, there’s a good chance they’ll say “not quite.” If you’re in that boat (which is a big boat!), it’s alright. OA requirements, recommendations, and possible funding routes are still rapidly evolving. So, for better or worse, scholarly organizations will likely face at least a few more years of experimentation and uncertainty.

However, even if you don’t have it all figured out, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the progress you’ve made so far and the equitable research access vision you’re working towards. You can do so by publicly posting a roadmap for how your organization is and plans to support open scholarship, like The Biochemical Society’s Path to Open Scholarship page and position statement or the Electrochemical Society’s “Free the Science” initiative page. Approach your roadmap as a living document and update it as you make new strides.

If you don’t yet have a roadmap for furthering equitable research access, developing one offers a prime opportunity for your publications team and key stakeholders across your organization to take stock of your current approach to open scholarship and set shared future goals. Making it public will help ensure transparency among your membership base and keep your publications team and leadership accountable.

In addition to sharing your organization’s OA roadmap, you can also work across departments to educate your research community about the benefits of increasing access to scholarship and the OA options you currently offer, whatever flavor(s) they may be (e.g., Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Green), as well as your stance on open data. If you’re piloting one or more transformative OA models, such as “Read and Publish” or “Publish and Read” deals or other cooperative infrastructure and funding approaches, be sure to provide explainers for more technical terms, as authors may not have a firm grasp on them yet.

For example, the American Physiological Society ran a webinar titled Open Access: What Researchers Need to Know Now to help educate its authors, which included a pre-event survey to gauge authors’ awareness of different OA concepts and help guide the discussion. As Stacey Burke, APS’ Director of Publications Marketing and Sales, noted in a Scholastica blog interview about the webinar, “The role of authors is to produce good science and progress the science, it’s not to understand and decipher complex publishing requirements. But that is going to fall on them. Mandates from funders are going to have implications on how and where they publish, so they need to be aware, and they need help with that.”

You can also add information to your journal(s) OA policies page to help authors navigate routes to fulfill funder and government mandates they may be subject to when submitting, such as Plan S and Horizon Europe, like the Biochemical Society’s publisher Portland Press has done here. And, of course, make information about fee waivers and discounts you offer for authors from low- and middle-income countries readily available.

Forge community connections

For researchers, submitting to commercially-owned journals can feel somewhat transactional, but non-profit society and association journals offer a more symbiotic option. Journals operated by scholarly organizations can stand apart by working with marcomms and program development team members across their organization to emphasize how their publications help support organization-wide community outreach efforts and the advancement of research in the field.

Examples include ensuring publications are front-and-center on member benefits webpages and literature and highlighting publications in member recruitment and retention outreach campaigns. You can even publish an annual year-end organization blog or digital report highlighting the broader impact of your journals, such as coverage of articles in news outlets and mentions in public policy documentation, and distribute it among members.

Another great way to connect with authors and your broader membership base is by creating mechanisms for them to share thoughts about your current publication offerings and ideas for the future, such as including publications-related questions in annual member surveys. A primary area to focus on is asking members for feedback on your publishing program’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives to demonstrate a commitment to active listening. Your journals and broader organization can then use that input to refine DEIA strategies and approaches.

Elevate the work of your authors

To provide additional value to authors, you can also prioritize initiatives to help them expand the reach and impact of their work. Your publications team can develop its own dedicated promotional channels by setting up profiles on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Mastodon and/or by launching a journal blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. (If you’re looking for inspiration, we cover tips for developing an effective and efficient journal promotion strategy in this blog post and examples of great digital journal promotion in this blog post).

As noted, journal promotion is also an area ripe with cross-department collaboration potential. Journal teams can seek opportunities to tap into their society or association’s established networks through conferences, newsletters, podcasts, blogs, or any other organization-wide outlets and general social media accounts to help authors reach a highly targeted audience. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) produces the podcast “Speaking of Psychology,” where they feature authors from their journals discussing their research findings and insights into various psychological topics.

A quick note on social media: When using social media channels to raise awareness of your authors’ new articles and other related work they’re doing, be sure to tag them and/or the organizations they work with whenever possible (i.e., @mention their user profiles) — that’s the only way they’ll know about it and have the opportunity to engage with you!

Focus on nurturing early-career researchers

Finally, society and association publication teams can enhance their unique value proposition by launching and promoting initiatives to support early-career researchers (ECRs), who are, of course, integral to the sustainability of their organizations as whole. Among possible approaches are offering publishing fee waivers for early-career researchers, platforms for emerging scholars to showcase their work (e.g., ECR spotlight blog posts or social media shoutouts), and mentorship and training resources.

Providing training and mentorship to ECRs is an area where journals can really give back to their research communities by helping set up the next generation of scholars for success. If you’re looking for inspiration, IOP Publishing’s Early Career Researcher Hub resources page and the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT)’s Editor-in-Training program are great examples.

Start small and build out ECR training and mentorship offerings as you’re able. For example, a great place to begin is inviting some of your journal editors and/or seasoned authors to share advice for preparing manuscript submissions and navigating peer review comments in one of your journal-specific or organization-wide content outlets (e.g., a blog or podcast). Better yet, reach out to whoever is in charge of your organization’s meeting tools like Zoom to see if you could host an interactive “advice for ECR authors” webinar where attendees can share questions during live Q&A.

Always come back to your mission

Ultimately, your scholarly organization’s mission should drive ALL your publication plans and marketing and communication efforts. That is what sets you apart.

By working across departments to demonstrate how your publishing program supports the mission of your scholarly society or association, launching educational initiatives, and taking steps to connect with your broader research community, you can elevate the distinctiveness of your journals and drive scholars to want to contribute to your publications and organization.

We hope you found this guide informative and insightful! If you’re interested in related further reading, be sure to subscribe to the blog. We also invite you to join the conversation by sharing your thoughts and questions in the comments and on social media. You can follow Scholastica on LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook!

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