January 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 1

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ASA Financial Support for Editorial Offices

Catherine White Berheide, Skidmore College and ASA Secretary

ASA is first and foremost a scholarly society that publishes nine journals and a book series on behalf of the discipline.1 The centrality of these scholarly publications to ASA’s mission is widely acknowledged by sociologists who are members of the Association as well as by non-members. It may surprise some members that ASA journals are also central to the financial support of ASA’s service programs, small grant programs, and the public activities in which the Association engages to benefit our members, the discipline, and social science generally.

ASA’s Support of the Editorial Offices

ASA invests significant financial resources in supporting our journal editorial offices, which select reviewers and manage the peer review process, determine which manuscripts will be published and provide substantive editing advice. Managing the core scholarly systems of peer review and editing the highest quality submissions are expensive as well as demanding activities for our carefully chosen, but volunteer, editors. The ASA spent $502,944 in direct financial support of eight journal editorial offices and that of the Rose Series in 2010, our last audited year. (This amount does not include ASA financial support for the Contexts editorial office, which until 2010 was subsidized by ASA restricted funds.)  We are proposing to Council a 2012 operating budget of nearly $650,000 for all 10 editorial offices.

These figures reflect direct financial contributions only and do not include the cost of ASA staff support of the editorial offices, administrative costs, the publications committee and managing editors meetings, legal costs of our publication program, or the costs of publishing and disseminating the journals. They also do not include the contributions made by colleges and universities that host our editorial offices. While hosting institutions continue to provide financial and in-kind support to our editorial offices, those contributions are declining and ASA financial contributions are increasing accordingly.

The financial support ASA provides to each editorial office responsible for the content of ASA journals and the Rose Series varies, often considerably. The amount of support for each editorial office is approved by Council annually, based on recommendations from the Committee on the Executive Office and Budget (EOB). The staff of the ASA Publications Department work with individual editors to develop their budgets, and the elected Publications Committee is now part of the budget review.

Variations in ASA direct financial contributions to editorial offices each year is determined by differences in (1) the nature of the publication (e.g., research papers or book reviews; volume of submissions and frequency and type of publication such as book, journal, or magazine), and (2) the financial and in-kind support provided by the colleges or universities that host the editorial offices.

Now that much of the editorial office process is computerized, most of ASA direct financial support goes to pay editorial office staff who support the editor.2 Editorial office staff typically includes one or more of the following:  a managing editor, editorial assistants, clerical support, and sometimes specialized copyediting (most copyediting is paid for as part of our publishing contract with SAGE). Staffing of the editorial office, whether by part- or full-time professional or student personnel, is determined by each editor who also hires the staff either through the university or as an outside contractor. Significant variation in personnel costs across editorial offices, as well as across editorships, reflects university policies, regional labor costs, and the availability of the skill set needed by the editor. Thus, the budget for the editorial office for a particular journal can rise or fall substantially based on the cost of housing it at a particular location and the ability of the hosting institution to contribute to those costs. It is always higher when an editorial office is in a transition year—that is, whether the publication requires two editorial offices during part of the year (usually 2-3 months), one for the outgoing and one for the incoming editor.

Editorial office budgets also include amounts for equipment, telephone, supplies, and postage. Some of this support (primarily postage) has declined as editorial offices for the journals (other than Contemporary Sociology) have become almost entirely automated via web-based manuscript submission and review software.

In addition to providing the direct financial support of the editorial offices, ASA income from the journals (primarily library subscription income) covers many other costs related to ASA publications including the ASA Publications and Membership Department, the twice yearly Publications Committee meetings, annual meetings of the journal managing editors, additional pages for the journals as needed, journal storage fees and archiving costs, literary attorney fees, as well as other Executive Office expenses such as technology and communications.

The Centrality of the Journals to Support of the ASA

As reported in the ASA 2010 Annual Report, which is available on the ASA’s website, journal librarysubscriptions and online purchases of ASA journal content provide significant income to the Association. This is despite ASA’s long-term policy of keeping our university library subscription prices low (averaging well under $300 per year in 2011) in explicit recognition of the voluntary contributions university faculty make as part of their service to the discipline as ASA editors, editorial board members, peer reviewers, and especially authors. In 2010, the last audited year, this journal revenue was just over $1.9 million, or 34.5 percent of ASA total revenues, almost exactly the same amount and percent of revenue that ASA receives directly from its members.

Journal revenue not only covers the costs of the editorial offices and ASA’s support of our publishing program, but it also contributes to other ASA programs that are not revenue generating, such as the Minority Affairs Program, the Minority Fellowship Program, and small grant programs including the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD). Journal revenue also contributes to support of the Student Forum, the Honors Program, ASA Bylaws Committees (including Publications, Council, Executive Office and Budget Committee, Committee on Professional Ethics), and ASA’s membership in advocacy organizations that support federal funding for social science research (i.e., the Consortium for Social Science Research, the National Humanities Alliance, and Research!America).

In short, ASA journals are not only central to the intellectual life of the discipline but also to the work of the ASA on its behalf.

References

  1. American Sociological Review, Contemporary Sociology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Psychology Quarterly, Sociological Methodology, Sociological Theory, Sociology of Education, Teaching Sociology, and the Rose Series in Sociology.
  2. ASA editors themselves are not paid; each editor receives a small annual honorarium which is divided in the case of co-editorships.

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