ESA-Oxford University Press Publishing Partnership: Background and Frequently Asked Questions

The Road to the ESA-Oxford Partnership

The Entomological Society of America began its publishing partnership with Oxford University Press on Jan. 1, 2015, but extensive consideration and planning took place before the partnership began. A brief timeline of the decisions leading up to the partnership is below. For more detailed information, visit our frequently asked questions.


June 2012: ESA launches RFP to consider new vendors for journal hosting, marketing, and international sales.

August-October 2012: Proposals received and reviewed by ESA.

June 2013: Governing Board votes unanimously to approve hiring of expert consultant to evaluate current opportunities and help the Governing Board to make a fully informed decision on any changes in how ESA publishes journals.

June-September 2013: Expert consultants review ESA publications program and publishing environment, including interviews with 30+ members, students, librarians, and ESA stakeholders.

September 2013: Expert consultants provide initial report to the Governing Board on journal environment, state of ESA’s publishing program, and challenges facing ESA.

November 2013: Expert consultants provide final report to the Governing Board; Governing Board votes to authorize Executive Director to enter into negotiations with a publishing partner, in consultation with ESA President and Executive Committee.

December 2013-January 2014: Negotiations with potential publishing partners.

February 2014: Board votes unanimously to authorize the Executive Director to enter into a contract with Oxford University Press.

April 2014: ESA-Oxford contract signed.

January 2015: ESA-Oxford partnership begins.


Frequently Asked Questions on ESA’s Publishing Partnership and Policies

What is the role of ESA’s journals in the Society?

ESA’s journals are an important member benefit and asset. Providing access to our journal content through ESA membership, subscriptions, and archive sales gives significant financial support to the Society.

At the same time, ESA wants to maximize access to our journal content to advance the science of entomology. Through our partnership with Oxford University Press, ESA journals are now available in more than 3,600 institutions, including 1,400 sites in developing nations that receive free or deeply-discounted access.

In addition, all ESA authors automatically receive a “toll-free” link to their articles to share with colleagues, providing access to any who are not subscribers or ESA members. This allows authors to share their work freely while maintaining the value of the journal subscription.

Why did ESA decide to publish its journals with Oxford University Press?

In 2012, ESA began to review its approach to publications management. At that time, the majority of our journal income came from institutional subscriptions sold either directly to institutions or through the BioOne collection of journals. Our overall journal revenue was declining slightly, with losses in subscriptions offset by BioOne royalties and careful expense management.  

ESA staff conducted a request for proposals in 2012 to solicit companies to work with ESA on hosting our content and providing international sales representation for our journals. The resulting proposals varied significantly in terms of cost levels, service mix, management options, and potential revenue. The ESA Governing Board voted in June 2013 to secure expert advice to ensure ESA would make the most informed decision possible on the future of its journals.

Expert consultants were hired to assist ESA in June 2013. They interviewed more than 30 ESA members, students, librarians, and industry observers, reviewed the partnership proposals ESA already had in hand, and solicited additional proposals.

The consultants working with ESA found that competition from large publishers was the principal business risk confronting ESA’s journals. They identified ESA’s key challenge as one of scale; without it, ESA would be increasingly closed out of the library and consortia subscription markets and would find it all but impossible to market its journals outside the United States. ESA was faced with a choice: Should it remain an independent publisher and contract with additional vendors for sales and marketing (increasing costs but potentially increasing revenue), or should it partner with a for-profit or non-profit publisher?

In their interviews with ESA members, the consultants found an unusual degree of consensus concerning the journals. Members spoke positively about the society and its publications and supported the idea of reviewing the program with the aim of improving the financial picture. They also found less resistance to working with commercial partners than they had with some other clients.   

Based on the consultants’ report and advice, the Governing Board voted in November 2013 to enter into negotiations with a publishing partner.

After extensive discussions with both for-profit and non-profit publishers, Oxford University Press was chosen due to its strong brand with institutional librarians, its global sales and marketing presence, and the overall package it offered to ESA. Oxford could provide ESA the scale it needed for the continued success of its publishing program and increased revenue to support ESA’s strategic initiatives. In February 2014, the Governing Board voted to authorize ESA Executive Director David Gammel to enter into a contract with Oxford University Press.

What is open access?

Open access is more than just a free copy of an article. OA is currently defined as making scholarly research results available electronically with no restrictions on access, as well as no restrictions on reuse of those materials, other than attributing credit to the original author.

Some authors choose to publish open access out of personal preference, while others must publish open access to meet the requirements of a funding agency or research institution.

Why did ESA change its open access policies in 2015?

Prior to 2015, ESA authors were able to purchase “open access reprints” of their papers when publishing with ESA. Authors who purchased open access reprints received PDF copies of their papers that they could share with others or post online; in addition, the PDF of their paper was made freely available to the public on ESA’s journal website.

After beginning work with ESA, Oxford identified several issues with this policy. First and foremost, the open access reprint policy did not meet the definition of open access, as it only offered access to one version of the article (the PDF) and left the article under the full restrictions of copyright.

In addition, financial analysis of the open access reprint program showed that it was creating an existential threat to ESA’s journals. Libraries consider how much journal content is publicly available when deciding whether to renew a subscription. Because 45-50% of ESA authors were purchasing open access reprints, ESA was in danger of losing significant numbers of subscribers, while author charges for open access reprints were insufficient to cover ESA’s publication costs.

The ESA reprint policy also did not meet the requirements of major funding bodies related to open access. Because it did not meet those funders’ criteria (see below for more information on this), authors required to publish open access who purchased an open access reprint could potentially be in violation of their funding agency requirements.

What are ESA’s new open access policies?

Under ESA’s new OA offerings, an open access article is immediately made freely available, while authors retain their copyright but provide extensive reuse rights under the terms offered by Creative Commons licenses. These offerings meet the “Gold OA” requirements set for many government funded researchers, such as the UK and the Netherlands, and by private funding agencies such as the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation.

In addition, ESA’s journals are now fully compliant with public access policies from U.S. federal funding agencies(including the NSF, NIH and USDA), as well as the Australian Research Council and major Japanese funding agencies. These policies require that a copy of the funded article be made freely available after a 12-month embargo period. ESA’s journals will soon enable automated compliance through a program called CHORUS that frees access to funded articles in the journals at the expiration of the required embargo period.

ESA’s journals also permit authors to post the Accepted Manuscript version of their articles on personal websites or in non-commercial repositories after the expiration of the embargo period, allowing them to meet many additional requirements specific to their institutions. These “Green OA” routes will greatly expand access to articles published by ESA.

Following ESA’s decision to change its open access policy, Oxford University Press and ESA agreed to retroactively grant full open access to the papers published under the old policy. These articles are now freely available in all versions and licensed under CC-BY-NC terms. While this granted much greater rights than these authors held previously, ESA and Oxford felt that this decision honored the spirit of the previous policy.Most importantly, it ensures that these articles will be perpetually freely available to the public.

What are ESA’s policies regarding articles previously published with ESA that were not published open access?

Articles published with ESA outside of ESA’s “open access reprint” policy (e.g., prior to creation of this policy, or authors did not choose to participate) in ESA’s four subscription journals are treated as subscription-access articles. All articles in ESA’s open access journals (Journal of Insect Science, Journal of Integrated Pest Management, and Arthropod Management Tests) are open access.

All authors are permitted to post the Accepted Manuscript version of their articles on personal websites or in non-commercial repositories 12 months after publication.

Authors may retroactively purchase gold Open Access at the current rates for any article previously published with ESA.

Response to Dr. Thomas Walker

Dr. Thomas Walker recently published a memorandum outlining concerns regarding ESA's publishing program. The frequently asked questions above provide information about the history of ESA's publishing program and open access policies. More information is available in a detailed response to Dr. Walker's memorandum from Oxford University Press.

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