By Steve L. McMullin, AFS President
I think I can safely assume that just about everyone hates to pay more for something today than they did yesterday. Paying more for something is even more frustrating when you get the same amount, or even less, of a product than you did before. I think that the marketing slogan “new and improved” is code for less and more expensive. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that inflation occurs and prices inevitably rise. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once, when the price of something increased, you actually got more for your money? AFS members will get more for their money when the increase in dues approved by the AFS Management Committee last month in Tampa goes into effect in 2018.
First, the bad news. The AFS Management Committee approved increases in dues from US$80 per year for regular members to $95 per year, with smaller increases for other classes of membership. That is a significant increase, and I know that it will cause some members to question the value of what they get for their AFS membership. However, if you compare the rate of increase in AFS dues to inflation over the past 25 years, we still are getting a bargain. If our dues had kept pace with inflation since 1993 (when AFS dues for regular members were $64.50), we would be paying a bit over $110 (as of May 2017), rather than the new rate of $95.
So what is the good news? You will get substantially more for your money with this increase in dues. Beginning in 2018, AFS will provide all members free electronic access to all of its journals and one additional journal published by Wiley, Reviews in Aquaculture. Under the current dues structure, members receive the electronic version of Fisheries free and they receive free access to the Marine and Coastal Fisheries journal. Members must currently pay $25 for each online subscription to the other four subscription-based AFS journals. Under the new dues structure, members will receive online versions of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, North American Journal of Fisheries Management, North American Journal of Aquaculture, and Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, in addition to Fisheries and the Wiley journal Reviews in Aquaculture. The bottom line is that members will get seven journals free for a dues increase less than what they would pay for one journal today. But wait, as the late-night marketers say, there’s more! The Society is also working to make a database of gray literature (e.g., state agency federal aid reports) available to all members. The gray literature database would make available large amounts of information to which members currently have little or no access.
Among the many reasons for these changes, two are paramount: First, AFS begins a new publishing agreement with Wiley in 2018 and second, Past President Joe Margraf put increasing the relevance of AFS publications near the top of his list of priorities in his plan of work. The folks at Wiley have been great to work with thus far, and they have been extremely helpful in assisting AFS to realize Margraf’s objective. What could increase the relevance of AFS journals more than making them available to all of our members at no cost?
Providing all AFS journals to all members at no cost should substantially increase readership. More readership should result in more citations of articles published in AFS journals, resulting in higher impact factors for the journals. We can debate how meaningful impact factors are, but it is a fact that publishing in high impact factor journals weighs heavily in evaluation of tenure and promotion dossiers of our academic members. If impact factors for AFS journals increase, top scientists from all walks of life will find our journals more attractive places to publish their work, leading to even more citations and higher impact factors. The American Fisheries Society is the largest and oldest association of fisheries professionals in the world. If we want AFS also to be known as the go-to place for the best fisheries science in the world, then our journals must be world class. Our journals are good now, but they can be better (in the latest impact factor rankings, only Fisheries ranks among the top 10 in fisheries and related journals).
How does the increase in dues help to make our journals more relevant? The dues increase will offset the loss in revenue we currently receive from online subscriptions. It also will help to pay for new editor-in-chief positions for several of the journals. The recommendation to create editor-in-chief positions came out of a publications retreat held in May and attended by AFS officers, key AFS staff, editors and associate editors of some of our journals, and several AFS members with substantial experience and knowledge of publishing fisheries papers. The editors-in-chief will expedite decisions on manuscripts and select articles with high-impact potential to be promoted as featured articles. Finally, the dues increase will cover the cost of hiring an assistant journals production coordinator to expedite the publishing process. We currently have one production manager for all of our journals, and she really could use some help.
I think that making all our journals available to our roughly 8,000 members at no cost and investing in efforts designed to make AFS journals rank among the top fisheries journals in the world is a significant new benefit for our members. If we can make that happen for the price of one nice bottle of wine, I think that is a bargain.
In closing, I would like to say what an honor it is for me to serve as president of AFS. I look forward to serving you, and I am eager to work on improving how we communicate what we do to one another, to stakeholders, and to policymakers. I also hope to help make our Society more diverse and representative of our stakeholders. We also need to begin the process of developing a new strategic plan. We have much to do. I will talk to you about these topics and more in future President’s Commentary columns. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] if you have questions or thoughts to share.
Members click below for the September 2017 Fisheries magazine’s complete issue. Non-members, join here.