Income models for Open Access: Appendix D: Journal Sponsorship Guidelines

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A journal that offers a sponsorship program needs to develop an “underwriting” or “sponsored publishing” policy to protect the journal’s integrity. These guidelines establish the general principles for determining the acceptability of sponsorship funders. To determine the acceptability of funding, a journal will want to apply several tests to each proposed funding arrangement:

  • Editorial Control Test: Editorial control must remain with the publishing society or journal editorial board. Sponsors/funders cannot be allowed to exercise any editorial control. Sponsorship agreements must clearly and explicitly articulate this point.

  • Perception Test: Perhaps the most difficult issue is the possible public perception of editorial involvement and the direct interest of the funder in the editorial content. Therefore, a journal must guard against the public perception that editorial control might have been exercised by any journal sponsor. This perception will sometimes increase in direct proportion to the connection between the sponsor’s business interests and the subject matter of the journal (in other words, in proportion to the value of the sponsorship to the sponsor). Additionally, the perceived character of the sponsor’s interests is important. In order to help guard against the perception of editorial influence:

  • Funding should be sought for the journal as a whole and on an on-going basis, rather than for individual articles or issues. This will help avoid situations where a funder seeks—or appears to seek—to fund only those issues of a journal in which it has a particular interest.

  • In some cases, the joining of a problematic funder with one or more neutral funders may make the problematic funder acceptable, as any perception that it exercised content control would be mitigated by the presence of other funders.

  • Commercialism Test: Sometimes there will be less concern that the funding might bring about actual sponsor influence, than that the reputation of the journal will suffer from a funding arrangement that is so self-serving that a reasonable audience could conclude that the journal is publishing largely to promote the sponsor’s products, services, or other business interests.

Once a journal approves a sponsor funding arrangement, it will want to ensure that the appearance and overall effect of the credit given to the sponsor is in keeping with the editorial integrity and noncommercial character of the journal. To this end, the journal may want to establish some simple rules governing the content and appearance of the sponsorship credit (whether it appears online, in print, or both). Such rules could include:

  • Nature of acknowledgement/credit: The nature of a sponsor acknowledgement may vary depending on the policies of the journal and the expectations of the sponsor. In some cases, the sponsor acknowledgement may be limited to a textual credit (e.g., Funding for the ABC Journalprovided by Acme Corporation). In others, the acknowledgement will take the form of a banner graphic (adhering to guidelines the journal has established). Whether textual or graphical, the credit may be linked to a page providing a fuller explanation of the sponsorship terms. This can be especially useful in instances where a journal accepts multiple sponsors. In this way, the journal can acknowledge multiple sponsors without cluttering the journal’s appearance. A publisher may wish to use the words “in part” to describe instances where the sponsor provides partial funding for the journal’s operation (e.g., Open Access to this journal is made possible in part by Acme Corporation).

  • Sponsor Name and/or Logo: All funders should be identified by their name and/or logo. If the logo does not adequately disclose the sponsor’s identity, then the sponsor’s name should be stated. In some instances, the name of a corporation and its brand name are the same. In other cases, however, brand names are neither the corporation’s name nor the name of a division or subsidiary of the parent company. In such cases, the brand name could be used, but the accountable corporate entity should be fully and clearly disclosed in the sponsorship credit. The goal is to prevent turning the sponsorship credit into a product pitch, while clearly disclosing the funding source.

  • Use of service marks and slogans: Slogans and corporate positioning statements may be acceptable to the journal as long as they do not include an explicit or specific:

  • Call to action (e.g., “Buy . . .”).

  • Superlative description or qualitative claim about the company or its products or services or direct comparison with other companies’ products or services.

  • Price or value information or inducements to buy.

  • Endorsement (e.g., “recommended by 4 out of 5 cell biologists . . .”).

Of course, the sponsor could choose to include a message in support of the journal or its availability via Open Access (e.g., ABC Journal is sponsored in part by a grant from Acme Corporation, which supports Open Access to [name of discipline] research.”

  • Identification of products/services and product lines: To identify a funder, a specific product or brand name may be identified in the sponsor acknowledgement graphic (e.g., Sponsored by Acme Optics, makers of the Z-17 microscope and other optical products for scientific research).

  • Use of Web addresses and toll-free numbers: The journal may choose to allow sponsors to include either a Web address or telephone number on the secondary page. Allowing only one would minimize screen clutter. The Web address or telephone number should not spell out a call to action (e.g., www.buyacmeoptics.com or 1-800-CALL NOW).

  • In-kind contributions might be substantial enough to merit explicit online recognition. In such cases, the journal may elect to recognize such contributions in a manner that will credit the provider(s) without competing or conflicting with the sponsorship credit discussed here.

A journal will need to adapt the guidelines proposed above to its particular circumstances and requirements. Again, such guidelines are intended to protect both the journal’s editorial independence and perception of the journal’s integrity and quality.

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