Feb 27, 2013

What you can do for IMS… and what IMS can do for you

IMS President Hans Künsch writes:

Back in the eighties, my main reason for joining IMS was that this allowed me to purchase my own copy of the Annals of Statistics at a cheap price. Although the Annals were also available at three different libraries at my university, that was an advantage because I immediately saw when a new issue had arrived and I did not have to copy those articles that I wanted to read. Nowadays, things have completely changed: I can get email alerts for newly-accepted papers, and I have all journals available online on my computer through our university library subscription. So this incentive to become an IMS member has disappeared. Moreover, universities have reduced multiple subscriptions in order to keep up with shrinking budgets and rising prices.

The effects of these changes can be seen clearly in the figures of the Treasurer’s report (see IMS Bulletin, June/July 2012): The number of members who still take print copies of our journals has gone down by 50–70% over 10 years, the number of institutional subscriptions has gone down by approximately 10% over 10 years, and the total number of members (excluding free members) is also declining slowly since 2007. The decrease of print subscriptions by members is not a concern in itself, since the price is just the actual cost of printing and shipping, but it does show that we need other reasons for people to join IMS. There is still the reduction in registration fees for meetings, but many of the services that IMS provides to the community are available also to non-members. It is therefore important to realize that without a strong IMS, probabilists and statisticians will suffer in their work units relative to their colleagues in fields with strong professional societies. The IMS Presidents (current, past and elect) are trying to make IMS membership more attractive, especially for new researchers, for instance by the creation of the new IMS Travel Award. If you have other suggestions about what we could do, please let us know.

Decreases in the numbers of institutional subscriptions and of members threaten to weaken our financial basis of IMS because they are our main sources of income. The decrease is presumably more severe than the figures suggest because during the last 10 years, the number of universities and individuals who engage in research in probability and statistics has increased. At the moment, there is no need to worry: Through a careful control of expenses and a moderate rise in subscription and membership fees, we have been able to overcome the last financial crisis and to build up reserves slightly above our total expenses of one year. This should protect us against another financial crisis or sudden drastic changes in the scientific publication business. Still, it is highly desirable to reverse the declining trends in institutional subscriptions and membership. For this, we need your support. It would be great if you could lobby that your institution has (at least) one subscription to all the IMS journals, including the more recent Annals of Applied Probability and Annals of Applied Statistics, and hopefully also to our co-sponsored, supported and affiliated journals. And if you haven’t renewed your membership for 2013, please do so now and encourage your colleagues to become members.

A last point concerns publication charges. Although these charges are voluntary for all IMS journals, I ask you to consider seriously whether you can pay at least part of it from a grant or some other fund. This helps us to keep our subscription prices low. In an effort to encourage open access publication, where the cost of publication is shifted from subscriptions to article processing fees charged to authors, the University of California, the UK Research Council and presumably also other institutions are setting up pilot projects which make special funds available to cover these fees. See http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/alternatives/oafund.html and http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/Pages/outputs.aspx.

Although our print journals typically do not qualify, the online journals (Electronic Communications in Probability, Electronic Journal of Probability, Electronic Journal of Statistics, Probability Surveys, Statistics Surveys) do. So if you submit to one of these journals, please find out whether your institution has funds for publication charges and if yes, apply for them.

Thank you for your continued support of IMS.

Hans Künsch, IMS President


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