Monthly Notices goes Online-only

I just heard that the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society which has been publishing astronomy research since 1859, is no longer producing a print edition and instead will be publishing online.

The decision is in response to falling demand for the printed version which has made it no longer economically viable profitable to continue producing it. I choose the ‘profitable’ because the prime purpose of MNRAS is no longer the dissemination of scientific results but the generation of income to fund other activities of the Royal Astronomical Society. Despite the move to the much cheaper digital-only publishing mode, the annual cost of an institutional subscription to this journal is over $10,000. Most of that is goes as profit to Oxford University Press (the actual publisher) and to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Much of what the RAS does with this income is laudible of course, but I don’t think it is fair to inflate institutional subscription costs in order to fund it. University libraries are meant to provide access to research, not to act as cash cows to be milked by learned societies. The Royal Astronomical Society society isn’t the only learned society to use its journals this way, nor is it the most exploitative of those that do, but I believe the approach is indefensible.

My very first research paper was published in MNRAS way back in 1986 and I’ve published many others there over the years, so it’s with a certain amount of nostalgia that I look back on the old style journal. As. Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society I used to get my own copy in the post at a discounted rate but had to stop and dispose of the old ones when I moved to Nottingham as they took up too much room.

My own belief is that it’s not only the print edition that has had its day but the whole idea of a traditional academic journal.

I’ll just take this opportunity to remind you that The Open Journal of Astrophysics publishes papers (online only) in all the areas of Astrophysics covered by MNRAS, and more, but is entirely free both for authors and readers.

10 Responses to “Monthly Notices goes Online-only”

  1. Francis Says:

    Thought it already had gone fully online – haven’t seen a hardcopy version for years.

    I remember going to the library once a month or so with a list of journals to look at to see if there were any articles of relevance to my work. Then filling out an offprint request form and sending to the author to get a copy. (If I needed a copy urgently I would photocopy one).

    • telescoper Says:

      Many libraries cancelled their print subscriptions some time ago.

      I also remember sending out offprint requests. I also got a few, often from far-flung places around the world.

  2. shantanu Says:

    Its no longer free if paper length > 20 pages

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    But how expensive is it to submit or subscribe to, compared to its hard copy days and compared to OJA? If it is significantly more expensive than OJA, am I right to conclude that people are paying literally for nothing more than the imprimatur?

    • telescoper Says:

      The subscription cost I mentioned in the above post is for the online-only version. It has not reduced with the cancellation of the print edition.

      The Page charge referred to by Shantanu is £50 per page over 20 pages, so a paper of 21 pages costs £50 and one of 30 pages costs £500.

      The only thing that people are paying for in MNRAS that OJA does not offer is copy-editing. And you know very well how much is a reasonable charge for that!

  4. $10,000 institutional subscription feels very steep; both A&A and ApJ seem to be “only” about one third of that.

  5. […] time ago (in 2020) I reported here that the publishers of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (known as MNRAS for short) […]

  6. […] that it will be done – from January 1st 2024. The announcement confirms that the “rumour” I reported in 2020 was true (as I knew it was, given the reliability of the source). I did, however, think the […]

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