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Institutional memberships are one method for open access journals to generate revenue. The model was developed to enable libraries to divert subscription funds towards open access publications; although other types of organizations, such as library consortia, research funding agencies, etc. can also become members. Institutional memberships allow libraries (and others) to provide tangible support for open access, and in some cases, offer incentives for authors to publish in those open-access journals.

The fee structure for institutional memberships varies from publisher to publisher. In some cases, institutional memberships are simply mechanisms by which institutions can provide financial support for OA journals. This is the case for journals that do not charge article processing fees. In other cases, institutional memberships are accompanied by discounts in article processing fees for affiliated authors (ranging from 10% to 100%). Institutional membership costs are usually tiered according to the size of the institution; with smaller institutions paying less than large ones.

Examples of publishers that offer institutional memberships

Bioline International is a not-for-profit scholarly publishing cooperative committed to providing open access to quality research journals published in developing countries. Bioline's membership program costs $500 per institution per year on an ongoing basis. Bioline also seeks additional support and sponsorship from foundations and other organizations whose interests align with Bioline. Sponsorship levels and terms are negotiated with the interests of the individual sponsor in mind.

BioMed Central is one of the larger open access publishers. BioMed Central publishes scientific and medical databases, review journals and 197 peer-reviewed research journals in the fields of biology and medical research community. BioMed Central members receive discounts on article processing charges and discounts on other itemes. They also provide a list to each member of all relevant research papers published in BioMed Central's Open Access journals by the members affiliated authors. See the Case Studies for more details of how this works.

Hindawi Publishing Corporation is a rapidly growing academic publisher with more than one hundred Open Access journals covering all major areas of science, technology, and medicine, and a book publishing program that spans all scholarly disciplines. Hindawi offers institutional memberships to organizations that would like to encourage their authors to publish in any of Hindawi's journals. The membership program is based on a flat rate annual payment that covers all accepted articles that have one or more authors from any of Hindawi's member institutes. The cost of the membership depends on the research output level of the institute and the historical publishing pattern in Hindawi journals.

Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. PLoS offers institutional memberships consisting of an annual fee that varies according to the needs of the organization. The membership entitles affiliated scientists to reduced charges for publication in all PLoS journals. As well, member institutions are listed on the PLoS Web site Members page, and they recieve a list of the articles published in PLoS journals by affiliated authors.