Archive for May, 2009

Mandated self-archiving, anthropology, and power

Steven Harnad suggests that institutions could mandate self-archiving to get researchers to comply, as opposed to voluntary policies that have proven ineffective.  The ineffectiveness of voluntary policies is backed up by my own research where very few professors were aware of the legalities behind it, many arguing it would not be legal due to copyright, even though the American Anthropological Association and the SSHRC both claim support of it.

That they are not aware, and not making their students aware, show how these voluntary mechanisms for achieving self-archiving are not working.

This pushes me to support self-archiving mandates.

But let’s integrate the discussions I’ve been having with Max, an anthropologist who has spent a lot of time with politically marginalized groups. He asserts he is a “reformed open access advocate”, who while having founded an open access journal KACIKE, has since developed concern over the way the accessibility of the internet leverages existing power relationships even more. Access on the internet is not equal, not only due to government support of particular media monopolies – but also in the way programs can be developed to harvest information.

Open Access works to balance out unequal distribution – by giving those without access, access. But once everyone has access, there are other ways for inequality to present itself. In order to compile all the information, it requires massive man power – as is found among thousands of Chinese citizens working as internet censors. Open Access makes it easy for these censors to filter information, to find names, places, targets, etc. By posting an article about Falong Gong on a blog, or in an Open Access journal, programs developed in part by companies like Google can scan through the information and “harvest” it. Posts on such topics are automatically tagged and saved away for a human to scan through later.

So what kinds of information are people harvesting? The U.S. military has offices setup where soldiers can earn “distance drilling credit” by gathering data online from “open source” sources. Since the information was all open source, I wish I could tell you what they harvest, but they take “open source” info, and turn it into an inaccessible, but “unclassified” database. (also see here.)

The Chinese government has intelligence/censoring staff working full time, and they have in effect created a very different internet than the one we can access here. They, like the U.S. government, make sure they can “sniff” through the most traffic possible online, so they force telecom companies to make sure there are “choke” points on the internet where all information flows through. This lets them setup powerful monitoring tools..

The point here is, that state and corporate powers are colluding to control and observe peoples internet use. Companies need to track transactions, just as much as some states need to track citizens. These technologies are extremely powerful, but only available to dominant groups.

Enter Open Access. We share everything online, but who benefits the most? The academics, and interest groups, we might expect to read anthropology articles? Or, in being so open, are companies like Google and state powers benefiting more?

Google scans through every single email I send, and receive, using a computer program that looks for advertising key words. They don’t actually read it, but they created the technology to do so, and now governments are getting into the game too.

So back to Falong Gong. Do I really want the information making its way into corporate/state databases? Because with Open Access, it will. With “closed-access” it probably will too, but not as quickly or easily – and those accessing it will have to know about it, select it, and go through it – as opposed to information being flagged or blocked automagically.

For anthropologists, the concern over “what should be shared” in a publication is nothing new and there are massive debates as to how one can ethically go about doing and publishing research. And since I’m dealing with OA, I’m not even talking about researchers who collude even more directly with military powers.

To mandate self-archiving would remove a “gray” area that currently exists for material no one can identify as “safe” or “dangerous” to share. Since the concerns over what kinds of research are proper haven’t yet been worked out, then I agree, mandates might be too extreme. At the same time, I’d rather research methods and topics be developed – that address the kinds of content that are damaging.

I stand by the idea scholarship is meant to be shared. So I’m excited to see what Max’s upcoming presentation, “Useless Anthropology”: Strategies for Dealing with the Militarization of the Academy” turns out.

[another angle against mandated self-archiving, is the need for culturally appropriate rules for dissemination – as argued by Kimberly Christen and demonstrated on the Mukurtu Archive project website. There are collaborations between communities and academia that develop into interesting research, but that demand other forms of publication. Mandated self-archiving universalizes the properness of “being open”, which has been shown to cause conflicts, and perhaps unnecessarily limits the kinds of publication that can be developed out of research.]

[and this doesn’t mean we can’t have self-archiving mandates, that allow for exceptions!]

new ethnography podcast

I’m excited to see Enkerli’s latest project, which he was “pondering” only a few weeks back, has already materialized. Check out the latest anthropology-related podcast, focusing on ethnography. Also take note of Enkerli’s new blog, “Informal Ethnographer”, and twitter accounts, which were created to develop and clarify professional and personal roles.

He writes:

“Here it is! The first episode of Rapport: The Informal Ethnographer Podcast.

As I was editing it, I noticed a number of flaws. For instance, there are several things I mispronounced there are some things I might have wanted to take out of it. But I maintain my RERO principle and I’m posting it as-is.

As this is the “enhanced podcast” version, with chapter markers, you can skip around as you please, between different sections. I should post MP3 files for the different sections but the official release will always be with the enhanced podcast.”

I’m heading home now to grab some headphones…

Steven Harnad on self-archiving

I’ve never met the man, even though he teaches in Montreal, but if I was to put a face on his written voice, it would look something like this.

When the U.S. congress tried to pass a bill mandating the self-archiving of research, publishers bounded together to lobby against the bill. The American Anthropological Association signed on too.  The lobby group raised numerous arguments against self-archiving, and even claimed to speak on behalf of researchers – to which many have since argued it did not.

In response to Scott Jaschik’s article, “In Whose Interest?” (2006), Steven Harnad unleashes a powerful advocacy strategy:

“The AAA (and AAP and PSP and FASEB and STM and DC Principles Coalition) objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving (along with its counterpart proposals in Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere worldwide) are all completely predictable, have been aired many times before, and are empirically as well as logically so weak and flawed as to be decisively refutable.

But OA advocates cannot rest idle. Empirically and logically invalid arguments can nevertheless prevail if their proponents are (like the publishing lobby) well-funded and able to lobby widely and vigorously.

There are many more of us than there are in the publishing lobby, but the publishing lobby is fully united under its simple objective: to defeat self-archiving mandates, or, failing that, to make the embargo as long as possible.

OA advocates, in contrast, are not united, and our counter-arguments risk gallopping off in dozens of different directions, many of them just as invalid and untenable as the publishers’ arguments. So if I were the publisher lobby, I would try to divide and conquer, citing flawed pro-mandate or pro-OA or anti-publishing arguments as a camouflage, to disguise the weakness of the publishing lobby’s own flawed arguments.”

To achieve this, Harnad supports self-archiving with 8 points:

All objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving can be decisively answered:

(1) Open access has been empirically demonstrated to benefit research, researchers and hence the public that funds the research, by substantially increasing research usage and impact.

(2) There is no evidence to date that self-archiving has any negative effect on subscription revenue.

(3) With an immediate-deposit/optional-access (ID/OA) mandate, deposit must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), not delayed; only the access-setting (Open Access vs. Closed Access) can be delayed (“embargoed”).

(4) In recognition of its benefits to research, 94% of journals already endorse immediate OA-setting; so the semi-automatic email-eprint request feature of the Institutional Repository software (allowing would-be users to email the author individually to request and receive the eprint by email) will only be needed for 6% of articles, to tide over any embargo interval.

(5) OA is optimal for research and immediately reachable via self-archiving mandates right now; publishing models can and will adapt, if and when it should ever become necessary.

(6) In response to attempts to delay and filibuster the adoption of the self-archiving mandate by calling for more “empirical studies to test for its likely impact”: mandating self-archiving is itself the empirical test; the impact of the mandate can be reviewed annually to see what other effects it may be having — apart from the positive effects evidence has already shown self-archiving to have.

(7) The way to answer any suggestion that it is unfair to put publisher revenues at potential risk for the sake of general public access to a literature most of which none of the general public is ever likely to want to read is to note that OA is intended for the sake of the public benefits of the research that the public funds, which are maximized by making research maximally available to the users for whom it is mostly written, namely, researchers, so they can use and apply it in further research and applications, as intended, for the benefit of the public that funded it. (It will be publicly accessible to everyone else too, but only as a secondary benefit, not the primary rationale for OA, which is free access to publicly funded research, for researcher use, for public benefit.)

(8) All evidence indicates that voluntarism, invitations, etc. simply do not work to generate self-archiving, whereas mandates do.

(Harnad 2006)

Open Access and the AAA – more notes.

In his article, “Open Access or Faux Access” (2008), Scott Jaschik writes:

“The anthropology association has been divided for years over open access — the view that research findings should be online and free. Many rank-and-file anthropologists embrace the idea, seeing it as a way to most effectively communicate without imposing huge financial burdens on their libraries. But the association relies on revenue from subscriptions to its journals and has resisted repeated pushes from its own members to move in the direction of open access.

These tensions are not unique to anthropology, but the discipline has seen more than its share of flare-ups over the the issue, with pro-access scholars horrified that their association lobbied against open access legislation in Congress and that the scholarly society replaced a university press as its publishing agent with a for-profit publisher.”

Nice to see links making their way into articles. Jaschik’s article discusses the move by the American Anthropological Association to make material in two of its journals available free of charge, after a 35 year period. This way the journals continue to earn subscription revenue as academics require the latest research, but at least it eventually makes its way out.

Of course, such a version of Open Access was heavily rebutted in the blogsphere – and Jaschik’s article integrates many of the juiciest criticisms, some saying that the AAA was diluting the concept of Open Access.

Alex Golub argues that this would never have happened without public criticism of the American Anthropological Association by Open Access advocates, stressing the value of vocal bloggers even further:

“At the same time, he [Alex Golub] said that [the] association was way behind where it should be — and where many members have been pushing it to go. “This decision clearly represents the success of the OA community’s decision to hold the AAA accountable, in public, for its actions,” he wrote. “I honestly do not think this decision would have been made if the OA community had not called out the AAA and demanded to know what the hell it thought it was doing.”

It is interesting that blogs provided so much insight for Jaschik’s article, showing how blog discussions are rich sources, and as Golub argued, effective means of advocacy and change. (no shit you say? hey i’m working on a thesis – I’m learning how to state the obvious. deal with it :).


Scott Jaschik (2008)

“Open Access or Faux Access”

omgwtf!!! After integrating links, and comments into its online profile, Inside Higher Ed. does not support the Zotero bibliography manager! I can’t just click and add this article to my bibliography? F.A.I.L.

Also interesting, a commentor correctly states that “Open Access” is not the same as “Open Source”. No matter how much peer review we have, it’s impossible to get people to use the same definitions!

Concordia Library and searching for OA.

Strolling through various journal articles I’ve tagged, I noticed Concordia Library has placed an “Open Access” resources link on its list of databases page. It links to the OAIster search engine.

After helping a teacher archive their work on the Mana’o Anthropology Archive, I thought I would test out how well self-archiving in a repository works for an anthropologist. Unfortunately OAIster cannot find the article hosted on Mana’o…

This is not to say Mana’o is doing something wrong, just that we obviously need to do a lot more to make this stuff accessible!

Why people don’t respond

Just capturing a little quote from a discussion over at Savage Minds, which I might include in the thesis section on reader interaction.

“I am reluctant to post on a blog which, although raising central issues, so often then distorts and obscures them…”

OA publishing in anthropology – some more notes.

Unresolved oppositions –

Alex Golub arguing toll-access publishing model is broken:

“If you think that making money by giving away content is a bad idea, you should see what happens when the AAA tries to make money selling it. To put it kindly, our reader-pays model has never worked very well. Getting over our misconceptions about open access requires getting over misconceptions of the success of our existing publishing program. The choice we are facing is not that of an unworkable ideal versus a working system. It is the choice between a future system which may work and an existing system which we know does not.”

(Golub 2007:6)

Stacy Lathrop arguing the system isn’t broken:

“Reading through old AAA Bulletins, Newsletters and Reports, a reader quickly discovers that at times when the AAA has reached bumpy finances, decisions were made by the executive board to assure publications are sustainable.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

Stacy Lathrop on the extra costs many OA advocates ignore:

“Beyond that, an electronic publishing program should account for costs to market its electronic journals, for training users to use the new means of production, and for responding to users’ questions, problems and needs.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

This point really caught my attention – what kind of marketing does the AAA do for its journals? In the survey of students I held last year, students were only aware of a few key journals. Online, well… AnthroSource champions all the AAA journals?

I imagine there is a market of librarians to which most journals try to target with whatever marketing budget they have – going for subscription income. Any editors care to share how they allocate their marketing budget, and perhaps share numbers? ie: how much is spent marketing?

My own gut reaction:

I don’t think “anthropology” as a whole is very good at marketing anthropology, aside to itself.  Part of my thesis was motivated from my life in the grad program, constantly explaining to my friends and acquaintances what anthropology is, and isn’t.

But perhaps the AAA publishing program is sustainable – but just barely. And in this rough environment the change to OA is seen as being too risky. But why aren’t they at least promoting self-archiving? Or turning Anthro Source into a real community driven site? (As Alex Golub and others have been pushing for).

Stacy Lathrop. 2007. “Friends, Why Are We Sinking?.”

Alex Golub. 2007. “With a Business Model Like This, Who Needs Enemies?.”

Self-archiving repositories

Over the course of the research I tried, and perhaps failed, to get many teachers to self-archive their work. One teacher decided he prefered to archive the work on his website (we succeeded in posting around 15 of his articles to it), while another went along with my recommendation to use the Mana’o repository. Others (and here I have to admit I didn’t push it enough), showed interest in the upcoming Concordia branded repository.

Over the period, the teachers personal website was a constant challenge to keep up with. It contained too much disorganized material, and needed a serious revamp. The Mana’o experiment worked well after a few failed email attempts. And the upcoming Concordia repository? Well, it’s not ready yet.

Revamping websites, keeping repositories up to date, and general disorganization. What do they all have in common? They all demand time.

So why, if there is never enough time, is everyone reinventing the wheel? I think there is a need for a more collaborative archive, one that is run by an interest community – ala open source software projects. It would need funding and help from various academic institutions, but not depend on only one. It would also index all the repositories available to make searching easier. (eg, indexing on Mana’o hasn’t helped in terms of finding the paper through google or other search engines).

why didn’t the AAA setup a self-archiving repository again?  A number of my teachers still worry about the “credibility” of self-archiving their work, (no matter how hard I try to explain that the material has already been peer-reviewed… so what’s the worry…)…

Anyways, this is a rather empty post, since I don’t have time either – but once i finish this thesis I will, and maybe a cross-institution repository could be setup with enough funds to really push anthropologists to archive their work? Or can we get more funds to Mana’o – I’d love to see a developer hired for a year to really get it going!

Or are self-archiving repositories intentionally keeping a low profile, to avoid fist fights with publishers?