Out in the Open

 

Making Research Accessible

“Every year [the faculty] get lists of journals with a request as to what we can cut, not add. Our institution pays NO money to subscribe to any journal listing service. No JStor and very few books, most dating to the 1960’s. I loan students my own books, sometimes never to get them back. Honest.

To suggest that my students can “find articles” to post to a common wiki, ain’t going to happen. I hope that they can discuss an issue on a specified set of readings that I provide. And I still maintain there is precious little on the internet that is useful for students of cultural anthropology (the archaeologists do much better, IMHO).”

(Pamthropologist 2008)

Thus far we’ve explored a number of reasons for making research more accessible to anthropology’s various audiences. We’ve addressed how anthropologists working in different institutions with their own interests and agendas (different anthropologies) can benefit from better access to each others work. We’ve also touched on the need for more collaborative research methods that work with issues relevant to communities other than that of the anthropologist. Lastly, we’ve established how ethnography as a research method is suited to studies online and off, and that blogs and other social media can be used to incorporate feedback into the research process. How then, given the changing approaches and audiences discussed, is the Internet fueling change in the way anthropologists disseminate their work? Ideally who should have access the latest academic research? What issues are there to making research freely accessible online?

By making research accessible online, researchers help to bridge unnecessary disciplinary and institutional boundaries. In his post, “Six Anthropologists and the Internet”, Lorenz Khazaleh discusses the results of his interviews investigating the Internet and anthropology,

“More and more anthropologists have started blogging and discussing their research interests with a wider audience. They use the internet as a library, as a tool for learning and teaching, as a space where they conduct fieldwork. They exchange knowledge, build networks across disciplines and continents. Last but not least, the internet is perfectly suited to inform the general public about what anthropology is about.

Nevertheless, the symbolic capital associated with the Internet and Internet publishing is fairly low: "It should be a political cause for academics to heighten it, both through using the Internet for one’s own publications and by increasing the prestige of the Internet by using it actively", anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen writes. Kerim Friedman agrees and adds: "The biggest challenge is to get Anthropologists to embrace Open Access in the same way that physical scientists have."

(Khazaleh 2006)

The ease of publishing online has opened the door for all the material that had previously been unpublishable. Work too controversial, distasteful, or even bizarre, can finally be shared free of the control of biased editors and jealous reviewers. Yes, the anthropologist is finally free to share ideas uncensored and this means that previously rejected work now has a home. “The symbolic capital associated with the Internet and Internet publishing is fairly low…” Eriksen exclaims in the quote above. With all this unreviewed, uncensored, politically charged material being shared online, the importance of Open Access to research becomes clear. The most prestigious places to be published are the most difficult to access. The least prestigious places are the easiest. Making the “best” side the least accessible, is an odd marketing strategy. Thankfully there are many Open Access journals.

Introducing Open Access Publishing

“… putting something on the Internet doesn’t make it good (sometimes it means the opposite). But the fact that we can publish this way, and the fact that we are doing so, opens up an opportunity to rethink the meaning of publication and the role of scholarly societies in the process. One of the spurious criticisms made of OA is that it threatens peer review. The logic behind this argument is related to 1-click publishing—that OA means bypassing the entire infrastructure of publishing, which includes much more than just making something available. However, no OA advocate would ever support this claim; OA is supposed to be about making really good research really widely available."

(Kelty 2008:1)

Open Access (OA) publishing aims to improve the dissemination of academic work. Peter Suber defines it as “literature [that] is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” (Suber 2007). Taking advantage of opportunities provided by the internet, a vocal community of scholars have been pushing to make their research freely available online. This has caused some friction with established publishing institutions who depend on revenues charged for access to the work.

Open Access advocates claim that scholarship is meant to be shared, and that the business strategies publishers have followed are in conflict with the goals of academic researchers. Researchers are unable to access all the material produced for the simple reason that no library can afford the costs to subscribe to all the academic journals out there. Why can’t researchers just use the Internet to share their work with each other? Limiting access to research reduces the effectiveness and impact of that research. The majority of academic journals are simply not disseminating the work they publish as well as they could.

Open Access publishing can improve the impact of scholarly research. It improves citation rates. It makes it easier to find. It let’s students and researchers studying at institutions with shrinking library budgets, access and make use of the latest peer reviewed research. It also let’s researchers around the world, at institutions subscribing to different journals, find and make use of each others work.

Why scholarly societies like the AAA have not embraced Open Access journal publishing.

Alex Golub argues the existing 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)

Open Access publishing can disseminate peer reviewed work better. But challenging this opportunity is the fact that particular journals are more important places to publish than others. Harley et al. write, “… peer-reviewed prestige publications are the “coin of the realm” in tenure and promotion decisions.” (Harley et al. 2008:6) Researchers need to consider the prestige publishing in a a particular journal brings. Publishing in the right journal can make sure the right people see and recognize the work.

While hundreds of OA journals have been created, the most important places to be published, the prestige journals in anthropology, have been unwilling or unable to adopt a pure Open Access publishing model. Waltham writes,

"The Discussions and conclusions section of this report articulates the finding that a shift to an entirely new funding model in the pure form of Open Access (author/producer pays) in which the costs of publishing research articles in journals are paid for by authors or a funding agency, and readers have access free online, is not currently a sustainable option for any of this group of journals based on the costs provided. The sources of external funding required for such a model are also not clear and may not be available even as broadly as in STM disciplines.” (Waltham 2009:5)

Moving to a pure open access model is not possible, Waltham argues. Stacy Lathrop agrees, arguing that the AAA is simply doing what it needs to do to sustain itself,

“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)

While not embracing a strict OA publishing model that might threaten the sustainability of a large scholarly society, other ways of achieving Open Access have been better received. Journals can also disseminate individual articles online, rather than the entire journal, allowing authors a choice. Waltham’s study, which generalizes across a number of social science and humanities disciplines, reveals some promising numbers for OA adoption. He writes,

“There has been a dramatic increase in the percentage of publishers offering optional open access to authors, from only 9% in 2005 to 30% in 2008. This applies to a total of 1,871 titles. 53% of these publishers have enabled an open access option for all of their titles. However, the takeup of the open access option is low; of those publishers which have offered this option for two or more years under an author-pays model, 52.9% had a take-up rate of 1% or less, 73.5% had a take-up rate of 5% or less, and 91.2% had a take-up rate of 10% or less” (Waltham 2009:11)

Having outsourced the publishing and dissemination responsibilities to Wiley-Blackwell, authors publishing in the American Anthropology Associations journals do have the option to pay for Open Access to their article at the time of publishing. Recognizing challenges to changing publishing business models, OA advocates recognize different ways of achieving Open Access. Steven Harnard discusses the differences between “Green” and “Gold” Open Access, arguing that giving researchers the rights to archive their work online, outside of the journal, is the most important goal,

“What the research community needs, urgently, is free online access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output. Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs. With 100% Green OA, the research community’s access and impact problems are already solved.”

(Harnad 2007:1)

With “Gold Open Access” the journals themselves make research freely available online. They have found other ways to generate income. “Green Open Access” represents another strategy, of maintaining a journals pay-to-access subscription model, while leaving broader dissemination of the research up to the author. Green OA gives researchers the right to archive their own work, providing a way to maintain library subscriptions to scholarly societies, while also allowing researchers to make use of the Internet to properly disseminate their work. The number of journals allowing authors to retain the copyright to their work is promising,

“In 2003, 83% of publishers required copyright transfer, in 2005, the figure stood at 61%. In 2008 this has dropped to 53%, and those which only require a license to publish have increased from 17% to 20.8%.” (Waltham 2009:11)

More and more journals are allowing authors the right to disseminate their work on a personal website or on an online repository. This is referred to as “self-archiving”, and authors have the choice of archiving their work in a number of different places online. There are institutional repositories affiliated with particular universities, and there are discipline specific archives, like the Mana’o Anthropology Archive (which carries with it an institutional brand).

The Mana’o Self Archiving Repository

As part of this research I encouraged a number of professors at Concordia University to archive their work online, and with permission I submitted one professors essay to the Mana’o Self Archiving Anthropology Repository. The process is very simple, and had been laid out to me prior in Kerim Friedman’s pamphlet “Self-Archiving For Anthropologists Made Easy”. To archive an article to Mana’o a few steps need to be followed. First, the author must have the copyright permissions to post it online. Second, the author usually needs to have a pre-print version of the article. It’s not okay to download your own an article from Jstor to post on your own site. Journals tend to keep the copyright on their refined, and edited, version. The difficulty getting through these first two steps has been enough to block many academics from making their research accessible online. Thankfully, Self Archiving repositories maintain a small staff that does this for you. Email them the article and their librarians will double check the copyright and archive it online. Yes it is that easy.

Open Access documents are free to access, but there are still a lot of costs involved to verify, catalog, and host these documents. Spearheaded by anthropologist and Savage Minds blogger Alex Golub, the Mana’o repository was the first anthropology specific OA repository. But having limited resources, the Mana’o projects servers ran into occasional trouble. Access to the servers was sporatic, and when I went in to show a professor their new archived article, we were unable to access it. This goes to show that disseminating research online is not free. It is free to access online, but there are numerous costs surrounding the dissemination of academic work. Access to the Mana’o site continued to degrade until eventually, among relatively few outcries, the operators announced they would be shutting the repositories doors.

I found the response to this announcement dissapointing. Where I expected broad community support for the project, it turned into an an eye opener watching how difficult it was to find a new home for the project. Thankfully after a few months in limbo, the archive found a new home and new servers, managing to reoppen its doors in the Fall of 2010.

I discussed the future of Mana’o with the curators of the repository over email.

 

O: What were the greatest challenges involved in keeping the archive alive?

AG: The biggest problem the archive faced was spare cycles — everyone (especially me, the main energizer for the project) simply doesn’t have the time to spend to give it the time it deserves, unfortunately (this is why these answers are so brief). I think of this as a post-tenure project I foolishly started before tenure. However, since I am going up for tenure this year (and will hopefully be successful!) hopefully my biography will catch up with my ambitions. Real change is the work of years, even if the lifecycle of publicity about it extremely short.

JR: Copyright was the greatest challenge for me. It’s time-consuming to check articles to see if we can put them up or not. We turned down a good number of items because the publishers didn’t allow authors to post in a subject repository, or only allowed pre-prints but the depositor just had a post-print. If authors don’t get on the ball with authors’ rights, then the future of self-archiving will be a hassle. It’s also worth recognizing that virtual worlds exist because of real world labor. The Internet makes scholarly communication easier, but we tend to forget that there’s a lot of work going on to provide the infrastructure. Maintaining the Mana’o infrastructure was a big challenge. Not just the technology infrastructure, but the people, too.

O:What is the future of self-archiving for anthropologists?

AG: I could be TOTALLY wrong, but as far as I can tell there are two issues at play: first, where documents will be located. There is such a proliferation of online spaces, ranging from Scribd (typically used to archive _other people’s_ published work, as far as I can tell) to personal homepages with CVs and self-archiving, that Google is the closest we have to ‘confederated search’. The lack of a hegemonic site or site will not be remedied in the future as far as I can tell — and I’m not sure it will. PDFs are not high-def video — you just don’t need big iron in the center to host them.

Second, there are legal/cultural/norms issues. Publishers have been spectacularly unsuccessful in keeping bootleg PDFs from circulating, either in various online sites or simply via email, so the law does not (so far) appear to have teeth. Apathy and fear that one’s work will be read are the biggest reasons that keep anthropologists from publishing, as far as I can tell. I think its sad that PDFs are going the way of MP3s — the cultural norm is to share, but the legal requirement is not too. The cost is that a generation of scholars are being raised to think that the law is an ass, not to take seriously the rights of authors, or to believe that the law legitimately reflects democratic consensus about what is right and wrong. I hope Mana’o can provide an aggressive, ethical way to get people to share more and more which respects both the public’s right to know and the author’s right to be known.

Why has a repository for a discipline with so many been left up to so few? Why hasn’t the American Anthropological Association and its thousands of members stepped up to create an online archive? Pondering these issues on this projects blog, I received a response letting me know that the AAA was indeed debating the introduction of a self-archiving repository but that it would take some time to plan and implement,

Posted by Hugh Jarvis on May 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

The CFPEP Cmt on which I serve is actually looking into the possibility of an archive now, but it’s just in a very prelininary exploratory discussion phase right now — so please don’t get your hopes up. Doing that sort of project right takes an enormous amount of planning, support, and of course money!

(The CFPEP took over the duties of two previous AnthroSource working committees during a general realignment of AAA workflow.)

FYI, the CFPEP is also exploring ways to index more content, outside of just AAA publications, so an AnthroSource search might find a much broader world of anthropological content as well. Again, we’re just exploring options right now.

We’re looking generally at all suggestions or needs expressed by AAA members.

For self-arching, you are right, the author’s agreement is pretty buried. i found it in the manuscript submission site’s additional resources! [PDF]

Also see your right to reprint an article under “Information for AAA Authors“. (I’m going to ask if it would be possible to make these documents more visible on the AAA site.)’

Where there have been challenges forming discipline specific archives in anthropology, institutional repositories have been fairing better. Concordia University has been implementing its own self-archiving repository, to cater to Concordia researchers. In speaking with researchers at Concordia, I got the impression they would be more open to archiving their work with the Concordia repository, than other options elsewhere.

Mandating Open Access

Self archiving repositories take some work, and as as been developed it has been a challenge to harness academic resources collaboratively such that a discipline specific repository could succeed. Authors continue to publish in closed access journals, even when given the option to go OA. Further very few authors realize they have the rights to archive versions of their work online. Some simply do not see the point to do so, being happy with the way their work has been published. For these reasons OA advocates are pushing universities and funding agencies to mandate Open Access publishing.

The Harvard Mandate

“The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository. ” (In Suber 2009)

The MIT Mandate

“MIT Faculty Open-Access Policy

Passed by Unanimous of the Faculty, March 18, 2009

The Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs MIT of the reason.” (in Suber 2009)

Publishing Options, Geography, and Access to Publish

The issue of access to academic journals in post secondary institutions is not an issue between ‘center’ and ‘periphery’. Within academic institutions in the U.S., there is a disparity of access to academic research. Anthropology students in many colleges do not have access to the publications of the American Anthropology Association.

“… to understand our academic enterprise better, we need to pay more attention to the geography of publishing and its politics; the view, if you like, of the world from the perspective of the circulation of our texts tells us much about the political economy of academia. We should be more aware of the implications of where we publish for the diversity of publication ventures; what we do can undermine that diversity, or, strengthen it.”

(Onta and Harper 2005)

Looking at Open Access journals, Dr. Forte (2008) points out that Open Access publishing in anthropology is “centered” in the periphery. He writes,

"Either way, open access publishing in anthropology is primarily not a North American phenomenon, and in the case of Anthropology listings that exclude Ethnology, it is primarily not a North American/European phenomenon. Indeed, the very Directory of Open Access Journals itself is not a North American innovation, but rather a Scandinavian one, and the host for it is Lund University Libraries. The innovations in the distribution, dissemination, and circulation of anthropology are coming in large part from the so-called periphery and semi-periphery of the world system, and outside of the disciplinary centre of gravity in terms of the accumulated mass of anthropologists and anthropology programs in the U.S. and western Europe. One can only speculate about what that will mean should the predominant mode of anthropological publishing in North America (commercial print, by subscription) collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and unsustainability. Suddenly the centre of anthropological publishing would shift to currently non-hegemonic entities. "

(Maximilian Forte 2008)

A 2009 study reveals that of 25 articles published in an issue of American Anthropologist, 19 authors came from the U.S., 3 from the U.K., 2 from Canada, and 1 from Australia. (Waltham 2009:9)

 

4.1 “Out in the Open”

New Participants, New Audiences, New Ways of Speaking

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