June 13, 2006

The AAA does not support open access

Category: Anthropology,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 1:00 pm

As soon as summer hits, my muse takes an extended vacation and I only write sparingly and occasionally (and somewhat painfully without the muse).

But as soon as I read and heard from a number of places, notably Savage Minds that the American Anthropological Association is lobbying against open access, I decided to work against my disinclination to write to say a few words. Rex at Savage Minds, as well as others have already covered thoroughly and thoughtfully, the basic issues as well as why it is incredibly problematic for the AAA not to endorse what is an otherwise powerful and positive Federal initiative that would require final mauscripts based on federally funded research to be accessible to the public after 6 months. So I wont be redundant here and will keep this short, but I would like to say that in an era in which government roll-backs (and in nearly every quarter of life) are simply commonplace and causing a fair deal of social problems, any initiative in which there is a push to make scholarship, *based on federal funds*, public and accessible, seems imperative to support, not squash. Many anthropologists, as probably many scholars, I imagine,like to think that some of their work has some public import and as such, we should do everything possible to make the work as accessible as possible, which will also give access to the communities and people we work with. They mention the supposed threat open access will have to peer review. First I don’t think that arguement stands up and more important, if peer review is simply a self-referential exercise, in which it can’t happen in a context of openness and accessiblity, what good is peer review??

Given the recent AnthrSource Initiative, as well as the general open/populist/ liberal/downright radical political inclinations among anthropologists, and the fact that the discipline in the last 25 years has been somewhat obsessed with the question of ethics, I was quite shocked at this move. But apparently (and thankfully) there were very few people at the AAAs behind the decision, which is somewhat comforting. What I hope now ensues is the formation and expression of a very strong response among the members of the AAA asking for a response from our elected board and an eventual rethinking of this stance.

1 Comment »

  1. Couldn’t agree more, and well-stated (“if [peer review] can’t happen in a context of openness and accessibility, what good is peer review?”). It’s hard to understand how the AAA’s board can take this position with a straight face — I guess they are sincerely confusing distribution (making articles available) with endorsement (stating that a given article has passed peer review). But even if they are confused in that way, the open access requirements are pretty mild, and don’t threaten the current peer-review model in any fundamental way.

    How disappointing. But bravo to you and other AAA members who oppose this. Let the board know you don’t agree!

    Comment by Karl Fogel — June 26, 2006 @ 11:30 am

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