University of Kentucky
While still largely ignored by many anthropologists, open access (OA) has been a confusing and volatile center around which a wide range of contentious debates and vexing leadership dilemmas orbit. Despite widespread misunderstandings and honest differences of perspective on how and why to move forward, OA frameworks for scholarly communication are now part of the publishing ecology in which all active anthropologists work. Cultural Anthropology is unambiguously a leading journal in the field. The move to transition it toward a gold OA model represents a milestone for the iterative transformation of how cultural anthropologists, along with diverse fellow travelers, communicate more ethically and sustainably with global and diverse publics. On the occasion of this significant shift, we build on the history of OA debates, position statements, and experiments taking place during the past decade to do three things. Using an interview format, we will offer a primer on OA practices in general and in cultural anthropology in particular. In doing so, we aim to highlight some of the special considerations that have animated arguments for OA in cultural anthropology and in neighboring fields built around ethnographic methods and representations. We then argue briefly for a critical anthropology of scholarly communication (including scholarly publishing), one that brings the kinds of engaged analysis for which Cultural Anthropology is particularly well known to bear on this vital aspect of knowledge production, circulation, and valuation. Our field’s distinctive knowledge of social, cultural, political, and economic phenomena should also—but often has not—inform our choices as both global actors and publishing scholars.
Ryan Anderson: My first question is basic: What is open access all about, and how is it any different from standard academic publishing?
Jason Baird Jackson: When I am asked to recommend an explanation of what OA is about, I usually point colleagues to the basic introductory documents assembled by philosopher and OA strategist Peter Suber. His one-page “Very Brief Introduction to Open Access” is a great place to start. It begins, “Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Two things make this possible: the internet, and the consent of the author or copyright-holder” (Suber 2004a; see also Suber 2012). There is much more that scholarly authors, societies, publishers, and libraries need to know about OA, but this is a good start. The features that Suber notes in this sentence comprise the basic differences that you are searching for.
Open access evokes different things for different people and interest groups. We will touch on some of the range of concerns that these actors bring to the topic. A decade ago, when anthropologists first started exploring OA, it made sense to speak of OA as an alternative to standard academic publishing, but I do not think that this framing works any longer. While OA represents a significant set of transformations in what we might think of as the inherited scholarly publishing domain, OA is now at the heart of standard academic publishing. That does not mean that there is agreement about the issues, or about emergent practices, or even about the definition of basic terms. My “it’s-all-one-system-now” view just acknowledges such facts on the ground as the reality that all American Anthropological Association (AAA) journals are now OA in the sense that they offer provisions for legal and technically responsible “green OA” deposit and that we now have senior anthropologists publishing in “gold OA” journals such as HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory without fully realizing that such a nameable kind of publication exists as such. The move of a well-established, high-impact journal such as Cultural Anthropology into the gold OA category is a very clear illustration of the change that I am evoking (Budryk 2013; Weiss 2013, 2014).
While OA may still seem to be the concern of activists, the largest commercial publishers (Wiley among them) are fully, if sometimes begrudgingly, involved in OA through their having acceded to public, university, and funder demands for what is called “green OA” and via their enthusiasm for author-pays approaches to gold and “hybrid OA.” While people like me tend to talk about OA as a means toward a dramatic transformation of scholarly communication, one aimed at making it more useful in service of human needs—sustainable, accountable, ethical, public, etc.—commercial publishers increasingly describe OA as just another business model (Fister 2011). We are debating and rebuilding the same publishing system even if, at times, and in some senses, it seems like OA advocates are creating an alternative infrastructure for the discovery, circulation, evaluation, and reuse of scholarly research outputs.
I want to stress that convergence in practices is very different from convergence in goals. Cultural anthropologists advocating for OA strategies because they better address an ethical need to ensure that our scholarship is as accessible as possible to research subjects are very different from high-energy physicists motivated by a need to accelerate the research processes to speeds that older publishing strategies could not keep up with. Chemists eager to harness data-mining techniques are very different OA advocates from librarians who recognize that the current journals system cannot be sustained unmodified and without them becoming hopelessly unable to fill their public obligations in democratic societies. Student OA advocates concerned about the contribution of publishing costs to skyrocketing student debt in American universities are different in turn from academics in the developing world desperate to gain access to a larger slice of the scholarly literature. Patient-advocates seeking as much health information as they can about loved ones' medical conditions are different in turn from social workers, teachers, and other professionals unable to access the literatures in their fields of practice. As in the societies well known to ethnographers, communal practices can and do often vary less widely than the personal motivations and interpretations that actors bring to those shared engagements. Open access right now is very much like this. Open access practices can contribute to a range of goals, even when many of those aspirations are not recognized, or are even actively discounted, by one or another group of advocates.
It can be treated as a different topic, one that we need only acknowledge and not discuss, but I used the terribly clumsy phrase “research outputs” above as a way of highlighting the parallel transformations that we are experiencing in the system of scholarly genres. Running alongside the OA transformation, the canonical genres—journal article and scholarly book—are being remixed and destabilized in countless ways. For cultural anthropology, these generic changes are different from those that followed the field’s writing-culture debates—debates that, interestingly in the present context, were so formative in the establishment of Cultural Anthropology (Marcus 1986; Starn 2012). Earlier, we wondered what we could say in a book. Now we wonder what, in a digital environment, a book is. In your own corner of the new territory, I could ask: Is your Anthropologies project a journal, a scholarly website, a weblog? Do your authors know? Such genre questions arose most obviously in the digital humanities and they are increasingly present in many fields (see Fabian 2008). They point to what a time of experimentation we are in. Open access advocates in anthropology have been particularly attentive to this related-but-not-the-same issue of genre. That said, the core of the OA discussion has been about the journal article largely as we have known it, and few would deny its continued centrality as a key currency of the wider academic realm.
RA: These are really fascinating questions, and I’d like to explore them further. This whole subject of genres and different media or publication outcomes is crucial in my view. In some senses, I think that anthropology is trapped in a very old model—we all just look to produce books and articles in top-rated journals that are only read by a very limited, insular audience. As for your questions about what the Anthropologies project is—I wonder about this all the time, but am not sure what to tell people (see Smith 2011; Jackson 2011c). What I have noticed is that calling it a blog can potentially lead people to take it less seriously—as in, “Oh, it’s just a blog you’re working on, I see.” The irony, of course, is that the free blog platform has the same potential as the American Anthropologist does to display words, ideas, and images. The difference between them is really a matter of social convention: we are used to seeing a publication like the American Anthropologist as a legitimate source of academic knowledge. The same words show up in either medium, so the limits are actually self-imposed. If a leading anthropologist publishes a groundbreaking new article, does it truly matter whether it appears in an elite journal or on WordPress.com?
So, I have two sets of questions that come to mind with all of this. First, what’s the difference between green and gold OA? Does this difference really matter? Second, what’s the difference between the just-another-business-model view, on the one hand (i.e., the way that some publishers are looking at this), and the position of OA advocates in anthropology who are rethinking what you call scholarly research outputs? Are these positions fundamentally at odds with one another?
JBJ: Your first question, about green and gold OA, is a good place to start, because it represents the kind of basic factual information that all academic authors need to know. We can learn a lot from resources easily found online. Suber’s (2004b) slightly longer “Open Access Overview” is one great resource among several. Understanding green and gold paths to OA is one of several key distinctions necessary for making sense of the shifting academic publishing landscape. I have used the phrase terms of art when talking about such key concepts previously, and I fear that my anthropology colleagues have not realized that I was making a specific point in describing them in that way. The phrase terms of art refers to words or phrases that have, in a legal sense, a very precise meaning within a subject area. To not know them—or to have vague understandings of them—stops or derails conversation and effective action. We see such counterproductive slippage when our friends in anthropology use the phrase open source (a software development strategy) synonymously with open access (an approach to the circulation of scholarly research). When I am at my most frustrated, I think that an unwillingness to master the basic terms and concepts has contributed to the mess that conversations on anthropology publishing have tended to become. Then I calm down and try to go back to trying to learn more as a student of such things, and to teach better as an interested community member.
Suber (2004b) notes that there are two main vehicles for “delivering OA to research articles, OA journals (‘gold OA’) and OA repositories (‘green OA’).” The journal that I presently edit—Museum Anthropology Review (MAR)—is a gold OA journal. Every item published in the journal is openly available online at no cost. There are many issues in the mix, but for now it is enough to note that in a gold OA journal, the content is born digital and, more relevantly, born open. When people speak of an OA journal, journals like MAR, First Monday, and now happily, Cultural Anthropology, are what people have in mind. Like their “toll access” counterparts, OA journals usually engage in peer review (for articles), have editors and editorial boards, regular publication schedules, and all the rest of the inhered apparatus of scholarly journal publishing. They have different business models (of which there are several) than toll-access journals because they do not rely on restricting access and collecting subscriptions, pay-per-view fees, and other tolls. Contrary to a common misunderstanding, being a gold OA journal is not synonymous with being an author-pays journal.
The universe of green OA centers on a kind of database known as a repository. Repositories are usually organized around a discipline (arXiv [physics] and PubMed Central [medicine] are examples) or a research institution (DASH [Harvard University] and TopSCHOLAR [Western Kentucky University] are examples). Repositories could be created by funders or other interested parties, but for technical reasons that I will set aside, institutional repositories are the most prominent and promising type.
When university faculties impose open access mandates on themselves (as Harvard’s faculty and hundreds of others have already done), or when a funder makes OA deposit a condition of acceptance for a grant, these actors are not insisting that a scholar-author must publish in a gold OA journal such as Cultural Anthropology, HAU, or Museum Anthropology Review. They are insisting that the scholar-authors make their work freely available online via a repository. What does that mean, literally? It means that some version of the scholar’s journal article is uploaded (as a file with associated metadata) and permanently archived in a central digital database (repository). Such repositories make the work discoverable and accessible to interested readers. The metadata associated with such works can be harvested by broad search tools like Google Scholar and narrower projects such as Open Folklore (the OA promotion and portal project for folklore and ethnology that I work on). Such search tools lead users to the actual work where it lives and is accessible in its home repository.
What does the archived or deposited work look like? Here we go again with some unavoidable terms of art, but first I need to make clear that green OA articulates with the toll-access journal landscape. When we say that subscription-based journals such as Comparative Studies in Society and History, Ethnohistory, or Economic Botany support OA, we mean that they have policies that allow their authors to make their work openly available. However, this is on an individual basis, and it takes place outside the main publication channel provided by the journals themselves. The normative (and best) way to do this is via repository deposit. Here come the key terms. The phrase green OA means that some version of the article can be made available in OA form via a repository (or some other means, such as a personal website). To make sense of what is and is not allowed under the terms of individual journals' author agreements, one needs to know the difference between a pre-print and a post-print and a publisher’s version. My favorite source for explicating these differences is the informational page accompanying the RoMEO database (SHERPA/RoMEO 2014).
RoMEO is a resource for learning about the copyright and OA policies of different journals. In a nutshell, a pre-print is the version of an article as it exists in manuscript form prior to its being peer-reviewed and accepted by a journal. A post-print is an article manuscript as it has been modified by its author(s) on the basis of peer review. The post-print version is typically the final version that an author submits to an editor in anticipation that the work will then enter the journal’s production processes, which will include such steps as copyediting and typesetting. If you look at a pre-print or a post-print, it has the hallmarks of (and usually is) an author-produced document. These versions look and feel different from the publisher’s version, which is the final document that is actually published. To look at publishers' final documents, such versions have been typeset or formatted according to journal standards. In a digital context, such versions have often been marked up with technical coding that allows for various enhancements. Underneath, they may also carry digital rights management (DRM) technologies that prevent, or seek to hinder, unauthorized uses (piracy). If you download an article in PDF form from JSTOR, Project Muse, or Wiley Online Library, you are looking at a publisher’s version.
A journal is “green” if an author is allowed to freely circulate at least their accepted post-print. Some journals also allow authors to freely circulate and deposit the publisher’s version, but this is uncommon. Most publishers see all of the work that they put into turning a post-print into a published article as their investment, and they are not inclined to give it away. In contrast, some publishers (again, the minority) ask authors to deposit the publisher’s version because they see it as the version that will best reflect on the quality work done by the press in question. It is my understanding that this view is behind the OA policies of the University of California Press Journals program (University of California Press 2014). The important thing to note here is that two toll-access journals can both be green but can allow or not allow different things vis-à-vis repository deposit by authors. I have touched on it elsewhere, but I want to stress again that many nice people in anthropology are breaking the law (i.e., are contractually out of compliance with their signed author agreements) because they have made publisher’s versions of their articles available online via personal websites, departmental websites, and commercial services (such as academia.edu) when they are not allowed to do so (Golub 2013; Jackson 2011b, 2013b).
What is the difference, then, between green and gold? We can answer that question from the perspective of different actors. For an interested would-be reader with Internet access but without access to the information resources paid for by a major research library, both paths are great. Everything in a gold OA journal is readily discoverable and available in neat and tidy form. If an author publishing in a toll-access journal has made her work accessible via the green OA path, then that work too is available to our interested reader. In post-print form, it may not look as tidy as the published version, but the ideas are there and usable, which is worth a lot. If our author is employed by a university that has imposed an assertive OA policy, then increasingly vast amounts of valuable information are being made available. Because so few academic authors know about these processes, our reader is much less likely to be able to gain access to writings by authors affiliated with non-mandate institutions. Still, one need not (as an author) be subject to such a policy in order to participate in OA publishing along either path.
For an author, the differences between green and gold are likely to seem very significant. If a junior author has been told, in unambiguous terms, that she needs to publish in journals X, Y, and Z in order to be favorably evaluated for tenure and promotion (and I am simplifying and exaggerating for rhetorical purposes), then she is likely to aim for those journals regardless of whether they are gold, green (or even yellow [pre-print only] or white [no OA allowed]). Much here depends on the journal landscape within a field.
If well-established journals in a field give up their subscription-based business model and convert to gold OA (as Cultural Anthropology has now done), then the status of those journals is usually not diminished by this move. After 157 years, the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society are no more or less prestigious because the APS allows the whole world to now read its content for free. Still, many gold OA journals are start-ups, and authors may have anxieties about journal stature. Here, the passage of time is sorting out the quality questions. All the old evaluation criteria like acceptance rates, editorial boards, and “Is this content any good?” still apply. Despite the rise of bibliometrics, different fields still have different attitudes about journal prestige. Cultural anthropology, and folklore studies even more, have historically been very flat relative to other fields in which there is a clear pecking order. Few of us would want to defend an argument that the Journal of Anthropological Research is somehow categorically better or worse than Anthropological Quarterly. They have their own communities, traditions, and histories, but they belong to a broad peer group that would include numerous other titles. Cultural anthropology’s relative indifference—or resistance—to impact-factor rankings stems from such perceptions.1
Be that as it may, for authors, where you publish usually matters a lot, and for a variety of reasons. If a stressed-out, tenure-track anthropologist is working under the shadow of journal-hierarchy talk, she is going to choose accordingly (Friedman 2012). If she is committed to OA for ethical reasons (like social justice) and/or for selfish reasons (like self-promotion), she may need to publish (for the present) in toll-access journals. She can usually choose those with green OA policies and then utilize a repository at her home institution to make available post-prints of her work. In the absence of a repository at her home institution, she can hopefully turn to one at an institution at which she can muster some kind of secondary affiliation. Alternatively, she may be able to find a subject repository suitable to, and willing to take, her work. (For anthropologists in this situation, Social Science Research Network’s Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network [supported by the AAA] would be a logical choice.) In a worst-case scenario, she can make her post-prints available on a personal website (up until the time when she can gain access to a repository).2
For publishers and libraries, the green–gold distinction is huge. If, and how, a publisher engages with open access is fundamental to that publisher’s business model. There are a growing number of different ways that publishers, both for-profit and not-for-profit (including scholarly societies) are making it work. Publishing costs money, hence every kind of publisher has to have some workable business model. I will just note that under present conditions, green OA (as we have it now) is seen as compatible with the preservation of the older subscription-based toll-access journal system. Even with more and more OA mandates, we are not presently at a stage in which green OA has made scholarship sufficiently accessible (i.e., free to end users) in ways that directly result in subscription cancellations by elite university libraries. The latter possibility is why toll-access publishers are generally so opposed to OA mandates. Letting the occasional author post a stray article here or there has not been a game changer. If everyone everywhere started doing it, the story would probably be different. I cannot do justice to what we might call the deeper structural issues that are visible from the vantage point of the two great parties whose relationship can now be fairly characterized as antagonistic—libraries and publishers. My Indiana University colleague David Lewis (dean of libraries at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis) has authored a very interesting analysis of OA journal dynamics in light of these structural issues. I recommend his paper (and an update on it) for an account of these issues and some predictions on where things are headed (Lewis 2012, 2013).
One last set of points about green and gold. While it is not perfect, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is the main resource for discovering gold OA journals across disciplines. To learn about, and compare, the OA policies of various toll-access journals, the place to look is the SHERPA/RoMEO database. (Among other things, SHERPA/RoMEO tells you whether a journal is green or not.) To find out what universities, departments, research institutes, etc., have adopted OA mandates, consult the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP) database. To find the OA repositories that exist in the world, the place to look is the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).
RA: So what are the major stumbling blocks holding up a transition to OA in your view? What’s keeping most people from making this jump? Lastly, what do you think about the system employed by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), where authors can post working papers? The SSRN seems especially relevant now that it is partnering with the AAA.
JBJ: At the author level, one key stumbling block is a pervasive lack of basic knowledge about these issues among scholars and policy makers within our field (and in most fields). I am sympathetic to everyone’s plight. It is all very complicated and uncertain; doing what we have always done has proven the easiest path. Most of us do not understand copyright or the Creative Commons system. Most of us do not understand journal business models or how it is that librarians have made so much (expensive) information so easily available to those of us with the luxury of university affiliations. In the face of much confusion and anxiety, just following the disciplinary habitus and sending our manuscripts to the editors and journals that we know in the way that we have always done has seemed sensible and prudent.
Related is the situation in which we perceive that we understand the changing landscape better than we do. A clear instance is when we post the final published versions of our writings online because we wrongly believe ourselves to have the right to do so. The increasing prevalence of such accidental piracy fosters the misunderstanding that such practices are the right way to do open access. Such piracy is counterproductive on many levels, and is unnecessary given that there are legal and technically better ways to pursue OA (Golub 2013; Jackson 2011b, 2013b).
Such author-centered issues are the major stumbling block for green OA. The fact that many scholars do not have direct access to a home institutional repository is another factor. I have tried to suggest that there are work-arounds to this problem. As you note, the Social Science Research Network represents a solution that anthropologists need to learn more about now that the SSRN has partnered with the AAA in establishing the Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network—a subject repository for our field. I commend the AAA for supporting this project. My only concerns center on permanence. I have not studied SSRN closely, but note that it is a for-profit business with all of the change over time that such a status entails. It is not as if libraries do not change, but librarians are striving to develop the most reliable preservation frameworks that they can, and they have a history of success as long-term stewards of the scholarly record. Hopefully SSRN will develop plans for and gain trusted repository certification or some similar measure of permanence. For the time being, anthropologists should use SSRN for all of the good that it can do them, but I think they should do so without presuming that it is built for the ages (AAA 2013; CCSDS 2011; CRL 2014; CLR and OCLC 2007; Golub and commentators 2011; Gordon 2012; Gordon and Schmidt 2012).
The biggest factor driving green OA are funder and especially institutional OA policies (touched on above). Those who are most eager to promote open access in anthropology can work locally to establish mandates in their home institutions (Harvard Open Access Project 2013; Kelty 2013).3 When a faculty such as at the University of Kansas, in a college such as Oberlin, across an entire research university system such as California, or when a research institute, applied anthropology agency, or museum establish a green OA policy, this has the almost immediate effect of educating the entire research community at such an institution about the issues that we have been talking about. This goes beyond the obvious direct benefit of bringing a large portion of that institution’s future research output into the OA domain. Such policies can be established at the school or department level in instances where an institution-wide policy cannot yet be achieved.
As the leaders of the Society for Cultural Anthropology know increasingly well, on the gold OA front, the problems center on the business-model question. Publishing costs money. In a reoriented scholarly publishing system emphasizing open access, where will that money come from? Alongside some misleading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) campaigning on the part of commercial publishers and their allies, there is a lot of hard work going into finding ways to address the business-model issues. The money issues are real, and I do not know of any serious advocate for change in scholarly publishing who does not acknowledge the need to address them. There is much work to do in many domains, but no scholarly field needs to reinvent the wheel alone. There are many allies to be found and many solutions are already well under way. We now have actual gold journals—some quite prominent—about which we can ask questions like: How are you making this work? Who is paying your bills? What are your submission and acceptance rates? How much labor or money goes into formatting your articles? What is your preservation plan? Your succession plan? Your intellectual-property strategy?
As Chris Kelty stressed early on, and most prominently, and as the AAA leadership also increasingly seems to understand, the changing publishing system is forcing scholarly societies to reconsider their roles in intellectual and public life, as well as the ways in which they support themselves financially—beyond their work as publishers or copublishers (Asher 2013; Kelty et al. 2008; Nichols and Schmid 2012). Scholarly society leaders really have no other choice but to do the hard work of thinking about the future in a world in which much is going to be different. This is not solely about publishing, but because so much of the life of scholarly societies has been wrapped up in publishing—as an activity of substantive importance and as a source, for some societies, of basic operating revenue—the future of scholarly publishing is deeply entwined with the future of scholarly societies. This relates to OA but is not limited to OA. For instance, separate from open access considerations, the AAA sections are seeing shifts in membership that are surely due in part to the restructuring of the AAA’s publishing program in the digital era. What benefits, beyond access to a journal, will a scholarly society provide? Are these rich enough to motivate individuals to join and remain members? How do they interact with growing economic precarity among scholars? These are the leading-edge questions for scholarly societies now, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. I teach at a major research university where folklorists and anthropologists effectively no longer have any access to funding to support professional travel. Fewer and fewer have access to resources with which to attend professional meetings. How much longer can physical meetings and print journals be the center of gravity for any scholarly society? I do not want to suggest that society leaders are unaware of these dynamics. As a former board member and current Publications Committee chair of the American Folklore Society and as a person who follows the AAA and several other societies closely, I know that they are. I am just echoing Kelty in observing that it is not possible for society publishers or copublishers to tackle publishing in isolation from other dramatic transformations of the present moment. Even with AAA annual meeting attendance currently on the rise, the increasingly toxic environment of North American higher education should be motivating hard conversations in all of the societies that we care about.
Partnerships with for-profit publishers such as Sage and Wiley, as well as with not-for-profit organizations like JSTOR and Project Muse, have made journals an important revenue stream for those who publish or copublish them. This is the sticky wicket. While I believe strongly that a group of dedicated individuals (such as, say, the Society for Cultural Anthropology) working with the backing of a publishing society or organization (such as the AAA) along with library partners (such as Duke University Libraries) could sustainably move a major-legacy journal (such as Cultural Anthropology) out of the toll-access column and into the gold open-access one, my present efforts and advocacy have mainly focused first on the easier-to-solve problems and on experiments designed as proof-of-concept efforts (Jackson 2011d). For instance, at nearly no cost, the Open Folklore project has made the section journals published by the American Folklore Society (along with other journals in the field) openly available through a number of means, including through the HathiTrust Digital Library (Fortun 2011; Jackson 2012a). Those journals had not yet been turned into revenue-generating machines, thus it was much easier to make them more open without any financial consequences. Other societies have similar scholarly content that could be made open without any organizational consequences (Golub 2014; Jackson 2011d). The state-level anthropology society journals are finding their way into open-access collections in this way. An example is the rich and important journal Florida Anthropologist published by the Florida Anthropological Society and now made available via the University of Florida Libraries.
In the proof-of-concept space, Museum Anthropology Review is very much a thriving experiment designed to learn how gold open-access journals in anthropology and neighboring fields can work. I have learned a lot from MAR and, with what time I can spare, I am trying to use that experience to help other journals that are trying to make gold OA work in a sustainable and responsible way. Such project-by-project work can bring together pragmatists and ideologues of various stripes in the common work of increasing the amount of the scholarly literature that is openly accessible. We do not need to solve the most difficult problems first (Jackson 2011d; Lende 2012).
Let me return briefly to your special interest in the prospects for using the Social Science Research Network. I am not an SSRN advocate or critic. But I can observe that even before the launch of the AAA-sponsored SSRN network, anthropologists were already making use of it. Because of its status in law scholarship, legal anthropologists like Annelise Riles were already there, making available their work in post-print form. Thus SSRN is not a potential stepping-stone to OA; it is one extant, working means of doing OA now. I am uneasy with the SSRN business model and technical infrastructure, but it is the main way that green OA is getting done in some institutions and disciplines. It is a prominent part of the green OA ecology that we talked about earlier.
RA: Can we return now to the second part of my earlier question about the difference between the just-another-business-model view, on the one hand (i.e., the way that some publishers are looking at this), and the position of open-access advocates in anthropology who are rethinking what you call scholarly research outputs? Are these positions fundamentally at odds with one another?
JBJ: Many commercial publishers are now engaged in what are called hybrid open-access projects. These are based on providing authors with the option of purchasing full gold-like open access to their articles on behalf of their readers. There are also numerous journals in other fields that are fully gold open access that are built around the collection of author’s fees. Some of these author fee–based journals are non-commercial journals that use fee revenue just to cover expenses, while others are for-profit publishers. In the latter case, author-fee revenue contributes, beyond expenses, to the overall profitability of the firm. In both the hybrid and commercial gold OA cases, authors are paying additional sums (separate from the older practices of paying page charges that began in the pre-digital era) for the purpose of making their work openly available in final form while also publishing in the particular journals in question.
This is all rather foreign to most anthropologists. Page charges were (and remain) rare in anthropology (Economic Botany is the only journal for which I was ever assessed page charges), and the costs associated with hybrid and author-pays gold open-access publishing are beyond the capacity of almost all anthropologists to pay. This system is predicated on a large grant, big lab system of scientific production that is rare in anthropology and impossible in the humanities. Recognizing this, some major universities have developed funds to subsidize such costs, but this is also not a complete solution for anthropology. Anthropology, and folklore studies even more, are fields to which many different people working in many different settings can and do contribute regardless of ability to pay.
So for commercial publishers, author-pays forms of OA are increasingly seen as another viable/profitable business model, but for most anthropologists and folklorists, it is a business model that does not seem to make sense for their fields, even if in other fields it has produced remarkable and largely positive effects.
Not all OA advocates in anthropology think alike about which changes are inevitable and/or desired in scholarly communication. They possess a diversity of motivations and experiences and they sometimes advocate different goals. Some are more reform minded and some are more revolutionary. Some are animated by technical, intellectual, or organizational interests, while others are driven by questions of fairness, research ethics, or social justice. My own engagements touch on a mix of concerns and experiences, but my greatest partners and teachers have been librarians working on scholarly communications issues and projects. As an ethnographer working in historically disadvantaged communities, I am very sensitive to the ethics of OA, but I am also very much aligned with librarians and the work they do for scholars and in the public interest. My open-access work aims to reduce (rather than increase) the ways in which large (and ever more consolidated) multinational corporations control the dissemination of our work (Golub and commentators 2011; Jackson 2011a, 2012a, 2012b, 2013a; Kelty 2012; Striphas 2010).4
Somewhat separate from OA, I want to strengthen those university press publishers who have long supported our fields, and I am especially eager to champion those university presses who are experimenting with open access themselves. This has been a particular focus for me for the past two years as a participant in the restructuring of the Indiana University Press and its closer alignment with the publishing work of the IU Libraries.
I have long cared about the serials crisis, and now that the world is thinking more critically about student debt, I want us all to realize the direct relationship between the scholarly communications system, and the scholarly society system, and the neoliberalization of the American research university (Anderson 2013; Jackson 2012b). Skyrocketing tuition is a consequence of public disinvestment in public universities like mine and yours. Leasing (we no longer purchase) toll-access scholarship at ever higher costs from exceedingly profitable commercial firms (and their society partners) is not helping close the inequality gap in higher education. It is hardly the only factor involved (e.g., think health care costs), but it is one of the few factors in which faculty and graduate students have a direct role to play—as authors, as disciplinary policy shapers, as peer-reviewers, as editors, etc. As contributors to the scholarly publishing system, we have choices available to us. We can make our work open in a number of ways, and we can support and encourage those whose values and commitments align with our own. As I noted in my remarks to the 2010 AcademiX conference on open access, the main problems that we face now are not technical; they’re human-factor problems of the sort that we have been discussing (Jackson 2010). As I have sought to explain in my AAA presentation on the Open Folklore project, librarians remain among our greatest partners and allies in this work (Jackson 2012a).5
RA: I think this last point you make about the direct role that faculty and graduate students play in all this is really important. We all have choices, and ultimately the publishing and communication system is what we make of it. So, as a final practical question for you, what advice do you have for people who are interested in these issues but unsure where to start looking for others who share similar concerns, values, and commitments?
JBJ: The open-access community is by its very nature open. In North American and European contexts, finding individuals eager to help students and established scholars negotiate these questions is pretty easy. If one is at a university with a research-oriented library, there will be one or more librarians specializing in these issues. Such librarians often lead workshops on such topics as author’s rights, copyright issues for scholars, and open access. Librarians have a strong service ethic and are usually very eager to help scholars get their bearings on these topics. They are so eager to find faculty allies on these questions. If you give them a moment, they will also passionately explain why OA matters so much to the future of the library and its public service mission.
While research libraries at larger universities are often a center of gravity for information and resources on these topics, librarians at teaching colleges are often just as energized and knowledgeable about these matters because, given their scale and budgets, OA is even more important to them as they seek to serve their campuses. The librarian Barbara Fister at Gustavus Adolphus College is a great example. She writes wonderful columns on these topics for Inside Higher Education and Library Journal. She is the kind of thinker, activist, and explainer who is very accessible online. I have already mentioned Peter Suber and the explanatory resources that he has assembled with the help of the larger community. He and MIT Press have made his book Open Access available in OA formats as well as in a classic print volume (Suber 2012).
There are organizations working on the creation of educational resources and tools that scholars should know about. In addition to the organizations and databases that I have already mentioned, I would want anthropologists and folklorists to know about the Creative Commons and its work in this area. The Creative Commons website is a place to begin. There one can find great explanatory videos and other resources. Of special relevance within the Creative Commons organization are its science efforts, including the Science Commons project and the Scholar’s Copyright Project.
Also relating specifically to open access, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) is a great organization with great resources. Open Access Week, held each fall, is a major opportunity for educational projects and efforts worldwide. SPARC tools are particularly useful for authors navigating access questions (SPARC 2014a, 2014b).
The work of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University is also vital to the development of this sector. The center works at the point where scholarly communications issues meet the digital humanities and open-source software development. They make invaluable software tools like Zotero and Omeka and have organized innovative projects such as the OA book Hacking the Academy (Cohen and Scheinfeldt 2013).
It is good for scholars to better understand the actual links connecting open-access scholarship and open-source software. Available itself in an OA edition, Kelty’s book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (2008) addresses this link anthropologically. Open-source software platforms such as Open Journal Systems and DSpace are crucial for open access. In some ways, technical protocols that allow open-access projects to talk with one another and share information are even more important. The most crucial of these right now is the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Just as I wish more of us were working to understand who pays the bills for the current scholarly communications system, I also wish more of us appreciated the ways that technical systems and choices were alternatively closing down or opening up opportunities for the circulation and preservation of our scholarship.
Talking about software development and metadata protocols is probably the most boring part of our conversation. If our colleagues would like to be introduced to this world in a more fun way, there are many very accessible videos that have been produced to address the issues we have been discussing. Among my favorites are a great series of five one-minute videos produced in German and English by OA advocates in Germany and a really hilarious critique of commercial scholarly publishing by Alex O. Holcombe called “Scientist Meets Publisher” (Open-Access.net 2011; Holcombe 2011). PhD Comics (2012) has produced an accessible and fun open-access overview video.
In our corner of scholarship, there is a vibrant community of anthropologists and folklorists working toward the goals of open access. There are new journals and projects coming online all the time. The circle of scholars joining the conversation is expanding and thus we have more and more colleagues to turn to for help and more opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the effort as individuals. Given the relationship between much of our scholarship and the (often disadvantaged) communities within which we work, our fields have an extraordinarily good set of reasons for making OA work. If the physicists can find a way to do it, certainly we can as well. The move of Cultural Anthropology from toll to open access will hopefully be a key inflection point in a history that is ultimately positive. There are no guarantees, of course, and the vital signs for higher education and in scholarship—particularly in the humanities and social sciences—are very troubling.
RA: Worrying as it is, that point prompts us to give some final attention to the larger anthropological and human contexts of open access. What should a robust anthropology of open access attend to?
JBJ: I think that some other OA-focused contributors to Cultural Anthropology on the occasion of its shift to gold OA are likely to take up that daunting question. Our task has been the nuts and bolts of OA, but as you imply, we would not be anthropologists if we did not try to consider the theoretical and contextual stakes. Despite your obligations as a doctoral student, you have helped limn them in Anthropologies and at Savage Minds (Hart and Anderson 2012; Anderson 2012a, 2012b). Among other global themes, OA articulates with neoliberalism and contemporary global conditions in complex ways that are hard to sort out but that demand the best anthropological analysis we can muster.
In advocating for open access, I have been accused of contributing to the devaluation of scholarship and of willfully working in such a way as to accelerate the demise of valued institutions (such as beloved journals) and practices (such as peer review). Given my human commitments and my individual practices, this sort of criticism is irritating, but OA and its contexts have changed over the past two decades. Being an advocate for OA has become both easier and harder. I have sympathy for, and share, the anxieties of many colleagues and other supporters of the scholarly tradition.
The ways that the publishing industry, for instance, has shifted in response to OA are telling and relevant. It is easier to see, perhaps, if we use open education as the parallel illustration. Many early open-education initiatives began out of the same gift-economy impulse that deeply motivated early OA advocates. The impulse was (and, for some, remains) something like, “We have useful knowledge to share and access to technology with which to share it beyond our campus or museum walls—why wouldn’t we want to do that?” A diversity of experimental and modestly scaled projects (and they still exist, of course) have been pursued under the banner of open education, but—as happens in these times—things have quickly changed. Over the objections of many open-education advocates, so-called massively open online courses (MOOCs) became the signature open-education project. As the forces of the reputation economy (particularly among elite English-speaking universities) came to the fore, solutionism (Dow Chemical Company 2014; Morozov 2013; Schüll 2013) and market disruption became the dominant discourses, and everyone involved was suddenly taken to be a potential entrepreneur—instead of sharing scholarship and learning opportunities beyond campus contexts, the focus became a radical reboot of formal higher education along neoliberal and politically conservative lines. As a result, many working academics think of MOOCs with much dread and deep skepticism. Suspicion of all open-education projects sometimes logically follows and is not unwarranted in the context of what you called “The Neoliberalized, Debt-Plagued, Low Wage, Corporatized University” (Anderson 2013).
Open access increasingly suffers the same fate of being misunderstood, co-opted, rebranded, and transformed. We see signs of this in the damaging conflation of OA practices (of which there remain many) with author-pays gold and hybrid OA. An open access system built on author fees is the last thing that I want for anthropology or for folklore studies, but the large commercial publishers, of course, want to do OA in a way that keeps them at the profitable center of a still lucrative industry. Following them across multiple scenes of engagement—lobbying, technology development, scholarly-society relations, dealings with librarians, author rights, etc.—provides key information on the world in which anthropologists live and work, but even if we cannot spare the attention to study them, we can watch our colleagues react to the larger changing scene. Ambivalence about OA used to take the form, “We want to, but cannot find a way to do this.” Increasingly it takes a new form: “Open access sounds good at first, but like everything, it will have unintended consequences that will leave all but the most elite actors further impoverished.” While it is possible to use practical projects in the present as a response to the older concern (“If Hau can do it, surely Cultural Anthropology can too …”), it is very hard to marshal evidence-based arguments in the present to offer assurances about the future. Put another way, it is easier now to talk about OA on practical grounds (as we have above), but it is harder to talk to a colleague about the larger implications in social, theoretical, political economic, or ethical terms. No one can guarantee that someone else’s worst-case scenario will not transpire. Open access backlash can be seen everywhere now—anger over the rise of predatory journals, deep suspicion of megajournals, arguments about the unfairness of OA mandates covering dissertations and articles, and anger that altmetrics will aid the advance of audit culture even more than the journal-impact factor has.
Closer to the present and to the ground, the move of Cultural Anthropology toward open access might not just fail, it might trigger worse things. AnthroSource was very well intentioned, but the unfolding of human events and harsh economic forces, in its case, nearly crippled the AAA and precipitated the association’s partial enclosure in the Wiley ecosystem. As anthropologists know well, things do happen. My own argument is that we are better prepared to face and understand our challenges if we seriously engage with what is happening to us.
I do not mean to be disrespectful to our many talented anthropology colleagues who have thought about and written about scholarly publishing and experimented with, lobbied for, and confidently implemented successful and unsuccessful open-access projects. I hope that I am in that group. There is another group, though, and it is surprisingly small. I have in mind anthropologists (and cultural and linguistic anthropologists seem most relevant here) who have made these matters objects of full-time, full-attention research. There is great anthropology work on the edge of this space (on social media, for instance, or global finance), but Kelty (2008) remains really unique as a researcher of, not just knowledgeable practitioner-discussant of, open access. We cannot do justice to the bigger issues until this changes. (I know that the distinction that I am drawing is too sharp. It is hopefully heuristic.)
To address your question directly in this context, I argue that we need a critical anthropology of scholarly communication, one that brings the kinds of engaged analysis for which Cultural Anthropology is particularly well known to bear on this vital aspect of knowledge production, circulation, and valuation. Critical, anthropological studies of scholarly communication would offer a new, productive, and professionally essential vantage point on such wider interests and concerns as neoliberalism, infrastructure, risk, economic precarity, income inequality, regulatory capture, audit and assessment, media consolidation, gift economies, the casualization of labor, intellectual property, digital culture, common pool resources, globalization, mediascapes, corporate enclosure, appropriation, disciplinarily and interdisciplinarity, public culture, and social justice. Our field’s knowledge of these issues should also—but largely has not—inform our choices as both global actors and publishing scholars. While we have paid a needless disciplinary price for keeping our research on these themes largely separate from our practical work as publishing scholars, we now have new opportunities. Just as Cultural Anthropology has played (and will continue to play) a significant role in refiguring key themes and debates in English-speaking cultural anthropology, I have hope that it will play a powerful role in bridging anthropological research on the global situation and the practical, but theoretically informed, choices that anthropologists and other scholars have to make individually and collectively. Our field is capable of powerful insights into the human condition. I wish that we could have channeled more of that power into our publishing debates of the past decade. Thankfully, through the efforts of many—you among them—we have a chance to work smarter and achieve more in Cultural Anthropology’s new era. (In thanking RA here, I am highlighting the fact that he solicited, edited, and published in Anthropologies, Kim and Mike Fortun’s  influential blueprint for the gold OA transformation of Cultural Anthropology. This is the basic plan that the Society for Cultural Anthropology has pursued).
RA: A critical anthropology of communication for me means that we take a closer look not only at what we’re doing but also at what we’re producing as scholars. I mean this in more than one sense. I’m referring to production in terms of our communicative output via various forms of media, and the kinds of scholars we produce, year after year. Both of these aspects are the result of a long, entrenched socialization process—students of anthropology have to learn the “proper” ways to be an anthropologist—in communication, writing, and scholarly output. If we’re going to undertake this critical anthropology of scholarly communication, we should start on our own doorstep. Anthropology talks a big game when it comes to public engagement, speaking for and with wide audiences, having a broad empathy for humanity, and so on. But where does all of our information really go? Where does it end up? Who is it produced for? By and large, it’s all for us (Anderson 2012c).
Look at all scholarly communication in anthropology in the larger sense. What do we produce? From the undergraduate level on, we seem to create an endless series of documents, presentations, papers, and proposals that rarely do much more than serve our own internal social worlds and political economies. Undergraduate students learn to write papers so they get good grades and build favor with professors, who in turn are expected to write letters of recommendation for graduate school. Prospective graduate students take GRE tests and write personal essays in order to gain acceptance into another level in the machine. Once in graduate school, the socialization continues in the form of proposal writing, essays for seminars, preparation for qualifying exams, and so on. They write a dissertation and defend it to satisfy the requirements necessary to move out of student/apprentice status. Upon graduation (and often much before these days), new PhDs are expected to publish or literally perish in the academic ecosystem. Young scholars need to publish articles and books to maintain their (tenuous) positions in the academy. Throughout this whole process, a mass of media gets produced—but where does it all go? We send students around the world to experience an unbelievable range of human experiences, and the end point of all this is a book, journal article, or fifteen-minute conference presentation that a ridiculously small number of people will be able to access.
I agree with you about the power and potential of anthropology. You raise a vital point when you question why we haven’t channeled that power into conversations about how and why we publish. These are not trivial issues, and we need to look deeply in the mirror to understand why we ended up where we are today. We write for ourselves. We talk to ourselves, closed off as we are in our little silos (Taylor 2013).
We promote the discipline of anthropology as an endeavor that addresses a tremendous range of human concerns, problems, and issues. I have no doubt that anthropology can in fact do all of these things—but it’s not going to happen if we allow the current status quo to continue. If we want the stories we tell about ourselves to truly carry meaning, then we have to start thinking more critically about the choices we make—to put it in your terms—as global actors and publishing scholars. In this light, OA isn’t just some fad or trend or superficial issue. It gets to the heart of what we’re doing—and why we’re doing it in the first place. A critical anthropology of scholarly communication, in my view, should be geared toward assessing these kinds of questions, and then finding ways to bring about the changes that we deem necessary based on our own disciplinary morals, principles, and ideals. As it stands now, our scholarly output doesn’t even come close to achieving the potential that anthropology holds for humanity in the twenty-first century. This is a sad statement. But things do not have to be this way. Change begins when our scholarly efforts begin to reach the kinds of diverse audiences that anthropology is meant to address. Above all else, this is why we must literally open anthropology to the world that lies outside our self-imposed pay walls.
Thank you, Jason, for this wonderful conversation.
JBJ: Thank you for opening and extending the dialogue.
Acknowledgments An earlier version of this interview, now substantively altered and extended, was published in three parts on Savage Minds. As in the case of a key and related article published earlier (Kelty et al. 2008), an actual dialogue conducted electronically provided the raw material for collaborative reworking. The final results, while obviously still weighted toward Anderson as the questioner and Jackson as the responder, should be understood as a collaborative coconstruction. Anderson’s labor and intellectual investment in the project has been significant throughout. The authors wish to specifically thank Cultural Anthropology’s editors Charles Piot and Anne Allison, the anonymous peer reviewers who carefully assessed our manuscript, and all those colleagues and friends who have helped us better understand open-access practices and principles. The authors assume responsibility for any infelicities.
1. The growth of research assessments and a broader academic audit culture looms over this discussion, as does the changing nature of the academic prestige economy (Shore and Wright 1999; Bakkila and Kendzior 2013). Such issues impact OA but are not taken up here.
2. If a journal’s author agreement does not automatically allow for green OA repository deposit, she or he can still negotiate for such rights individually using free and easy-to-use legal tool like the Scholars Copyright Addendum Engine from Science Commons.
3. Establishing a campus green OA policy is not in itself sufficient. These policies are all still new on the campuses that have adopted them and the whole framework requires further refinement to achieve the OA goals motivating their establishment. The problem becomes visible, for example, in high non-compliance rates, indicating that individual faculty members often do not, as expected under their campus policies, deposit articles in local repositories. Solving the social, educational, technical, and practical issues underpinning this problem is a pressing need.
4. Many open-access advocates are not at all focused on such macroeconomic concerns.
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