American Anthropology Association Tries Out Open Access

October 07, 2008

The American Anthropological Association announced on Monday that it would make some content from its journals freely available through AnthroSource, its online research portal. The arrangement takes effect in 2009 and applies to articles published from 1888 to 1973 in two of the association’s journals, American Anthropologist and Anthropology News.

The association caused something of a flap in 2007, when it ditched its publishing partner, the University of California Press, and joined forces with the commercial publisher Wiley-Blackwell. Some of the group’s members worried that the move was a great leap backward. One of the group bloggers at the anthropology blog Savage Minds asked, “What good is the AAA to its members if its primary goal is survival, rather than the promotion and dissemination of our research?”

In the months since then, passions have cooled somewhat.

The Savage Minds crowd reacted favorably, if skeptically, to Monday’s announcement. “Breaking News! Stop the Presses!!! OMGWTF!!!!” was the blogger Christopher M. Kelty’s reaction. “So, this is great, really, despite my snarkiness. The AAA has realized that opening up 35-year-old scholarship is not a threat to their publishing revenue, and it may well improve public understanding of anthropology.”

But Mr. Kelty went on to argue that the move wasn’t really open access in the fullest sense. And one of his fellow bloggers pointed out that “there are still lots of important questions to be answered,” such as what kind of license the content will be available under. “We will all be watching the AAA closely to see that this resolution is implemented sanely,” he wrote. —Jennifer Howard