Anthropology & Open Access: An Interview with Jason Baird Jackson (Part 3 of 3)

This is the last segment of this three part interview with Jason Baird Jackson about anthropology and open access. See Part 1 here, and Part 2, here.

Ryan Anderson: 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 last 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?

Jason Baird Jackson: The open access community is by its very nature, open. In North American and European contexts, finding folks 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, open access is even more important to them as they seek to serve their campuses. 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’s 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.

There are organizations working on the creation of educational resources and tools that scholars should know about. In addition to organizations and databases that I have already mentioned, I would want colleagues 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 OA, 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.

The work of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is also vital to the development of this sector. CHNM 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 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011), to which I contributed a small essay on scholarly communications.

Its good for scholars to better understand the actual links connecting open access scholarship and open source software. Available itself in an OA edition, Chris Kelty’s book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008) addresses this link. Key to much work in open access are open source software platforms such as Open Journal Systems and DSpace. 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 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.

Just as open access has ties to alternative intellectual property systems such as the Creative Commons and to free software/open source software projects, it is also connected to efforts at creating and sharing freely available educational resources with students and lifelong learners. This domain is called Open Educational Resources (OER). Scholars can investigate OER efforts such as Connexions, OER Commons, and MIT OpenCourseWare.

Talking about software development and metadata protocols is a terribly boring way to end 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.” Its not funny like the Holcombe piece, but a very helpful introduction to “Author’s Rights” for scholarly authors is a video by SPARC on

In our corner of scholarship, there is a vibrant community of anthropologists and folklorists working towards the goals of OA. 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 extra-ordinarily good set of reasons for making OA work. If the physicists can find a way to do it, certainly we can as well.

RA: That’s a great point to end with.  And I agree with you that we have plenty of reasons to work toward OA.  Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Jason.  I hope we can keep these conversations going, here and elsewhere.

JBJ: Thank you very much Ryan for this opportunity and for all of the ways that you are working towards OA goals.


Ryan Anderson is a cultural and environmental anthropologist. His current research focuses on coastal conservation, sustainability, and development in the Californias. He also writes about politics, economics, and media. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

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