Reaction to AAA OA Announcement

When Leith Mullings announced that the AAA would be publishing a new Open Access journal we here at Savage Minds were all:

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But when we saw this:

There will be a specific policy for Open Anthropology on “ungating” and perhaps “re-gating” content after a certain period of time.

we were all:

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Seriously, does the AAA even know what “open access” means? Hint: “free access” is not the same thing as “open access”.

UPDATE: Seems that Ryan and I posted about this right around the same time. Make sure to go read his take as well.

7 thoughts on “Reaction to AAA OA Announcement

  1. Hi, all. For those not familiar, I am a member of the CFPEP (one of the AAA committees that advises on publishing) and we were one of the groups that helped to bring this new publication into being. I can provide a little clarification here.

    Open Anthropology is an experiment to help us better understand the likely response to one among a range of open access approaches by providing open and free access to some of our normally gated content. The AAA is committed to promoting knowledge production and scholarly exchange in a way that makes our research discoverable, accessible, persistently archived, and sustainable over the long run, and we welcome suggestions on how best to fulfill this commitment.

    And by “we”, I mean the CFPEP, its parent the Anthropological Communication Committee, the exec board, and the AAA staff. Colleagues, this association is really a co-op — member owned, member run, and structured to serve (you guessed) the members. So the more active we all are, the better we fulfill those goals.

    For an overview of the association’s progressive publishing policies, please browse our FAQ. (Watch this space: more information will be available about the Open Anthropology initiative shortly after the new year.)

    Cheers, Hugh

  2. Hi, Hugh, long time no see! I’ve looked at the AAA policies on “ungating” content from your link. The only things available are from 1977 and earlier, which while a noble gesture isn’t really helpful to my students and colleagues when they are searching for recent writings. I was hoping that even with their now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t policy it would contain something that at least fell into the realm of the postmodern, especially since we’re moving past that now. Our campus library has no access to recent AAA journals – we just can’t afford it. As for myself, I’m working for a day when OA peer review is as acceptable as proprietary closed access journals. many of which charge us to publish and then charge us for access to our own materials. While I’m sure the intentions are good, the result falls too far short.

  3. Dear Hugh,

    You write: “Open Anthropology is an experiment to help us better understand the likely response to one among a range of open access approaches by providing open and free access to some of our normally gated content.”

    This is muddying the waters. Free access is not the same thing as open access. Please read this:

    As it says there: “open access allows for unrestricted derivative use; free access does not.”

    By calling what the AAA is doing “open” you place people in a potentially dangerous position. Suppose someone uses something which they think is “open” and then it is “regated”? This can easily result in people doing something they think is legal only to find it is not. Simply because the AAA wishes to seem more open than it really is.

    In comments on my last post you wrote “perhaps you can consider this a bit like drinking or driving responsibly.” I would urge the AAA to do the same.

  4. Two very relevant paragraphs from Kerim’s link:

    Does the distinction between free and open access really matter if anyone can read the article for free? Isn’t open access just about making the literature available? Well, yes and no. Free access is certainly important, but it’s only the starting point. At least of equal importance is the potential for innovation. We don’t know yet what innovation means with regards to the full text of an article—who could have predicted the impact GenBank would have or the uses that sequences are now being put to? As one colleague put it, free access is like giving a child a Lego car and telling her that she can look at it, perhaps touch it, but certainly not take it apart and make an airplane from it. The full potential of the work cannot be realized [6].

    What’s worrying is that there are already examples of publishers restricting use of their “free-access” articles, even in international repositories. For example, some of the publishers that currently allow their articles to be deposited in the US PMC will not allow those same articles to be mirrored and made available from the UK site (a list of these journals can be found at​_ukpmc.html). It’s hard to understand the reasoning for this limitation—after all, the articles are freely available from the US site. But what’s disturbing is that publishers can act like this because the articles themselves are not truly open access—who knows what further restrictions might be placed on these articles in the future.

  5. I find this extremely troubling for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most important is that, as Kerim states, it muddies the waters. Calling this an open access journal is not just a tiny fib, it actually will mislead people who are not familiar with what open access actually means. One of our current tasks as open access activists is to inform people about what exactly it means and what the benefits are. This AAA initiative co-opts the term “open access” for the benefits of the publishing industry. This is a setback for the open access movement. I think it is crucial that we convince the AAA to no longer use misleading “open” terminology. Are there any efforts underway to do this? Does anyone have any ideas?

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