Why Open Access is Important

Here are some reasons why Cultural Anthropology’s move to Open Access is so important, in no particular order.

(I posted a version of this earlier on my Facebook page, but you shouldn’t need a Facebook account to read this stuff, so I’m reposting here.)

  1. The AAA’s publishing model as it is now is financially unsustainable, and alternatives are needed.

    See the AAA CFPEP’s report on Open Access: http://blog.aaanet.org/2012/11/02/analysis-of-the-publishing-program-and-its-future/

    (which you need a AAA membership to access…)

    This is the relevant bit:

    The most troubling news is financial: in the very near future, the AAA journal portfolio will cost more to produce than there is revenue to support it. The AAA publishing program is currently based on a subscriber economic model. The traditional subscriber base (libraries, in terms of overall revenues) is shrinking at a very fast pace. We are headed for a crisis unless we start now to plan for the future.

  2. Authors, editors, reviewers, editorial staff, and ethnographic informants do a substantial portion of the work which ends up benefiting large publishers.

    As Tom Boellstorff puts it:

    A fundamental issue is that, in my view, it is wrong for any academic journal to be based on a model where the unremunerated labor of scholars supports corporate profits. For instance, under the current system WB pays none of my salary; I am paid by my students and California taxpayers. Their dollars support WB profits, and they pay WB a second time for the same content when my university library pays subscription fees.” See his piece for a few other important reasons for OA.


    Freely downloadable version here, c/o the University of Hawaii Library.

  3. Rising journal subscription costs are putting incredible financial pressure on universities, and students.

    As Kim Fortun points out:

    Libraries […] generate revenue to pay for journal subscriptions through student tuition. Thus, dramatic hikes in tuition rates (a 40% hike in the University of California system in the last year, for instance) are partly driven by the current publishing model. This means that we are supporting scholarly publishing at the expense of our students.

  4. Open Access can give greater visibility to anthropological scholarship.

    Way back in 2004, it was shown that OA articles tend to be more often cited than closed articles in the same journal.


    The authors concluded, “Access is not a sufficient condition for citation, but it is a necessary one.”

    Also see this graph passed around Twitter, about the effects of OA on a journal’s impact. http://t.co/gYKzhiaOgk

  5. Closed access journals are incompatible with the goal of establishing a more public, relevant, and transnational anthropology.

    Again, see Tom Boellstorff’s linked article:

    We risk being increasingly left out of key debates if our work is difficult to access.”

    “Anthropologists have always conducted significant amounts of research around the world, and we owe it to “make our work accessible to the incredible diversity of source communities that anthropologists work with” (Kelty et al. 2008:564).