American Anthropology Association to Switch One of its Journals to Open Access

The American Anthropological Association publishes more than 20 journals, but none is open access. That will change early next year, when the journal Cultural Anthropology,  which is published by one of AAA’s sections,  switches over to a fully open-access model. “Starting with the first issue of 2014, CA will provide worldwide, instant, free (to the user), and permanent access to all of our content (as well as 10 years of our back catalog),” Brad Weiss, the society’s president, posted on AAA’s Web site.  “Cultural Anthropology will be the first major, established, high-impact journal in anthropology to offer open access to all of its research,” he adds, and bekueves that the experiment will be useful to other open-access publishing efforts in the social sciences and humanities.

CA’s editor, Charles D. Piot, Professor of Anthropology at Duke, has called open access “likely the wave of the future” and states that anthropologists havebecome increasingly concerned about the relationship between universities and commercial publishers.  The push for open access has spread far and wide in the sciences and is catching on among social scientists as well. “We’re producing articles that come out of the intellectual commons, and we hand them over to presses who sell them back to us,” Professor Piot says. “That’s been a strong moral issue for a lot of anthropologists that I’ve spoken to.” So has the desire to make research “freely available to people anywhere in the world,” not just those affiliated with universities that can afford journal subscriptions. 

AAA currently has a  contract with Wiley-Blackwell for its journals program. Cultural Anthropology’s switch to open access will not affect that contract, according to Edward B. Liebow, AAA’s executive director.  The journal will still be offered to library subscribers and to AAA members through the AnthroSource online portal.

The Society for Cultural Anthropology (the section off AAA that publishes CA) has already started to revamp its Web site and move content online in preparation for the shift. It hasn’t yet worked out whether it will use an author-pays model to cover costs or try what Prof. Piot called “the NPR model” and call on members for support. 

Liebow is not worried that the experiment will hurt AAA’s bottom line. “It’s important to recognize that while the revenue we receive from publishing is important to it financially, our publishing program doesn’t make money.”  Given that its publications represent “such an important part of our scholarly exchange, we think it’s worth the money to make the experiment.”