November 11, 2011

Anthropology & Open Access: An Interview with Jason Baird Jackson (Part 2 of 3)

See Part 1 of this interview here.

Ryan Anderson: So what are the major stumbling blocks holding up a transition to Open Access in your view? What's keeping most people from making this jump? Lastly, what do you think about the system employed by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) where authors can post working papers? Can a system like that be a stepping stone to OA?

Jason Baird Jackson: At the author level, one stumbling block is a pervasive lack of basic knowledge about these issues among scholars and policy makers within our field (and in most fields). I am sympathetic to everyone’s plight. It is all very complicated and uncertain therefore doing what we have always done has proven the easiest path. Most of us do not understand copyright or the Creative Commons system. Most of us do not understand journal business models or how it is that librarians have made so much (expensive) information so easily available to those of us with the luxury of university affiliations. In the face of much confusion and anxiety, just sending our manuscripts to the editors and journals that we know in the way that we have always done has seemed sensible and prudent.

Related is the situation in which we perceive that we understand the changing landscape better than we do. A clear instance is when we post the final published versions of our writings online because we wrongly believe ourselves to have the right to do so. The increasing prevalence of such accidental piracy fosters the misunderstanding that such practices are the right way to do open access. Such piracy is counter-productive on many levels and is unnecessary given that there are legal and technically better ways to pursue OA.

Such author-centered issues are the major stumbling block for green OA. The fact that many scholars do not have direct access to a home institutional repository is another factor. I tried to suggest that there are usually workarounds for this in my earlier comments. Your mentioning of the Social Science Research Network represents another possible solution that anthropologists should investigate more actively [see Adam Leeds' comment about SSRN here on Savage Minds a while back]. I have not yet given it the attention that it deserves as a possible option for anthropologists.

The biggest factor driving green OA are funder and especially institutional OA mandates (touched upon above). Those who are most eager to promote OA in anthropology can work locally to establish mandates in their home institutions. When a university such as Kansas or California or a college such as Oberlin, or when (hypothetically) a research institute, applied anthropology agency or museum, establish a green OA mandate, this has the almost immediate effect of educating the entire research community at such an institution about the issues that we have been talking about, above and beyond the obvious direct benefit of bringing a large portion of that institution’s research output into the OA domain. Such mandates can be established at the school or department level in instances where an institution-wide mandate cannot yet be achieved. The most prominent and persistent advocate for green OA and for green OA mandates is cognitive scientist Steven Harnad, who makes the case consistently and forcefully, on the basis of much evidence, at his website Open Access Archivangelism.

Read the rest on Savage Minds, here.

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