Recently, my teenage daughter Emma returned from a three-week trip to Malawi, Africa. Hers wasn’t a typical trip abroad focused on sightseeing or simple observation. It was a program sponsored by the anthropology department at the University of Rochester. The Malawai Immersion Seminar, led by postdoc Joseph Lanning offers something altogether different and far more meaningful—it’s a well-structured, cultural immersion seminar using field mapping and other anthropological research methods. These types of opportunities for learning and knowledge have never been more open and accessible.
While established disciplines like anthropology remain as strong as ever, the interplay between the disciplines is at an all-time high. We find anthropologists in anthropology departments at most every college and university. Yet, we also find them in other professions like law, medicine, and librarianship. They are an integral part of big science research initiatives at technology companies like Intel and Microsoft Research. These tech giants rely on the ethnographic skills of the professional anthropologist to better understand how people use (or don’t use, as the case may be) their technologies. Now, more than ever, scholars and researchers around the globe desire access to anthropological research like that published by the AAA. One way to increase access to this scholarship is to make it open.
Open Access (OA) is arguably one of the hottest discussion topics in higher education today. Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of clarity and a certain amount of confusion about it. Peter Suber, the de facto spokesperson of the OA movement explains it this way, “Open Access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (Open Access, 2012: 4). There are several varieties of OA. These distinctions refer to the delivery mechanism of the articles and status of the traditional barriers to access. The colors—gold and green—indicate if the OA work is available through a journal (gold OA) or a repository (green OA). Thus an article published in SAGE Open, an open access journal, is considered gold OA. A pre-print article deposited in a disciplinary repository, such as SSRN, is an example of green OA.
The statuses of price and permission barriers are indicated by the terms gratis and libre. A gratis OA publication is free of price barriers as the publication is openly available and at no charge. A publication is considered libre if one or more of the permissions barriers are also relaxed (Suber 2012: 6).There are several different business models that support gratis OA, from institutional or external funding, to an author pays model where the publisher charges a submission or publication fee to “free” the work. At SSRN, we employ a “freemium” model, which allows authors to submit their papers to the eLibrary database at no charge (70,000 in the last 12 months) and users to download those papers for free (10 million in the last 12 months and 60 million to date). Different permutations of OA are used by different organizations, and sometimes within the same organization, but all attempt to increase access to the scholarly research and maintain attribution to the author.
AAA and SSRN Working Together
We know OA matters and have seen 10–20% higher citations for papers in the SSRN eLibrary (Heekyung Kim, “MIS Speaker Series,” 2012: 1). But timing is also very important. If there is an established outlet for a scholar’s research then inertia will make it difficult for any new venture to be successful. There is significant resistance to change throughout scholarly research and a new approach must provide tangible benefits to the community, and quickly.
In addition to being available immediately, scholarship posted to SSRN also benefits from multiple exposure points. Authors can classify submissions in up to twelve different eJournals across more than two dozen disciplines. We think this benefit of multiple subject classifications is incredibly important, as the cross-pollination of ideas generates new and innovative research faster. The anthropologist’s perspective of our legal system likely differs from the legal scholar’s perspective, however, each can inform the other and facilitate new directions in research. But only when those perspectives are available to each other.
The Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network (AARN) will add the anthropological perspective to the SSRN conversation. Authors, both AAA members and other scholars, can freely submit their research into AARN’s 100+ topics organized into thirteen eJournals. Readers can freely download those papers. Any paper that is part of the scholarly discourse is welcome and other types of content are being tested. Authors can also archive and share other papers on their SSRN author page. The overall goal is create a place for all types of anthropological research to be shared; procedural details are available on the SSRN FAQ.
As we work together to build a community for AAA members and others interested in the research from the anthropology community, we’re dedicated to providing the same benefits to anthropologists that we’ve provided to the over 200,000 other scholars from dozens of different disciplines, who have submitted over 450,000 papers to the SSRN eLibrary since 1995. We’re excited about future possibilities like collaborating on new tactics for the specialized AAA research sub-communities, finding ways to share anthropological research faster and unconstrained by the current publishing models, and developing tools that help scholars and researchers find tomorrow’s research today.
2012 is a very different time in terms of access and opportunity than 1905 when the AAA published their first issue of American Anthropologist. Research methods, fields of study, dissemination of information and publications, opportunities within and beyond the field have all changed greatly. Just ask my daughter Emma.
Be sure to check out the SSRN Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network at http://ssrn.com/update/aarn/index.html.