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Soon after the AAA Executive Board voted in early 2022 to extend the AAA’s publishing partnership with Wiley through 2027, the Publishing Futures Committee (PFC) began to engage in conversations about the future of AnthroSource and the portfolio beyond 2027. If the AAA’s publishing program is to move toward a more open and accessible future for both readers and authors, then it is essential to start laying the groundwork while staying attuned to ongoing and rapid change in the world of academic publishing.

As a committee, we have discussed various business models for open access, from transformative agreements like the one between Elsevier and the University of California system to the Subscribe to Open model now being implemented at Berghahn and Annual Reviews. We have begun to consider a more federated approach to AnthroSource that would bring together AAA content from multiple sources, inspired by the work of the Next Generation Library Publishing project. Over the past decade, different iterations of the PFC have also thought about the possibility of creating a larger mega-journal composed of Sections corresponding to some of the subfields represented in our current portfolio.

Yet the committee knows that substantive conversations about the future of the portfolio demand the participation of stakeholders across the Association. In previous discussions with members and editors leading up to the current contract about the future of the portfolio, there was an undercurrent that the process was top-down and that the interests of Sections were not well-reflected. We seek to avoid this perception moving forward, and to solicit wider representation of all stakeholders’ priorities and concerns.

The PFC envisions a two-step process that will unfold over the next 6 to 12 months. The first step will involve an internal assessment—a kind of self-study—of the current shape of the portfolio and directions that it might take in the future. We will ask all Sections, those that publish and those that don’t, to participate in this study, while also providing ample opportunities for collective discussion through bodies like the Editors’ Assembly. The PFC will develop a set of recommendations about the contents of the self-study and will encourage Sections to think broadly about how to foster scholarly exchange within, across, and beyond the communities they comprise.

The second step of the process will be to engage a third-party scholarly communication consultant to assist in plotting out scenarios for a sustainable future for the AAA publishing program. Experience with a range of open access models and a demonstrated understanding of the challenges facing social science society publishers will be our primary considerations in selecting a consultant. A consultant who sees the advantages of partnering with different types of publishers will be given the highest consideration. The committee regards the results of the self-study as critical to the consultant’s work, and we will request that prospective consultants outline a process for reaching out to and collaborating with the Sections. It is the PFC’s hope that the consultant will be able to provide each publishing section with a clearer understanding of not only a future for their journal but also of the portfolio as it moves toward a more open future.


Mark Aldenderfer

Mark Aldenderfer is distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California Merced and chair of the Publishing Futures Committee.

Marcel LaFlamme

Marcel LaFlamme is open research manager at the scientific publisher PLOS and recently completed his first year on the Publishing Futures Committee.

Janine Chiappa McKenna

Janine Chiappa McKenna is the director of publishing at the American Anthropological Association.

Cite as

Aldenderfer, Mark, Marcel LaFlamme, and Janine Chiappa McKenna. 2023. “AAA Publishing Looks Toward the (Murky) Future.” Anthropology News website, January 12, 2023.

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