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AAA Response to OTSP Request for Information on Public Access

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March 17, 2020

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has been publishing scholarly content since 1889. Today, our publishing portfolio (AnthroSource) consists of 23 peer-reviewed titles, a popular news magazine, an open access compilation of previously published materials, and a free, publicly accessible repository of preprints and conference materials. The publishing portfolio is guided by four core values—quality, breadth, accessibility, and sustainability—each of which is just as important as the others. The AAA is concerned that the Request for Information (RFI) by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with its emphasis on accessibility of published scholarship could significantly erode our portfolio’s quality, breadth of content, and especially its sustainability. We find that the “one size fits all” approach advocated by the OSTP fails to recognize the very significant variability in funding support for open access publication across the scientific disciplines, and even within the disciplines of the social and behavioral sciences.

All AAA journals offer a hybrid open access option. Between 2015 and 2018 more than half of AAA’s journals (12 out of 21) published at least one article as hybrid open access. Our association’s definition of hybrid extends beyond traditional and gold open publishing options to include various other avenues of scholarship. For example, we ungate a substantial portion of back content and have developed a discipline-specific open access repository.

AAA regards the future of research as open, and has been interested in moving open access forward via a repository for some time, first with its 2012 partnership with the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which resulted in the Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network. After SSRN’s 2016 acquisition by a commercial venture, the AAA looked elsewhere to launch a new repository for anthropology (and anthropologists) across the globe. OARR: Open Access Research Repository has a global and discipline-wide advisory group to ensure the repository is meeting the needs of anthropologists everywhere, including those in practicing and applied settings.

Although our association’s AnthroSource portfolio is available as a AAA member benefit as well as by institutional subscription, the AAA seeks to expand the availability of content in a sustainable way. Content that is greater than 35 years old (currently 1984 and older) is completely open access through AnthroSource. Historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, as well as Brazilian and Palestinian institutions are provided complimentary access to the entire AAA portfolio, a program that the association is looking to expand even further. Additionally, through our publishing partner, AAA’s content is included in Research4Life, which provides complimentary or low-cost access to institutions in developing economies.

To further open up content, in 2013 AAA launched Open Anthropology, a curated collection of new and archive content on a singular theme, which is published three times a year and content remains open for one year from publication. AAA also periodically opens articles when there is a broad interest beyond the traditional anthropology community, such as “Signaling Safety: Characterizing Fieldwork Experiences and Their
Implications for Career Trajectories,” by Nelson et al.

In addition, AAA has a liberal permissions policy as part of its author agreement. Authors can currently use the article for educational or other scholarly purposes at the author's own institution or company; post the manuscript draft post-peer-review on the author's personal, institutional or company website; post the manuscript draft post peer-review on a non-commercial, discipline-specific public server; and publish the article or permit it to be published by other publishers, as part of any book or anthology, of which they are the
author or editor, subject only to their giving proper credit to the original publication.

Although the OSTP continues “to explore opportunities to make the knowledge, information and data generated by federally funded research more readily accessible,” with which the AAA is in complete agreement, some of the principles are problematic to the health of anthropological research and researchers in general.

The proposed requirement would limit an author’s choice—they must publish in a journal that has an open access option. However, all of the AAA’s journals, some of which are ranked highly, as noted before, offer hybrid open access options across the entire portfolio, which covers the many subfields of anthropology.  However, there is very little funding available in the social sciences and with article publishing charges (APCs) averaging $2500, this is not a sustainable option for anthropologists. Additionally, it is often the case that federally granted research funds cannot be used to pay these APCs. We are concerned that the OSTP requirements would limit the array of content and diversity of voices within the AAA portfolio, a threat to the AnthroSource core value of breadth.

In sum, the AAA feels the current proposal from OSTP is too broad to be applied effectively for all disciplines and is harming those fields outside of the biological and physical sciences. The association requests further examination and refinement to ensure all disciplines are considered, particularly the humanities and social sciences.

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