In the wake of the SOPA/PIPA protests, debate over the Research Works Act, the growing boycott of Elsevier by scholars in many fields, and more local discussions of the ways that various scholarly societies in my own fields of interest (anthropology, folklore studies) responded to the recent call by the [U.S.] White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for comment on public access to federally funded research, there is a great deal of additional attention being given to the changing nature of the scholarly communications (publishing) system and our hopes for its future.
One key issue centers on scholarly society publishing programs and how they can best be advanced in the present and into the future. At the 2011 American Anthropological Association meetings I spoke in two different contexts about these issues. I have shared here previously my remarks to the “Future of AAA Publishing” event (Jackson 2011b; for context, see Nichols and Schmid 2011 and Brown 2011). That presentation was on “Green Open Access Practices.”
I also spoke in the Digital Anthropologies: Projects and Projections panel organized by Mike and Kim Fortun and sponsored by the Society for Cultural Anthropology. In that event (which has been well documented by Daniel Lende (2011), my goal was to describe the Open Folklore project as both a broader community effort and as a specific digital platform, so as to illustrate a more general point about the fruitful possibilities that can come from direct partnerships between libraries and the library community and scholarly societies.
Libraries and scholarly societies now have a customer-to-business relationship and it is one that is growing ever more strained as commercial publishers become central partners in many scholarly society publishing programs. I evoked the alter-globalization motto Another World is Possible in my title because I wanted to suggest that the course that we are on is not the only one available to us. I believe, on the basis of a lot of time spent over the past five years with university librarians around the Midwestern U.S., that the research library community would much rather work with scholarly societies collaboratively in the shared real and digital spaces in which scholars and librarians (and students) already labor together rather than engage antagonistically in a neoliberal marketplace that has been shaped by the business practices pioneered by firms such as Elsevier, Springer and (yes) Wiley-Blackwell. Open Folklore is just one of many university-scholarly society partnerships that are exploring how to make this alternative framework real.
I should have just shared my presentation at the time of the AAA meetings, but I had hope that I could quickly work on it some more before getting it into wider circulation. Time has not been available for that work, but the current interest in these issues suggests that I might now have an interested audience and a second chance to share it below in the form that I presented it in Montreal.
My remarks below should not be taken as an official statement of the Open Folklore project team, the Indiana University Libraries, or the American Folklore Society. They reflect my own experience with these issues, although they of course also draw upon the rich experiences that I have had partnering with talented, committed colleagues working toward the goal of achieving Open Folklore’s aspirations. The paper below has been edited lightly just to recontextualize the language for a reader not at the original panel (meaning simple removal of language like, “so and so will probably speak later this morning about…”). I wish to take this opportunity to especially thank Mike and Kim Fortun for their remarkable service to the field as editors of Cultural Anthropology and as organizers of the Digital Anthropology event.
Another World is Possible: Open Folklore as Library-Scholarly Society Partnership
Jason Baird Jackson
Building upon shared values, facing common problems, and recognizing new opportunities, partnerships linking scholars, scholarly societies, and research libraries are a particularly hopeful development in the changing scholarly communication system. In my remarks, and as an example of current possibilities, I will quickly describe the Open Folklore project and situate it in the context of the serials crisis, the corporate enclosure of society journal programs, the erosion of the university press system, the development of open source software for scholarly communication, and the rise of the open access movement as a progressive response to these changes. For those wanting basic information on using Open Folklore associated resources in your research and teaching, I urge you to visit the Open Folklore Portal site online and to consult the instructional screencasts that my collaborators and I have shared there, and on YouTube.
By way of introduction, I can note that OF is a joint project of the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) Libraries. The two lead partners share as desire to make more reliable folklore scholarship—in many genres—discoverable and freely available online. The Open Folklore team is doing this work but so are many colleagues in many places. Consulting the Open Folklore website, which I will come to in a moment, provides an eye-opening and encouraging sense of the OA work that a wide and deep network of folklorists have already been pursuing. Launched in 2010, the project has grown rapidly and made significant progress in its efforts to foster and encourage the development of an interconnected and interoperable, but also distributed and low-cost, system of open access projects and resources.
The Open Folklore project is more than its associated portal site. The project is pursuing educational projects aimed at educating scholars about open access issues. Importantly, it is also working with rights holders and publishing partners to encourage the pursuit of sustainable open access projects that comply with the basic technical standards already extant in the broader scholarly communications community. Read more