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On Green OA and the Future of AAA Publishing at #AAA2011

Yesterday I participated in the forum on the “Future of AAA Publishing” that was staged during the 2011 American Anthropological Association meetings. I joined this event because I was asked to do so by Michael F. Brown, a fine colleague who would is working hard to be helpful in the organization’s scholarly communications vision quest. My prepared remarks from the event are offered below CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0). Readers of my statement will see that I did not really address the future as much as try to engage the muddled present. I care very much about the future of scholarly communications and am very interested in all the excellent thought that colleagues beyond anthropology and folklore studies are giving to cutting edge discussions of it. The context and venue for my remarks, as well as the five minute time limit on panelist statements, shaped how I used my time. I was trying to serve an educational role. Each panelist had a different piece of the story to reflect upon (association finances, tenure and promotion, international issues, etc.), thus there was not space or audience readiness for more complex matters, such as curatorial models of journal editing, metadata protocols, the weakness of STEM-centered philanthropic efforts in Africa, open source platforms, patron driven acquisition, non-disclosure agreements vis-a-vis big bundle deals, etc. Things are what they are.

Green Open Access Practices

Jason Baird Jackson

I want to thank the organizers of today’s event for their invitation to participate in this discussion. I have had a lot to say elsewhere [ex: my interview with Ryan Anderson on OA and anthropology] about publishing practices in our field and my remarks will be focused on a single node in the larger network of issues. I agreed to take on the slice dealing with green open access practices because this is a realm in which the matters before us are largely no longer policy setting debates but are instead questions of education and implementation. It is in this more modest context that I hope to contribute some observations that may be useful.

Despite organizationally opposing so-called green open access mandates (ex: AAA 2006; Calpestri 2006; Davis 2010), the American Anthropological Association is already a green open access [-friendly] publisher (AAA 2006). I am very proud of the association’s leadership in this regard. We were ahead of the curve when, in 2005, the association adopted an author agreement that allowed association authors to circulate post-prints in conformity with standard green OA practices and in compliance with the mandates that govern the work of some of our colleagues (AAA 2006). In adopting a green author agreement, the AAA joined the approximately 63% of scholarly journals that similarly allow authors to circulate their work down the green open access path (RoMEO 2011). But what does this mean? How does one do it?

To frame green open access I need to introduce a few terms of art. I’ll begin with the text objects at issue. The target for green OA is the classic research article and for today my remarks are limited to that genre.

A pre-print is an article manuscript as created by an author prior to its revision on the basis of the formal peer-review that often accompanies submission to a journal. The never-submitted manuscripts sitting in our files are thus technically pre-prints, as are the conference papers that we informally and individually forward to our colleagues. Because we have never transferred our copyright in these manuscripts, they are usually ours to do with as we please. Should we submit our manuscripts to a journal, the policies of that journal may come into play and it is possible that we will be pressed to withdraw such pre-print manuscripts from circulation, but typically journal policies do not concern themselves with pre-prints. To flesh this out, let me note that a journal that only allows for the circulation of a pre-print is a yellow journal. A white journal makes no provision for OA of any kind.

The center of gravity for discussions of green open access is what is called a post-print. A post-print is a manuscript that has been revised by an author in the wake of peer-review and acceptance by a journal. We sometimes characterize such a manuscript as the last clean version prior to publication. When a journal’s author agreement is coded as “green” this means that the journal allows authors to circulate this version of their article outside the publication channel provided by the publisher itself. A key but confusing point arises here. A publisher’s author agreement may additionally allow authors the right to circulate their article in final published form outside the journal’s official publication channels. This kind of author’s right is rare. When it occurs, as in the author agreements used by the University of California Press’ for its own journals, the journal is still classified as a green one (UCP 2011). Green status goes to a journal that allows “at least” the post-print to be circulated. Because copyediting, typesetting, coding, and other digital production tasks represent value added by the publisher itself most are not interested in giving away these enhancements in a form that competes directly with the revenue-generating official version and that exceeds the requirements of the relevant funder and institutional mandates so prominent in discussions of green OA.

Mentioning mandates prompts me to evoke the crucial topic of funder, subject, and institutional repositories and their associated software platforms and protocols. To fully engage with green OA, one needs to know what repositories are and how they work. Maybe there will be time to really consider repositories during our discussions.

I have raised these basic aspects of green OA because I want to highlight what I see as two problems in the current lived practices of anthropologists.

The first concerns inadvertent piracy. In posting publisher’s versions online without securing additional permissions to do so, a growing number of our colleagues are out of compliance with their author agreements and are exposing themselves and, in many cases, their home institutions, to legal action for copyright infringement. I know that the AAA is not prosecuting such cases and is unlikely to do so, but I am in favor of all of us understanding how the green OA system works and what we should and should not be doing with our publications online. I advocate formal educational outreach on these issues as well as living within the current intellectual property system that we have established for ourselves. If it is not adequate to our needs, then we need to change it rather than ignore it as accidental pirates or contest it as self-conscious ones.  I recognize that these issues are really confusing and that it takes time for all of us to gain control of them. The shockingly high number of members of the AAA leadership who appear to be engaged in accidental piracy, despite their intense participation in complex publishing discussions, speaks to the difficulties that we have all faced in making sense of the changing publishing and intellectual property system.

In a few sentences, please let me point to my second concern, which is related.  The way that many anthropologists are pursuing green OA is sub-optimal not only on the legal front, but also in other vital ways. Institutional repositories, which are the core focus of legitimate green OA efforts not only bar authors from inadvertent piracy, they also provide the best home for our post-prints from the perspective of wide access, discoverability, technical interoperability, and long-term preservation. I do not have time to explain these assertions, but departmental and personal websites are terrible in comparison to professionally managed repositories. The only advantage that they possess in our current context is that, unlike legally compliant repositories, such websites are easy venues at which to engage in accidental and purposeful piracy and from which to take down our content should we be confronted with cease and desist letters or more serious legal action.

Except for the fact that institutional repositories are not yet available to all anthropologists, all of the other resources that we need to pursue green OA in a legal, sustainable, and helpful way are available to us. Educating ourselves as to how this can best be done is all that is required for us to actualize the green OA options that we have already created for ourselves as a society. In doing so, we advance both the communitarian and the selfish goals motivating the broader open access movement.

Coda:  In is absolutely essential to know that green OA and so-called gold OA are very different things. As the editor of a six year-old gold OA journal, I would be happy to discuss this other path to achieving open access goals during our discussion.

References Cited

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

2006  AAA and the Federal Research Public Access Act (S.2695)., accessed November 17, 2011.

Calpestri, Suzanne

2006  AAA AnthroSource Steering Committee Supports FRPAA., accessed November 17, 2011.

Davis, William E.

2010  [Letter on behalf of the AAA to Representatives Darrell Issa and Carolyn Maloney regarding the formulation of public access policies for federal agencies] July 9, 2010., accessed November 17, 2011


2011    [Statistics on the percentage of RoMEO tracked journals that have full green author agreements.], accessed November 17, 2011.

University of California Press (UCP)

2011    Information for Authors., accessed November 17, 2011.

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