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Open Access at Indiana University Bloomington

Richard Poynder doesn’t miss a thing.

As reflected in Richard’s tweet and the Indiana Daily Student story that he pointed to, I–in my role as the chair of the Bloomington Faculty Council Library Committee–reported to the full council on Tuesday (April 29, 2014), summarizing the committee’s work deliberating during AY2013-2014 on two special charges relating to scholarly communications policy on Indiana University’s flagship Bloomington campus. This issues are complicated and understanding of them among faculty members remains low, motivating me to prepare formal remarks outlining the work of the committee and some of the contexts that motivated it. I also prepared a summary for circulation to the faculty via the regular reporting undertaken by the Council’s secretary. For those beyond Bloomington with an interest in the matter, I can report here a couple of points not raised in the IDS story. I will also present below my submitted summary text.

While the members of the Committee were divided on the desirability of continued efforts toward a Bloomington open access policy of the sort now in place at the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity University, the University of Kansas, Oberlin College, Rollins College, Duke University, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of North Texas, Lafayette College, Emory University, Princeton University, Bucknell University, Oregon State University, Utah State University, Rice University, Wellesley College, Amherst College, the College of Wooster, Rutgers, Drake University, Georgia Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Bryn Mawr College, Connecticut College, and other institutions around the world, the Executive Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council has announced that the matter will remain on the Council’s agenda in AY2014-2015. The Library Committee of the Indianapolis Faculty Council at IUPUI has recommended such a policy to its full campus council and the leadership groups on both campus intend to pursue educational and policy setting efforts around open access at the level of the university as a whole under the auspices of the University Faculty Council. Those watching open access policy work in Bloomington then should know that discussions on the issues are not concluded, despite the majority report of the Library Committee.

Those who know me and my commitments on these issues should know that I continue to believe what I have said that I believe on them and that my obligations as chair of the Library Committee were distinct from my commitments as a publisher, scholar, and public interest advocate.

The Summary

For AY2013-2014, the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) Library Committee was charged with deliberating on two specific issues [in addition to its standing obligations]. The BFC Executive Committee asked it to weigh a permanent change in committee charge to encompass work monitoring and formulating policy on scholarly publishing and scholarly communications issues. The committee was also asked to weigh options and to recommend (or not recommend) a specific proactive campus open access policy that could be considered and acted upon (after suitable campus consultation) by the Council. In response to the question of recommending a change in the committee’s standing charge, the committee recommended not making this change, instead recommending a mechanism by which the BFC Executive Committee would partner with the Provost in staffing the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Office of Scholarly Publishing. In response to the question of a normative open access policy for members of the Bloomington faculty, the committee recommended not pursuing such a policy, despite the growth of such policies at peer institutions. The committee’s motivations for adopting these positions are complex and different committee members arrived at different positions for varied reasons. Central to the recommendation to not expand or change the committee charge was concern that the committee as already inadequately addressing its ambitious existing charge, something than an expanded charge on a different set of issues would not ameliorate. Factors motivating member reservations about a campus open access policy defy categorization and are sometimes contradictory. A highly abstract summation of them is concern that such a policy could have various unintended negative consequences either as an outgrowth of achieving the stated goals of such a policy or in failing to do so.


My work as a member of the Bloomington Faculty Council ends officially at the end of the university fiscal year, but is effectively concluded now. I appreciated the opportunity to serve on, and learn as a member of, the Council. I have served as a member of the Library Committee on several occasions, including as its chair on multiple occasions. I am thankful for that opportunity. Outside of these roles in the years ahead, I look forward to new work advocating for progressive scholarly communications policies at Indiana University.

Debt and Graduate Admissions

From the end of Matthew Pratt Guterl’s essay “Debt“:

There are many major issues with higher education, but the solutions to most of them are well beyond the reach of tenure-stream faculty.  Chairs and department members can’t generally compel deans to do much of anything, because decisions about financial reallocation aren’t usually made by deans – they get made by Provosts and Presidents, by big donors, by trustees, and by students, who can always take their precious credit hours elsewhere.

There is, though, a metaphorical debt to be paid here. We owe graduate students a clear shot at a degree without an interest rate on the back end (so, a reasonable stipend, workshop space, and research support, but also financial counseling and informal support mechanisms).  We owe them some very straight talk early in their coursework about an exit strategy if they aren’t going to make it.  We owe them a direct path to the degree, and structures and cultures that make it possible for them to complete their work in decent time.  We owe them degrees with somewhat flexible career outcomes.  And we owe it to them to match the size of our incoming cohorts – as best as we possibly can – to the job market success of recent graduates, and not chiefly to the sometimes self-indulgent abstractions of graduate teaching.

These things are within reach.  These things can be done.

Matt’s essay is part of a larger ongoing conversation happening with extra vigor, and also extra despair, right now. (I am not going to provide a pile of links here. If you are involved in training graduate students, are a graduate student, or think you  want to be a graduate student, you should be plugged into this conversation. If you have not found it on your own, you should be reading Inside Higher Education and those parts of the Chronicle of Higher Education that you can access (it is not all freely accessible and not everyone has access to an institutional subscription). You should also be following the discussion on Twitter (@sarahkendzior and those whom she is in dialogue with would be a good start) and elsewhere on the open web.)

The timing of the debt discussion is particularly appropriate because right now, in research universities around the United States, academic departments with graduate programs are reviewing applications from would-be masters and doctoral students. Such departments face many hard to answer questions. Who to admit and why? How many students to admit? Of those admitted, how many will come? Will we provide financial support for some or all of those we admit? How long will it take for an admitted applicant to accomplish the learning and career goals that they are describing in their application? Can we adequately mentor and train the person we are learning about in a large but partial PDF file? What will the career prospects be for these applicants two or six or eight years from now? How is my university changing and how is the world changing and how will these changes shape the experiences of, and prospects for, these applicants?

In my own department, I am deeply involved in this process right now. No one can know exactly how to answer such questions or to perfectly do this work–and it is really work. When it is done and some of those applicants join us next fall, I will try my best to fulfill those obligations that Matt outlines in his essay. At least those things seem clear.

Good News | Bad News

On the good news front, students, faculty, staff, and friends associated with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures continue to come together to do good work and illustrate why museums are good places to gather, talk, think, study, and try to make a difference. As I move into my fourth month as the museum’s director, I feel so thankful for everyone’s interest in, and support of, the museum’s efforts. Here are some highlights from recent days.

Last Saturday the museum hosted a great “Meet the Collection” event. The focus was the museum’s collection of handmade chairs by Chester Cornett. This collection was assembled by folklorist Michael Owen Jones during his doctoral research at Indiana. Some chairs came to the museum at the time of Jones’ initial student research, but others were recently donated by this now distinguished UCLA scholar. Jon Kay, James Seaver, and Ellen Sieber all contributed remarks that led to a wider group conversation to which Joanne Stuttgen, Pravina Shukla, Henry Glassie and others contributed valuable questions, observations, and historical reflections.

A recent IU press release describes a 2nd Meet the Collection event as part of the series of events celebrating the museum’s 50th anniversary. The next gathering focuses on the museum’s collection of Aboriginal Australian bark paintings and will feature remarks by Earlham College art historian Julia May. The gathering will be held at the museum from 2 to 3 pm on Saturday, April 27. Please join us if you can. (The IU press release linked to here focuses on the upcoming Treasures of the Mathers Museum exhibition. I will focus on that in an future post.)

More good news at the museum was reported in the latest issue of Inside IU Bloomington. Bethany Nolan wrote a great article profiling the work the students in my Curatorship are doing studying the ethnographic collection given to the museum by the late Vincent and Elinor Ostrom. The quotes that the students gave Bethany would be music to any teacher’s ears. Alumni of this graduate course are now doing great things as museum professionals and it is exciting to teaching it again, particularly in a spirit of hopefulness. Public folklore and museum anthropology–these are fields that have roots that extend back to the time before the fields became rooted in academia. They were alt-ac (ie. alternative to academic careers) before these fields even had an “ac” track. As neighboring humanities disciplines begin (sometimes for the first time and in a spirit of panic and despair) to seriously consider non-academic careers for their graduate students, it is great to point to a deep tradition of engaged research-based public humanities work in museums and to be able to illustrate the skills required and the path ways that can be taken.

It helps to have role models. A graduate of my department, Michael Mason, has just been named Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian. He is moving over to this new leadership role from the National Museum of Natural History, also at the Smithsonian, where he has been serving as Assistant Director for Exhibitions. (Read all about it in a recent Smithsonian press release.) I do not want to get ahead of the institution that has just hired her, but a current student in my department has just been hired into an impressive postdoctoral fellowship aimed at bridging academic and museum work in New York City. At the other most distinguished end of the career spectrum, one of our department’s most innovative and impactful graduates is Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. Barbara is in the news constantly now because she is playing a central role in the development of the (soon to open) Museum of the History of Polish Jews. As core exhibition designer for the museum, she is drawing upon all the lessons she has learned over an amazing career as a Jewish ethnographer, cultural theorist, museums studies specialist, public folklorist, and NYU professor of performance studies. Reporting on the (incredible) museum (to be) and her work is ubiquitous, but one can dip into it in a recent Tablet magazine story “Curator of Joy and Ashes” to gain a sense of the amazing effort.

Back home at the Mathers, I feel like we are having success.

Read more

Behind the Research Works Act: Which U.S. Representatives are Receiving Cash from Reed Elsevier?

A bill (H.R. 3699) recently introduced in the U.S. Congress by  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) aims to undo open access policies at NIH and to prevent the establishment of open access policies in other federal agencies. The large publishers, as represented by The Association of American Publishers, has expressed its love for this innocuously named “Research Works Act.” Open access advocates understand it as another terrible assault on the public interest and as instrument designed to not only mislead those who do not understand how scholarly research and its communication work but to more intensively transfer public resources into private, corporate hands. I am not going to offer an analysis of the bill and its contexts here.

In this note, I just want to highlight University of California Biologist Michael Eisen’s posting about the Research Works Act. After contextualizing and characterizing H.R. 3699, he points his readers to political contribution data available via MapLight. Looking into which members of Congress have received contributions from the large, multinational scholarly publisher Read Elsevier, Eisen notes that the largest recipient of Elsevier cash is Rep. Maloney (co-sponsor of H.R. 3699). He notes:

Dutch publisher Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 contributions to members of the House in 2011, of which 12 went to Representative Maloney. This includes contributions from 11 senior executives or partners, only one of whom is a resident of her district.

Who else is on the Elsevier donation list? Any guesses? Yes, of course, Rep. Issa. (For the full list of Elsevier recipients, see here.)

Thank you to Professor Eisen for his work digging into this question.

Know Your Publisher: Annual Reports Edition #oaweek #oa

Have you read the annual reports for the largest commercial scholarly publishers? I have and I hope that you will too. These publishers generously make these key documents freely available on the open web. Here they are for some of the largest scholarly publishers, with a few notes of anthropological interest along the way.


As noted in its 2010 Annual Report, Springer established an agreement with the Anthropological Society of Paris.

Springer reported revenues of 866 million Euros for 2010. (about 1.2 billion dollars)

Annual Reports:

Reed Elsevier

While it did not note any specific anthropology oriented activities in its 2010 annual report, Reed Elsevier does publish a number of scientifically oriented anthropology journals.

Reed Elsevier reported revenues of 7 billion 84 million Euros for 2010 (about 10 billion dollars)

Annual Reports:

Informa (home to Taylor and Francis, which is home to Routledge)

While it did not note any specific anthropology oriented activities in its 2010 annual report, Informa does publish a variety of anthropology journals (Visual Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropological Forum, etc.) and many relevant books via its Routledge unit.

Informa reported revenues of 1 billion 226.5 million Euros for 2010 (about 1.7 billion dollars)

Annual Reports:–Reporting/


I cannot find an annual report for Sage Publishers. I think that this is because they are not (I think) a publicly traded company. Big news for Sage was partnering with the American Sociological Association to publish its journals beginning in 2010. Sage publishes such anthropology journals as Critique of Anthropology, Field Methods, and Anthropological Theory.

Company Information:


Wiley is a central partner for a number of anthropology societies, including the Australian Anthropological Society, the American Anthropological Association, the Royal Anthropological Institute. They did not specifically note any anthropological activity in their annuall report for 2010.

Wiley reported revenues of 1 billion 699 million Dollars for 2010.

Annual Report:

Scholarly Communication and the Occupation of Everything

In the current context of global protest, economic failure and political transformation, anthropologists of many backgrounds are finding their voice and addressing the critical issues of the moment. For those with jobs that are being given the speedup treatment, it is hard to keep up with all of the thoughtful and provocative work being created and shared (especially online) right now. The evocative opening line of Jason Antrosio’s recent essay “Anthropology, Moral Optimism, and Capitalism: A Four-Field Manifesto” hints as the gestalt.

A spectre is stalking Capitalism–the spectre of Anthropology. All the Powers of Capitalism have bound themselves in a crusade against this spectre: the Florida Governor and the U.S. President, Dominique-Strauss Kahn and the IMF, Wall Street and Congress.

My thanks go to everyone who is tracking, discussing, fostering, and hosting these discussions. I hope other key nodes in the conversation will forgive me if I single out the Neuroanthropology bloggers Daniel Lende and Greg Downey for their vital work.

Open Access Week and Occupy Everything both continue and I still cannot muster time to read or say much. Rex Golub at Savage Minds is right when he observes that I always bury my lead. He might also note that I say everything too obliquely. So, for tonight, here is a restatement of my previous post in less opaque language.

Going forward from here, if your anthropological research tells you that large corporations are part of the problem, then please do not publish your discoveries or your proposals on this point in books and journals published by large corporations.


Loans and Books: Two Brief Observations Made During the Student Debt Revolt

Many excellent graduate students with whom I have the honor of working receive only modest or no assistantship or fellowship aid. Historically, many have supported themselves in part during graduate school with government-backed student loans. This has always been a source of anxiety for me, but matters grew worse for U.S. students earlier this year when the major federal loan program changed its structure so that graduate students receiving such loans must begin paying them back immediately rather than after graduation. For students studying in the world in which I work, such a scenario is hardly possible. Even students with assistantships are just above the poverty line.

Meanwhile, more and more excellent scholarly resources ideal for the training of these students are being produced. But they are on the market at a price that no starving graduate student can afford and at which most professors would feel guilty assigning them. This reoccurring thought returned to me when I noted the publication of a very impressive looking ethnobiology textbook. It was also on my mind when I spoke last week to an editor of what promises to be the absolutely essential handbook for folklore studies. That volume will be rich beyond measure, but at 680 pages and 29 cents per page how will any of us afford to purchase it? If my library can afford it, I plan to sit and read it cover to cover in the stacks. Excellent scholars are producing excellent work, but the business model fails us, or at least our students.

A glimmer of hope came during the #AFS11 meetings. A group of folklorists have begun discussions aimed at creating an free and open access textbook for undergraduate folklore studies. One possible publication platform being discussed is connexions centered at Rice University. Hopefully folklore studies can become a leading field in the cultivation of Open Educational Resources. I cannot see how we can continue down the path that we are heading.

The View from Commerical Scholarly Publishing

Barbara Fister is a consistently wonderful voice on scholarly communications and libraries issues. I strongly recommend her discussion of the recently published interview with Derek Haank, former chairman of Elsevier Science and current head of Springer.  I read the interview via Richard Poynder’s blog Open and Shut (the full interview is linked to from that site) and learned of it from someone’s recent tweet. Without getting frustrated and spending a lot of extra words on it, I will just say that I think that the disbelief among librarians is justified and that this articulate voice from commercial scholarly publishing makes clear why I oppose commercial scholarly publishing as we have known it and we now still experience it.

Amy Jackson On Sarah Palin’s Blood Libel Remark

My wife Amy was so frustrated when she heard Sarah Palin’s now widely discussed blood libel remark that she immediately felt compelled to capture her feelings in written words. She authored this piece and circulated it to family and friends before reading the flood of other commentaries that have since appeared. I feel that it is a unique reaction that deserves to be more widely read and I share it here with her permission.

I just read something this morning, which has impacted me to the core.  It is a quote from Sarah Palin, which carries with it so much intense power (at least for me).  Here is a link to her quote:

Palin has chosen to use the expression “blood libel” to refer to journalists who would draw a line between incendiary political speech and action (namely hers) and what has happened in Arizona to Rep. Giffords and to the others who so tragically lost their lives or were wounded by the shooter.  Here is a link to some basic information on this term:

Her use of this term is either demonstration of extreme ignorance (ignorance of the dangerous kind) or monumental manipulation – or both.  That she would use this expression specifically in the case of a  targeted shooting of Representative Giffords – WHO IS JEWISH – makes it ironic and painful.  But what is most painful to me is the misappropriation of this expression (knowingly or unknowingly).  The blood libel was a heinous false accusation that was (and in some cases is still) foundational thought in the violent persecution of Jews for centuries. To misappropriate this term and remove it from its historical context is to weaken or destroy its meaning.

I truly believe that there are words and symbols that hold so much historical power that it is egregious to use them in other contexts.  To use them in such a way makes them de-legitimate, and weakens or denies the cultural and historical memory of those who have been so wounded by them.  I believe that it is only by continuing to connect these types of words and symbols to their history that we have any hope of learning from the past and educating future generations about what is good, and right and just in the world.

It is true that some words and symbols have been hijacked by history – the swastika is the example that most quickly comes to mind.  Although a symbol of beauty and strength found in ancient and some modern cultures around the world, I believe that the Nazi use has made it irrevocably connected to genocide, at least within a Western context.  I am saddened that the symbol, which had such beautiful connotation in non Western cultures, has become taboo in much of the world.  But I believe that it is right that this symbol no longer be used in a Western context except in reference to the atrocities of WWII.  It has become a mark of hatred and evil – which must be remembered as such.  When the symbol no longer causes a pained emotional and physical response in people (again, in a Western context), it will sadly signify that the history of the Holocaust is no longer relevant.

My heart breaks for what has happened in Arizona; and it aches that in the aftermath of this tragedy a term with such horrific and history-specific meaning would be tossed around with such disregard.  Sarah Palin has now single-handedly introduced this term to millions of people who will never before have heard of it.  The majority of these people will infer a general (and incorrect) meaning, and will not bother with investigatory research.  It will simply become an expression that enters public consciousness and gets mindlessly regurgitated by the masses.  And as such, it will begin to lose the very power needed to keep alive the memory of centuries of religious persecution.  She has violated the humanity of us all.

Disappearing Languages at Albany

What is going on at SUNY? Even in terrible times, this is remarkable for a university at this level.

Disappearing Languages at Albany – Inside Higher Ed.

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