Skip to content

Posts from the ‘IP (Intellectual Property)’ Category

What is the Museum Anthropology Review Business (Labor) Model?

Alternate title: How to give away $99,000 worth of articles.

Although it has become normalized in open access/scholarly publication reform discussions to speak in this way, it often seems laughable to use the phrase ‘business model” in the context of many open access projects. Business model implies more modeling and more business that are often found in these efforts. When the eye-rolling or chuckling stops, the business school talk does remind prompt us to try to figure out what we are doing and how we are doing it. This is good even for tiny projects held together (often happily) with just a bit of used string and some tape. (Thank goodness that we do not all want to become the next oversized thing.)

I write the following as founding editor of Museum Anthropology Review, an open access journal supporting scholarly and public-facing work in museum anthropology, museum-based folklore studies, and material culture studies. In an immediate context of painful collective disciplinary assessment, debate, and reflection (#hautalk) on scholarly communication work (and labor practices, and power, and hierarchy, and practices of discrimination, etc.) in the ethnographic disciplines, I thought it might be useful to be more explicit about labor and funding underpinning MAR). While the journal has a complex origin story and has changed alongside other changes (in my career, at Indiana University, in the fields that it serves, etc.), the so-called business model has remained pretty consistent, making this small task easier. It is not the business school way, but it may be easiest and most contextually relevant in MAR and disciplinary context to track labor and money using participant roles. It is hard to do this in a way that will not seem either self-promoting or defensive, but it has to be done. I have stressed throughout my wider engagements with open access that projects such as MAR need to try to be intentional in their experimental work and in reporting back to the field for collective benefit. The need for more of this is more pressing now than ever and I have been relatively silent on open access issues since finishing what I thought of as capstone activities in two pieces written with colleague-collaborators (Jackson and Anderson 2014; Walters et al. 2015 [for this project, see also here]).

MAR Screenshot

Readers: The journal does have readers. I and others involved in the journal know this from digital statistics (like Google Analytics), citations to work published, and word of mouth. Accessing MAR requires internet access but does not cost readers anything. Everyone involved is pleased to know that the work is worth doing, so I say thank you to the readers who have spent their time and attention on MAR. (I invite you to sign up as a reader and get free tables of contents for MAR by email.)

Authors: The journal does have authors. Authors are not paid for their contributions to MAR, but they are also not charged author fees or article processing charges, as is common in some other kinds of open access projects. In MAR we have so-far published 33 peer-reviewed articles. Had the authors of those articles published them in Curator and paid to make them open via Wiley’s Online Open program, the total cost to authors would have been $2500 x 33 = $82,500. Author-pays open publication in Museum Anthropology would have cost $3000 x 33 = $99,000 (See Wiley-Journal-APCs-2018MAY24 (a spreadsheet) via, accessed June 16, 2018). Those of us in other MAR other roles wish, of course, that authors were more aware of these taken-for-granted things. Hopefully this post will help a bit. I am proud that the MAR community has been able to make publication happen for these authors and their readers without ability-to-pay being a factor shaping the publication process. I also thank journal’s authors for sharing their valuable work widely through publication in MAR.

Peer-Reviewers:  The journal definitely has peer-reviewers. They are generous and thoughtful and they are essential. I thank them here for their contributions to MAR. MAR peer-reviewers are not paid for their contributions. This is the current scholarly publishing norm for journals. I track the debate on the ethics of this. We are in a bind. Peer-review is hard, important labor. My opposition to industrial scale commercial scholarly publishing is based in part on the relationship between free labor of some participants and the huge profits that these firms reap (sample rants here and here). If paying peer-reviewers were to become the norm, then small community-based journals such as MAR would not be able to do it and corporate run and co-published journals would have an even bigger slice of the scholarly publishing pie (the enclosure of anthropology was at issue here). It is a conundrum at the heart of scholarly communications reform. For now, know that MAR peer-reviewers are valued and unpaid. The cash/gift economy status of the other roles is probably relevant to their feelings about this. My hope is that one feels relatively less exploited about peer-reviewing for a journal that looks like the one that I am describing here.)

Editorial Board: As is normal, MAR has a valued editorial board. As is common, I have not turned to them for structural, business or governance issues as much as I might have. As in other journals, they often serve as a kind of meta- peer-reviewers. For instance, serving as a source of editorial advice when I need help figuring something out or as a source of recommendations for reviewers. Sometimes editorial board members are called upon to undertake peer-reviews themselves. As with all journals that I know (and this is relevant in the context of the current journal controversies in the ethnographic fields), they also lend their reputations to the journal as a project. This is not inherently bad and it has a function beyond the accumulation of symbolic capital. When a potential author considers making a submission to any journal, they can review the masthead and ask: “Does my work resonate with the work of some of the people identified here?” Editorial Board Members are not paid for their MAR service. I thank them for encouraging and supporting the journal and helping it go.

A special member of the editorial board during the initial years of MAR was Associate Editor Kimberly Christen. As reflected also in her important scholarship (example here) and her own large and innovative projects (example here), Kim was a key interlocutor for me on (then new) questions of open access, helping me make sense of the shifting terrain across which MAR would travel.

Editor: At the most, two people have worked in the editorial office. Quite often, one person works in the editorial office. If there is just one person, then that person has been me. MAR launched in 2007. The story of its birth and its transformation is a different story and I postpone telling it here. A large number of friends and colleagues have helped by occupying the roles that I have noted above and by offering a range of encouragements and words of appreciation. The duties that traditionally fall to an editor are the ones that I have pursued. In the MAR case, this also includes overseeing the journal’s reviews work (book, exhibitions, etc.). This is a smaller setup than is normal even in smaller journals, which typically have a book review editor and other separated roles. There is no doubt that a critic would say that this concatenation of roles represents a concentration of power. I hope that close independent analysis would suggest that no pronounced problems flowed from this fact. For better or worse, it was also a concentration of so-called “service” labor. Understanding the finances of the editorial office can help readers judge the risks and ethics.

The actual production of the journal is also done in the editorial office. Content does not get handed off to a publishing partner for formatting, metadata coding, assignment of DOI numbers, etc. That work happens in-house and it is the editor and (when existing) the editorial assistant that do that work. As described below, Indiana University has created an excellent open access publishing environment that makes this possible.

As I still do, I held a tenured professorship when MAR sprang up into existence. As reflected by my notes above (and the points remaining to be made below), no money comes into MAR and no money goes out of MAR. There is no direct financial benefit to me to work on MAR. I acknowledge that I am paid well by Indiana University in support of the range of teaching, research, and service activities in which I engage and that I am reviewed annually and in the context of promotion decisions. No pressure to stop doing MAR has ever arisen (although my colleagues may privately question my judgement vis-à-vis excess editorial activity) and no special reward for doing it has been provided. My departments are home to a lot of editorial activity and mine just conforms to this local norm. This is a longstanding tradition, with many journals previously edited in them (Museum Anthropology, International Journal of American Linguistics, American Ethnologist, etc.) and many founded in them (Ethnohistory, Anthropological Linguistics, Journal of Folklore Research, etc.). If I did not do work on MAR I would be working on other things and my salary would not, I think, be any different. [I am mindful of the luxuries of choice available to me in my position.) MAR keeps me connected to my scholarly community and has brought a huge range of valuable experiences and relationships into my life. But there is no money to follow. Before 2013, MAR had only a kind of informal social base. It was produced by me and my friends with help from the IUScholarWorks program at the Indiana University libraries (see below). After 2013, MAR became the journal of the the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC). This was a positive byproduct of my becoming the MMWC’s Director. When my Directorship ends, MAR will remain at the museum and will be the responsibility of its next Director to continue, expand, shrink, change, or shutter. (Note: If the journal were to end next month or next year or next decade, the robust preservation and continued public accessibility of its backfiles is one of the durable commitments that IU Libraries have made to the project. See IU ScholarWorks below).

Editorial Assistant: When I was help in the work of the Editorial Office, it was by a graduate student from the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology or Department of Anthropology at Indiana University holding an .5 FTE (half of fulltime) graduate assistantship. Whereas the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University specifically funded a .5 FTE graduate assistantship for the work of supporting my previous editorship (2005-2009) of Museum Anthropology (the journal of the Council for Museum of Anthropology), MAR was never directly supported in this way. During a year serving as a department chair (2009-2010), a graduate assistant was assigned to support me in my scholarly activities. Helping with MAR became this colleague’s key duty. Between becoming Director of the MMWC in 2013 and the end of Spring 2017, the primary duty of a graduate student similarly appointed has also been to help with the journal. During fall 2017 and spring 2018, the work of the MMWC Director’s Office graduate assistantship has broadened to other projects, but the incumbent did do some MAR work. When a graduate student was working primarily on the journal, they held the title Editorial Assistant and appeared thus on the MAR masthead.

When filled, this Editorial Assistant role was a 20 hour per week position held during the fall and spring semesters. Those holding it have had the same stipends as their classmates holding similar appointments in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. They also hold fee waivers that pay for a significant portion of their course work for the full year (including summer courses) and they have a university health insurance plan. I wish that all of the assistantships held by students in my home departments (Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Anthropology) were better paid and offered better benefits, but I am happy that those student colleagues who worked with me on MAR had as good of a deal as any of their classmates. They can speak for themselves, but I think that they appreciated the experiences that they had while working on the journal. The rich range of publishing opportunities provided to graduate students in my departments have, over time, made (what I perceive to be) a significant difference in the career outcomes of the graduate students with whom my faculty colleagues and I have thus worked.

The key thing to note here vis-à-vis broader debates in anthropology publishing right now is that MAR’s basic editorial office work (correspondence, copyediting, layout and formatting, social media stuff, etc.) was either done by me or by a graduate student being paid to work with me.* Given its small scale and lack of cash in and cash out practices, MAR could have been done with a wider pool of volunteer laborers. I actually support this model and have spoken up for it often, but in the actual doing, the mix of roles described here made sense to me for MAR. In part, this stemmed from MAR being an off-shoot of Museum Anthropology which, for a time, was run with as many variables as possible being held constant so as to provide a kind of natural experiment to contrast open access and conventional publishing in the sub-field that both journals served. The mode of editor (or pair of editors) plus assistant has been constant with Museum Anthropology from the time of my editorship and thus through the period of MAR’s history at issue here. Creating opportunities to support the work of graduate students interested in museum ethnography was always a key concern of mine in this work. It motivated my seeking the Museum Anthropology editorship in 2005 and it has remained a prominent goal throughout. I thank the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research for supporting the assistantship positions that have at various points helped MAR prosper. I thank Janice Frisch (2019-2010), Teri Klassen (2014), and Emily Buhrow Rogers (2014-2017) for their hard work as editorial assistants with MAR.

IUScholarWorks:  MAR would not be possible without the extraordinary vision, investment, and labor gathered in the IUScholarWorks program of the Indiana University Libraries. Focused on supporting open access scholarly communications efforts, IUScholarWorks (IUSW) has a number of signature projects, including Indiana University’s institutional repository and the IUScholarWorks Journals program. MAR was the first of the IUSW supported journals. This program has grown to include more than forty open access journal titles, including others of relevance to the ethnographic disciplines (Anthropology of East Europe Review, Ethnomusicology Translations, Studies in Digital Heritage, etc.).

I am not able to quantify the financial investments that the IU Libraries have made in MAR via the IUSW program, but the investment is significant and important. Most crucially, it is via IUSW that MAR has access to the incredible open access journal hosting and workflow software known as Open Journal Systems (OJS). OJS makes MAR possible and the IUSW librarians and staff make MAR on OJS possible. I want to express appreciation for the investment and incredible support that the IU Libraries have provided to me and to the MAR project. I hope to say more about the details of this support in the future and to quantify the technical and staff costs underlying it. For now, it may be enough to know that just as MAR tries to serve the field without charging fees for that service, IUSW tries to serve projects like MAR without charging fees for that service. It is certainly the case that economies of scale have been realized by having library-based publishing support services that can concurrently help a wide range of (mostly small) journal projects.

Indiana University Press: Technically, I could speak of the IU Press alongside IUScholarWorks. At Indiana University, our wonderful press is now a unit inside the IU Libraries. In this position, there is significant overlap and interdigitation between the open access publishing support work of IUScholarWorks and the general publishing work of the IU Press. But the two efforts also preserve some distinction. One way that MAR is increasingly being served by the IU Press is through promotion. As an outgrowth of the Press’ own commitment to fostering open access publishing, the Press has generously promoted MAR alongside its full suite of scholarly journals. As with the libraries as a whole and IUSW in particular, I cannot say enough good things about our press. The open access-fostering work of the Press, IUSW and the libraries in general are an outgrowth of a larger campus-wide and university-wide commitment that has been a key factor in the success of MAR and other OA (related) projects (JFRR, Material Vernaculars, Open Folklore) in which I have participated. I am appreciative of this support even as I cannot put a dollar figure on it. The key thing here is that MAR had not had to pay the IU Press to promote the journal (through print and web ads) just as it has not had to pay the libraries for IUSW services.

Conclusion: Responding to current calls for transparency in the work of open access journals is important. When I edited Museum Anthropology for the Council for Museum Anthropology Review, I was required to prepare and present annual editor’s reports that provided the board, the membership, and the AAA an auditable record of the journal’s editorial work and the financial realities of the journal in relation to the finances of AAA vis-à-vis its (then) publishing partners (University of California Press –> Blackwell/Wiley-Blackwell). By their nature, more emergent and grassroots projects (like MAR) lack formal institutional structures and thus they lack baked-in prompts for recording and reporting the facts of their existence. I hope that the accounting that I have provided here shows how one such project has functioned, particularly in terms of the flow of in-kind services. If cognate projects to MAR can also respond to calls for more public sharing of their underlying circumstances, the larger project of building a more equitable and sustainable system of scholarly communication can be advanced. I regret now not putting the facts noted above into written form sooner. Rather than end though on regret, let me close with a final word of appreciation to all of those who have provided the in-kind labor or financial support or technical infrastructure that has made MAR possible. See what you think of the results at:


*For the first time in MAR’s history, I paid a freelance copyeditor to edit three article manuscripts last month. Other duties prevented me from doing this work in a timely way and the assistantship role is not filled during the summer months. I paid for these edits out of discretionary funds raised through my involvement in other non-journal projects. Noting this fact allows me to record the value I place on the contributions that publishing professionals make in scholarly communication work. The DIY nature of MAR is an outgrowth of its nature and scale and is not a repudiation of professionalism in publishing work. Opposition to large corporate publishers is not the same thing as opposition to all publishers. I have devoted significant effort to supporting university presses and I try to be an ally to university press colleagues.

[Jason Baird Jackson is the author of this post. It was initially written on June 16-17, 2018 and published on Shreds and Patches on June 17, 2018. It is released under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. At the time of its publication, his twitter account “handle” is @jasonjackson116]

Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods: Regina F. Bendix to Deliver 2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Lecture

This is the season’s big lecture. With many heritage studies projects underway, it is a perfect time to welcome Regina back to Bloomington. Here are the details:

2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture
Join us for the 6th Annual Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture.

“Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods”

Regina F. Bendix, University of Gottingen, Germany

Monday, March 21, 2016
6:00-8:00 pm
800 N Indiana Ave

A reception will follow the lecture.


Since the mid-1990s, scholarship on heritage has blossomed – some might say boomed – and brought forth a plethora of new journals and studies in many languages, not least due to the vigorous work and impact of UNESCO’s heritage programs. UNESCO’s work on behalf of “cultural goods” reaches back roughly sixty years and has yielded many policy suggestions, conventions and programs. UNESCO’s activities in turn mobilized other international agencies concerned less with safeguarding valuables and more with ownership and group rights. They point toward ways in which different groups of actors harness the notions of tradition, folklore, culture or heritage to improve their lot on this earth. In their efforts, such groups are likely assisted more by experts in international law and economics than by students of culture.

For scholars in folklore and related fields, at least two tasks present themselves. One entails a continuation of a by now “traditional” task: understanding how excerpts from cultural scholarship, in their transfer and implementation in the public sphere transform, the practices, people and places we tend to study. A second task builds on this first one: we need to find avenues to communicate better with disciplines and practitioners engaged in establishing the legal norms and the economic projections concerning the fate of culture turned resource.

Reflections and Reports on Open Access Published in the New Issue of Cultural Anthropology (@culanth)

The new, May 2014 issue of Cultural Anthropology is out now. It is the second issue of the journal to be made freely available online, which means anyone with internet access can read it. (Hurray.) In support of the journal’s commitment to understanding and pursuing open access approaches to scholarly communication, the new issue has a dedicated section of peer-reviewed contributions focused on open access in the journal publishing realm.

I am happy be one of the contributors to this section. Ryan Anderson and I revised and updated an earlier interview on open access that we did together. We calibrated the new version to contemporary circumstances, included specific discussions of the Cultural Anthropology case, and sketched a critical anthropology of contemporary scholarly communications practices. It was exciting not only to revise the interview but to improve it on the basis of appreciated peer-review. We think of the piece as an experiment in genre too, as the interview was a textual co-construction in which we revised and altered each others’ words with the goal of creating the most useful resource that we could. It began as a true interview, but did not end there. (In this, its inspiration was an earlier Cultural Anthropology piece on open access “Cultural Anthropology of/in Circulation.”) The interview’s primary function among the other pieces is as an introduction to open access practices. We hope that it is useful in this role. We appreciate everyone who has already expressed kind appreciation for the piece.

There are many great pieces in the open access section (see list below). I am only now reading the other articles in the issue. Charles’ Briggs’s “Dear Dr. Freud” is compelling.

A key thing about the way that the Society for Cultural Anthropology is doing its journal and website is that the site is a rich hub for content both in support of the journal and extending well beyond it. Articles are often richly supplemented with interviews, images, and media and there are also opinion pieces, shorter works, photo galleries and much additional content. While Chris Kelty is present in the open access section of the journal, I want to call attention to his even newer opinion piece, which was published today. In it, he makes a strong case for the adoption of Creative Commons licenses for Cultural Anthropology going forward. I share his views.

There is lots to read in the new issue. Here are the open access pieces.

I really like the Glossary. It allowed me to get a definition of FUD into the pages of Cultural Anthropology! (Learning the term was the only good thing about the PRISM fiasco, an episode that seems so long ago now.)

The issue is receiving a good bit of discussion on Twitter but, as so often happens, there will probably be only a tiny amount of commenting on the journal site–even though there is great infrastructure in place to allow for it. I invite everyone to prove me wrong. Be brave and leave a comment on any of the papers.

Thank you to @culanth editors Anne Allison and Charles Piot for their hard work and for including the piece that Ryan and I did. Thanks as well to @culanth Managing Editor Tim Elfenbein for his hard work on the issue.

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.

Check Out the New Anthropod Podcast on Open Access

I really enjoyed listening to the new Anthropod podcast on open access in anthropology. Focusing on the move of Cultural Anthropology to an open access model, hosts Bascom Guffin and Jonah S Rubin have done a great job with the podcast. I urge everyone to check out their well produced conversations with Sean Dowdy (of Hau), Alex Golub (of Savage Minds and many OA discussions), Brad Weiss (past SCA President), and Timothy Elfenbein (Cultural Anthropology Managing Editor).

Find it in context here:

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (3): In This, I Support Elsevier

[Updated] This series began in the wake of an instance in which I, to the irritation of most observers, questioned a case of self-piracy. Soon thereafter, self-piracy was a big deal among publishing scholars for a higher education news cycle or two. I have stated my views previously and do not need to belabor them again here. I was busy with other things and thankfully Alex Golub and the Library Loon [and Barbara Fister] have each done a better job of writing about it [=Elsevier going after its agreement breaking authors] this time that I could ever do. Please read them.

Don’t blame Elsevier for exercising the rights you gave them by Alex Golub on Savage Minds.

Pig-ignorant entitlement and its uses by The Library Loon on Gavia Libraria

[When You Give Your Copyright Away by Barbara Fister in Inside Higher Education]

While I am a Elsevier boycott participant and cannot ever imagine publishing with them, I 100% support the rights of Elsevier and other publishers to fully and legally exercise the copyright that they legally hold and to protect their property from illegal misuse by third party firms and from their author agreement-disregarding authors who mistakenly believe that because their name is on the byline of an article that they can do whatever they wish with value-added property that, despite their authorship, they do not own. Self-piracy is wrong and it is not helping build a better scholarly communication system. Instead, it further confuses the already confused into believing that [pseudo] open access is easy and it leads to painful ironies such as scholarly society leaders setting publishing policies that they do not understand and that they, even as they make them, are out of compliance with. No open access advocate should be out of compliance with their own author agreements. (This is true all the more for those who are actively doubtful about open access.)  If a scholarly author wants to share their work freely online, there are many legal (and preservation-minded, and discovery-minded) ways to do this. Breaking contracts that one has already entered into so as to steal articles which one then hands off to a for-profit website (here today, gone when?) is not the way to do it.

Unfortunately, doing things the way we should do them is presently harder than doing things the way we want to do them. Reading and understanding (and knowing how to legally modify) author agreements is part of the hard work that thoughtful authors are obligated to pursue.

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (2): Tim Elfenbein on the *Why* of a la Carte Pricing in Route to a Multivariate Thoughtfulness

If you find value or interest in the discussion initiated in my post on pay per view journal article pricing and its relevance to scholarly authors and general readers, then do not miss Tim Elfenbein’s comment on that post.

Tim is the managing editor of Cultural Anthropology and an all around great person to keep up with. Among many other things, he is a knowledgeable, well-positioned reader for my post. He is a great interlocutor for many reasons, including (importantly for me) that he kindly saw that I was bracketing out a lot of important stuff. Rather than calling me out for that, he saw the opportunity to extend the conversation, adding another “note” toward a more holistic set of considerations. It should be in this slot as a guest post, but you can find his comment here. I recommend it.

Tim puts an important range of considerations on the agenda. Most directly he tackles the need to understand something about the “why” of a la carte (or pay per view) pricing, but he also points to the nature and impact of platform choices, human appreciation to those who are paying for our publishing, appreciation for those who are doing the labor behind our publishing, and recognition of the reputation (and tenure) economy and its effects. Even the ways that digital, legal, and financial transformations have devastated the old interlibrary loan model is lurking in there. All deserve revisiting or visiting. I am glad that Tim recognized that I was biting off one arbitrary chunk and that there were others lurking beneath the surface (or sitting on the surface, as with my repeated use of the word legal).

Two Reasons to Love the University of Nebraska Press @UnivNebPress

Visitors to this site will know that I am involved in a range of projects relating to reform in the scholarly communication system. University presses are a key part of that system. They bring to the current moment a lot of durable skills, values, and useful practices and they have the potential to play a key role in innovating the future.

In this note, I want to put on my author hat and celebrate two modest practices–one a tradition and the other an innovation–in the work of the University of Nebraska Press, the press that I have historically worked most closely with.

Part One: Some Things Never Go Out of Style

As an editor of a small scholarly journal with a reviews program, I spend a lot of time with what used to be called (and sometimes still are called) tear sheets. The term’s origins are in commercial advertising, but it extends logically to journal-based publishing of things like book reviews. When a publisher sends a new book to a journal in the hopes that it will be reviewed, it asks (among other things) that a journal that actually does publish a review send a copy of the final published review to the press’ attention. In the older days (and, in some cases, still today) the obligation was to send two (sometimes more) paper copies of the review to the press’ attention. These days, this task is most often accomplished electronically by sending a PDF of the published review to the attention of the relevant press’ marketing staff. The old name tear sheet refers to actual sheets of paper (with advertisements to send to buyers or reviews to send to publishers) torn from the relevant print edition so that they could then be mailed. (BTW: Shame on those journals who do not live up to their end of this bargain.)

When the reviews get to the press, there are a number of things that can be done with them. It is common for them to be harvested for favorable quotes that get added to a book’s page on the press’ website. In more elaborate operations, such quotes get pushed out to sites like Amazon. A acquisitions editor can use the incoming reviews to guide the development of their “list.” In aggregate, reviews tell editors what kinds of works (and which authors) are being well received. Such intellectual indicators complement quantitative measures as sales numbers.

At the University of Nebraska Press a tradition that many other presses have abandoned is also maintained. It is one that promotes tremendous goodwill with authors and, by extension, furthers the press’ reputation among potential authors. Judging by my experience (I have never discussed the practice with UNP staff.), the UNP marketing staff forwards incoming reviews to authors for their interest and use. Even in an era of such things as Google Alerts, this is a tremendous help to authors. In the wake of the publication of Yuchi Ceremonial Life, copies of these reviews–neatly annotated by press staff with date and place of publication–were mailed to me as they came in. Today, via email, I got from the press a PDF copy of the Chronicle of Higher Education book note appearing in the wake of Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. This is such a wonderful courtesy. If the new (edited) book is reviewed, I will really appreciate learning of this from the press. Even today, not all journals are richly woven into the digital infrastructure and thus the press will sometimes know of a review before I will. When I mention that UNP does this for authors, all my colleagues are jealous, as few of them have experienced such attention from the presses with which they work. This service is especially valuable to pre-tenure scholars for whom reviews are a crucial resource in route to their tenure cases.

In a time in which academic author have new choices, old courtesies like this can go a long way in maintaining strong relationships with authors.

Part Two: New Things Done the Right Way

Increasingly, university presses aim to promote awareness of their titles by making sample chapters available for free via their websites. This is an inevitable outgrowth of broader practices, such as the views inside books available on sites like Amazon. Typically university presses simply (and it is not exactly simple, of course) make this material available as a PDF download from inside the press’ website on the book’s page. This is a logical thing to do, but it is also a very temporary thing to do, as press websites (like most websites) are very unstable and ephemeral things. They are breeding grounds for link rot and they just do not measure up as preservation environments.

If a press is going to let a sample chapter loose into the digital world, it should do this in a way that advances all of the goals of scholarly communication. This means that if content is going to be freely available, it should be made freely available according to professional best practices. This means curated carefully in a digital environment with attention directed to preservation, metadata, stable URLs, etc.

Kudos and thanks, in this context, to the University of Nebraska Press for working with DigitalCommons @ University of Nebraska-Lincoln (the university’s institutional repository) to make such samples permanently and properly available (with a great cover sheet and good metadata) for the long haul.. I was happy to learn about this effort when I found the introduction to Yuchi Indian History Before the Removal Era deposited there. As such samples clearly generate sales, these practices are self-interested as well as in the interest of the public good.

In a word, thanks to everyone at the University of Nebraska Press for your work to preserve what is good about university presses while we discover new paths forward.

MLA and AAA Author Agreements Revisited (Plus Improvements to the AAA Agreement)

This note is an update to yesterday’s post regarding comments made comparing the author agreement used by the American Anthropological Association to the newly changed agreement announced by the Modern Language Association.

In a comment on the original AAA blog post, MLA Executive Director Rosemary Feal confirmed that under the new MLA agreement authors retain their original copyright and are not asked to transfer it to the association in order to be published in its journals.

In a later comment to that AAA blog post and in a follow up posting, Joslyn Osten of the AAA staff confirmed that the AAA author agreement does transfer copyright in accepted works from the author to the association

These confirmations indicate that my observation that the two agreements were distinctive (in a way that I judge to to significant) is accurate.

Along the way, I was pleased to discover something new (to me) about the AAA author agreement. As a former AAA editor, I spent a good bit of time with the author agreements in use during that period (2005-2009). The agreement in use during most of this period is the agreement that has been celebrated as SHERPA/RoMEO green. A key concern that I have had about that agreement was that it did not clarify for potential authors what form (post-print, publisher version, etc.) was allowed to circulate outside the official publications channels. In the new AAA blog post, a link is given to the current AAA author agreement and this document is different from earlier versions in this regard (the relevant language is quoted in the post itself, as well). Clarifying language has been added to item three under the heading “Author’s Rights.” The older version of the author agreement is presently available from the SHERPA/RoMEO website (look up American Anthropological Association to find it). Comparing the recent to the current agreement shows that what was previously called an “article” (in the contexts of retained author rights) is now described as either a “post-print” (a term of art now clearly defined in the agreement) or (quite generously) “uncorrected page proofs”. Allowing authors to circulate “uncorrected page proofs” along the green OA path represents a significant step above and beyond the minimum threshold required to qualify as a green OA publisher. (Post-print is the threshold for green OA. For further information, consult the SHERPA/RoMEO database, particularly its section on “RoMEO Colours.”

I commend the AAA on these improvements to its author agreement. As an observer of such things, I would have been satisfied with the clarification embodied in the move from “article” to “post-print”. That the association has agreed to allow uncorrected page proofs to circulate represents a noteworthy additional step. (I am sure that this shift to include “uncorrected page proofs” is not totally new, its just new to my awareness. It seems likely that it has happened in the past six months given that the change was not discussed at the time of the 2011 AAA meetings at which I spoke on the subject of green OA in the AAA. Allowing the circulation of uncorrected page proofs has its pros and (significant) cons, of course, but, be they what they may, this is what many AAA authors are doing anyway and this shift thus effectively “decriminalizes” a widespread practice among association members.

The AAA Author Agreement is Not the Same as the New MLA Author Agreement

If I am wrong about this, I hope that someone in a position of authority will explain clearly why my understanding is in error.

As I have discussed previously, the American Anthropological Association has an author agreement that allows for the circulation of author post-prints down the “green” OA (open access) path. It has had this author agreement for a number of years and it is a worthy thing that the association can be proud of.

The Modern Languages Association has recently announced changes to its author agreement. These changes are also designed to facilitate green open access practices. (For the announcement see here. For reporting in Inside Higher Education see here. For commentary from Kevin Smith at Duke, see here.)

The MLA has been receiving a lot of positive attention in the wake of its announcement.

Commenting on the story presented in Inside Higher Education Hugh Gusterson credited the MLA with making a positive step, but chided IHE for suggesting that this move was novel among scholarly societies, pointing to the green status of the AAA policy. The suggestion of Gusterson’s comment is that the two policies are equivalent because they both allow authors to post articles on websites and in repositories. Gusterson is someone whose research I respect and who is working hard on AAA publishing issues as a member of the association’s Anthropological Communications Committee.

More recently, on the AAA blog and in a tweet from the AAA twitter account, this argument is made in more elaborate terms. The AAA is basically saying that its author agreement is equivalent to the new MLA one and that anthropologists should be proud (rather than alarmed) that the AAA got there first. The blog post notes: “AAA members should rest assured that such an agreement is not new to publishing; in fact AAA journal authors have enjoyed this practice for quite a while.” There is no need for me to quote extensively from the blog post. It is there for interested readers to consult. To see the relevant tweets, the twitter account to look for is @AmericanAnthro.

I stand ready to be corrected and I have not seen the actual MLA author agreement, but the MLA’s language is clear on the following point: “The revised agreements leave copyright with the authors…”. This is clear language on a major point. If it means what it says (and I have every reason to believe it does given that Kathleen Fitzpatrick is the Director of Scholarly Communication for the MLA), then it means that the MLA agreement and the AAA agreement should not be treated as equivalent. Unless things have changed since the last time I saw a AAA author agreement, it does not leave copyright in the hands of an author but instead serves as an instrument by which copyright was transferred to the association. While the agreements may be alike in having the effect of allowing authors to circulate their work outside the society’s publication channel, retaining copyright and granting a license to your scholarly society to do something with your work is very different from signing away your copyright and retaining (i.e. being granted back) certain rights to use the work in which you formerly held copyright.

I hope that raising this distinction (something smarter people than me can explain more effectively) is not seen as snarky. As a board member that helped implement it, I am proud of the green author agreement that the American Folklore Society has and am quick to celebrate its strengths (i.e. it allows authors to circulate the publication version rather than just the post-print version of an accepted manuscript). I can also acknowledge that the AFS did not take the further step of defaulting to author-retained copyright. I am cognizant of the arguments for and against societies gathering in copyrights (and for the opposite position in which authors are allowed to retain them). My point here is just that, unless I am wrong, it is not accurate and thus not helpful to describe the AAA and MLA frameworks as being the same.

If I am reading the MLA language incorrectly and the association is actually obtaining copyright is the customary way, then it would be good if I were corrected on this point and for the accurate word to get out.

If I am wrong about the AAA author agreement and it does not now serve as a means by which copyright is transferred to the association, that too would be good to know. It would be an amazing and unlikely development.

If I am right and there is a difference between the two frameworks, then it would be beneficial for all interested parties to think about their implications and to discuss them with as much clarity as possible.

Despite the ways that my attempts to clarify its specifics have gone nowhere, I am glad that so many AAA anthropologists worked hard and early to establish a green author agreement for their association. It is a worthwhile accomplishment, for certain. Progress on open access can, of course, be incremental.

At the same time, I think that the MLA should be commended for its systematic reform efforts across the scholarly communications spectrum. If I am right and the copyright transfer aspects of their new agreement are distinctive, then they deserve particular credit for the kind of innovation that the recent AAA postings have aimed to diminish.

%d bloggers like this: