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Posts from the ‘Open Source’ Category

Essay on Enclosure in Scholarly Communication Updated

I have updated my earlier essay on enclosure in scholarly communications with a sort of index (at the end of the piece) of all of the major discussions of it of which I am aware. While there have been exchanges and posts on various weblogs, the main “debates” have happened on listservs in the OA and librarian communities. Links to the relative archives for these are given in the update. Thanks to everyone who considered the essay and made it my most read piece of writing on this site.

Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps (With Updates)

In honor of the upcoming celebration of open access week and because I felt the need to write something other than administrative memos, I composed the following essay outlining my relationship to commercial scholarly publishing in the wake of concluding my work as editor of Museum Anthropology. It is offered here [CC BY NC SA 3.0] for those who might be interested in my thinking on one piece of the larger scholarly communications puzzle.

[Because of its inclusion in the Hacking the Academy project, this piece is now (as of June 6, 2011) offered under the less restrictive CC-BY 3.0 license.]

Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps [1]

Jason Baird Jackson
Indiana University

Last year, did you get paid nothing to work hard for a multinational corporation with reported revenues of over 1 billion dollars in 2008? [2]

If you have (1) done peer-reviews for, (2) submitted an article to, (3) written a book or media review for, or (4) taken on the editorship of a scholarly journal published by giant firms such as Springer, Reed Elisevier, or Wiley, then you belong to a very large group of very well-educated people whose unpaid labor has helped make these firms very profitable. Their profitability in turn has positioned them to work vigorously against the interests of (1) university presses and other not-for-profit publishers in the public interest, (2) libraries at all levels, (3) university and college students, (4) scholars themselves, and (5) particular and general publics with a need to consult the scholarly record.

I am not willing to freely give my labor to large multinational corporations whose interests align with their shareholders but that are antagonistic to my own. This is my view on one key aspect of scholarly communications today. Scholars can advance several different worthwhile causes by doing all that they can to stop becoming further entangled (individually and collectively) with for-profit scholarly publishers, particularly the largest of the multinational firms that increasingly seek to exert a kind of hegemony over the entire domain of scholarly communications.

There is a great variety of steps that can be taken to build a different, more accessible and progressive system of scholarly communication. My focus here is on five simple choices that scholars can make while sitting at their desk pursuing their own publishing work. These are choices that I have made and that I encourage my colleagues to consider making.

  • Choose not to submit scholarly journal articles or other works to publications owned by for-profit firms.
  • Say no, when asked to undertake peer-review work on a book or article manuscript that has been submitted for publication by a for-profit publisher or a journal under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not seek or accept the editorship of a journal owned or under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not take on the role of series editor for a book series being published by a for-profit publisher.
  • Turn down invitations to join the editorial boards of commercially published journals or book series.

If taken, the preceding steps are individual in their point of action even as they support a variety of more collective projects aimed at redirecting the scholarly communication system in more progressive, sustainable, and open ways.

If you care about university presses, these steps will help.  If you are eager to resist corporate enclosure of public goods, resources, and ideas, they will help. If you care about reform in intellectual property systems, they will help. If you advocate for green open access publishing, they will help.  If you want to cultivate not-for-profit gold open access publishing, they will help.  If you are worried that your college or university library is on the brink of financial collapse, they will help. If you want to make sure that your scholarship is as available as possible to colleagues, students, and the public, they will help. If you believe in open education and other approaches to transforming teaching and learning, they will help. If you are concerned about the harmful effects of media consolidation, they will help. If you are selfish and resent being taken advantage of, they will help.

If you are a shareholder or employee of a for-profit publisher, they, of course, won’t help.

If you believe that only for-profit firms can sufficiently “add value” to your work between the time of authorship and the time of publication, then your views are those of the commercial firms and their lobbyists, but they do not match my own experiences as an author or journal editor or consumer of scholarly works across several disciplines.

If you belong to a discipline in which there are no viable not-for-profit publishing options left, then you and your colleagues face bigger questions that are beyond the scope of this essay (but there is still hope).

The fact that a large number of not-for-profit scholarly societies with active publishing programs have entered into partnership with the large commercial publishers makes coming to an individual conclusion about these issues more difficult, at least vis-a-vis those publications that are simultaneously producing profits for the private publishers and for the not-for-profit scholarly associations. Many scholars value their own scholarly organizations highly and appreciate the variety of services that they provide to members. Scholarly societies have chosen to partner with for-profit publishers because of a perceived need for the revenue that these publishers can provide. As a member and as a journal editor, I have experienced these dynamics in the context of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its decision to move first from self-publishing to a co-publishing arrangement with the University of Californian Press and then to a publishing partnership with the commercial firm Wiley. The tale of these experiences and their ramifications is the topic for another essay, but my own choice is that I have selected to remain an active member of the AAA but not to undertake further editorial, authorial, or peer-review work for its journals while it remains partnered with Wiley. My hope is to be an effective advocate for (and builder of) alternative approaches to scholarly publication within and beyond the association and to work to understand the costs as well as the benefits that the Wiley partnership has brought. Thankfully, a not-for-profit sector still exists in anthropological publishing. While it has been reduced through the vigorous efforts of the commercial firms, it has been expanded, to a degree, through the founding of some new not-for-profit and open access publication outlets. Resisting commercial publishing and sustaining this diverse and non-commercial communications ecosystem is where I most wish to invest my time and labor. I regret that my association chose to turn its back on the university presses that have long been so important to the social sciences and humanities and that its embrace of commercial publishing has alienated the institutional partners that it could have cultivated in the service of more open approaches to publishing, but nothing is permanent. (On the AAA case, see Kelty et al. 2008)

Not everyone will come to the same conclusions that I have about these issues. That is the way of things. I have found encouragement though in the diversity and energy of the many colleagues who have given serious thought to the problems that scholarly communications work now faces and who are working hard to develop the many solutions that are being pioneered right now. Concluding where I began, with an image of scholars contributing to their own exploitation and to the impoverishment of society generally, I end with a the observations of anthropologist Michael F. Brown. Discussing the decision by the AAA to partner with Wiley, he reflected: “I find myself asking the following question: Why would anyone agree to edit a journal for free or to review submissions for free when the organization that distributes the final product is committed to generating profits for its shareholders or owners? The whole idea of “service to the profession” begins to look like a clever form of economic exploitation (Brown 2007).”

What choices are you making? Are you ready to get out of the business?


1. My deepest thanks go to everyone who has worked hard to teach me about the world of publishing and libraries, as well as to those who have supported my work as an author, editor and publisher.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA

[Update: As noted above–because of its inclusion in the Hacking the Academy project, this piece is now (as of June 6, 2011) offered under the less restrictive CC-BY 3.0 license.]

2 As a measure of scale, consider the following three large commercial STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publishers. For 2008, Springer reported revenues of 892 Million Euros (or about 1.3 Billion U.S. Dollars) (Springer 2008:20). For 2008, Reed Elisevier reported revenues of 5 Billion, 334 Million Euros (or about 7.9 Billion U.S. Dollars) (Reed Elsevier 2008:6). For its Fiscal Year 2008, Wiley reported revenues of 1 Billion, 674 Million U.S. Dollars (Wiley 2008). Revenue is different from profit, but these are very profitable firms. Unlike the bulk of their scholarly content, their annual reports are freely available via the corporate information or investor relations sections of their websites.

References Cited

Brown, Michael F.

2007    Weblog Comment., accessed October 11, 2009.

Kelty, Christopher M., Michael M. J. Fischer, Alex Golub, Jason Baird Jackson, Kimberly Christen, Michael F. Brown, and Tom Boellstorff

2008    Anthropology of/in Circulation: The Future of Open Access and Scholarly Societies. Cultural Anthropology 23(3):559-558., accessed October 11, 2009.

Reed Elsevier

2008    Annual Reports and Financial Statements 2008. Amsterdam: Reed Elsevier., accessed October 11, 2009.


2008    Springer Science+Business Media Annual Report 2008. Berlin: Springer Science+Business Media., accessed October 11, 2009.


2008    John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2008 Annual Report., accessed October 11, 2009.

Update (10/29/2009)

As of this evening, WordPress tells me that about 750 people have specifically consulted this essay. Because it is visible on the main page, I suspect folks visiting for other reasons occasionally notice it and that the WordPress count is mainly of individuals who come to the essay via the links that are out and about. While it is dissipating, there was a lively discussion in a number of places about the essay. For everyone who took the time to read it, link to it, or comment upon it, I am very thankful.

While it has been linked to from a number of places, the discussion unfolded in a few places that can be identified for the benefit of anyone who comes along later.

The comment section of the post itself (and of the thank you post that I wrote later) is an obvious place where discussion unfolded. The others that are known to me are:

The JISC-REPOSITORIES listserv, whose archives are available here. Look for the thread titled “Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself” begun by Stevan Harnad on 10/21/2009. While the thread began with Harnad’s critique, a number of authors recognized that my main point was not an intervention in direct support of Green OA but about a different matter of concern to some but not all scholarly communications workers/observers. I appreciate the discussion that the repositories community gave my reflection and appreciate those who picked up on what I was trying to say.

Stevan Harnad posted a comment here on my site to which I replied. In addition to the JISC-REPOSITORIES listserv, he also posted his statement on his own website (where I also offered a comment) and circulated it on various other OA-related lists.

Thanks also to those who supportive in their positive comments and linking to the essay, including the good people at Savage Minds, Publishing Archaeology, and Cultural Sustainability.  Interested folks on Facebook and Twitter also spread the word about the essay. All of this was a useful lesson in me relative to the power of social media to help spread an idea and facilitate a discussion among scholars and their allies.

I was motivated to gather up these links and notes in an update because I just heard from my friend Randy Lewis about an event being held at the University of Texas Austin. The important gold OA media studies journal FLOW is celebrating its 5th anniversary with panel discussion in which he is participating. (Hacking the Ivory Tower: A Roundtable Discussion). He mentioned that he though he might mention my essay/post. In case anyone new came around to check it out, I wanted to make finding some of the follow up easy.  (Congratulations to everyone who has made FLOW a success, by the way.)

Update (11/1/2009)

Discussion of the essay also took place on the Budapest Open Access Initiative Forum. It can be found archived as a thread at: Discussion there took place (or at least began) in October. I found the comment of my IU colleague Bob Noel particularly engaging and I appreciate his arguments on behalf of my position. To reiterate, I favor (like Stevan Harnad) action and advocacy in support of green OA but (unlike Stevan Harnad) this is not the only scholarly communications issue that I am concerned to address in my own work.

In an October 31 post (Message #5233) Stevan Harnad reposted his reply to Bob Noel’s BOAI Forum post to the SPARC-OAForum. It can be found here: Further discussion on the SPARC-OAForum might or might not materialize.

It is interesting to ponder what it means that much of the discussion of the essay has taken place on listserv’s rather than in weblog comment sections.

I forgot previously to mention an additional venue in which discussion of the essay took place–Open Anthropology Cooperative, where Keith Hart offered extensive and interesting commentary. See:

Update (6/2/2010)

Thanks to everyone who has maintained an interest in this essay. This update is intended to calibrate the essay for its second life as a submission to the Hacking the Academy project (see #hackacad on twitter). When the Hacking the Academy project was still in its emergent stages, I submitted this essay to this crowd-sourced collection, which is being coaxed into existence by Tom Scheinfeldt and Dan Cohen of the CHNM. It was not an created anew for Hacking the Academy but it seemed to fit with the spirit of this project, at least as I perceived things at the early in that project’s birth-week. My essay was the third submission cataloged under the Scholarship and Scholarly Communications heading. That section went on to gather up about 50 contributions. (I look forward to reading them all myself.)

Of special note for this update is the response essay that Richard S. Lavin authored on his blog Hayrick’s Blog Explorations. (As of this writing the link on the Hacking the Academy website misdirects to a different submitted essay.)

I do not know if this essay will go on to become part of the book-based version of Hacking the Academy but, regardless of that question, I am very appreciative of all those who have found their way here and given my reflections their attention. I especially appreciate those who took the time to comment on the essay or who have discussed it offline.

As it turned out, there was a rich outpouring of material for both the project in general and for the scholarly communication section in particular. There is much to learn and benefit from there.

A second, related essay of mine is listed on the Hacking the Academy website, also under the Scholarship and Scholarly Communications heading. Hacking the Academy, and the rich responses and enthusiasm that the project was generating, motivated me to ready that work for publication and to go ahead an get it out there for whatever good work it might do. The essay (given at a conference last year) is about the scholarly communications landscape in folklore studies, with special attention given to journals. When I tweeted about it, I indicated that #hackacad had been my inspiration for publishing it. As it treats the scholarly communication landscape in a single small discipline, I am not sure that it makes sense as a formal submission. Still, I have hope that readers of this essay will find it useful (and vice-versa). Find it here. Another companion piece is the talk that I recently gave at AcademiX 2010. (For better or worse) that talk should soon appear in iTunes university (I hope for the better).

Because the Hacking the Academy editors aim to draw upon blog comments and tweets associated with contributions, I want to note that my October 21, 2009 follow-up post on this one also gathered comments on the essay. The editor of the American Anthropologist was one of these discussants. See here.

My thanks go to everyone involved in Hacking the Academy. What an amazing experiment in cooperation and communication.

Update (6/6/2011)

This piece is now slated for inclusion in the edited volume version of Hacking the Academy (#hackacad). My appreciation goes to the editors of the volume–Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, and to everyone involved in supporting and advancing the project. I appreciate very much the chance to be involved.

Inclusion in the project necessitated the change in license from CC BY NC SA 3.0 to CC-BY 3.0, as is reflected in the headnote above.

Update (12/17/2011)

Among works citing this essay is Josh Berson (2010) “Intellectual Property and Cultural Appropriation.” Reviews in Anthropology. 39(3):201-228. DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2010.509026

Presenting at an Information Technology Conference Tomorrow!

It would have seemed unimaginable a few years ago, but these days weird stuff happens more and more often. Tomorrow I will be presenting at the Statewide IT Conference put on by Indiana University.  The conference will be held at our campus in Indianapolis (IUPUI). I will be speaking about my experiences using Open Journal Systems to publish Museum Anthropology Review in partnership with the wonderful folks at the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. I love every aspect of my experiences getting MAR up and running.  My friends and colleagues in the fields of museum and material culture studies have really done wonderful work with, and for, the journal.  As important are all of the great folks at the library’s IUScholarWorks and Digital Library Programs who have have done so much to make it happen behind the scenes. And a great piece of open source software–OJS–is also crucial to the effort.  I am so thankful for the hard work of so many people in the open source and open access movements. In this case, I am particularly thankful for the Public Knowledge Project and its funders. Thanks go as well to community of open access anthropology advocates and pioneers.

I learned a lot trying to speak to the CIC librarians last May. I am guessing the IT community will teach me a great deal tomorrow as well.

Friends at the IU Libraries

I think that today’s ARL webcast went pretty well.  I am frankly unsure because I am not 100% certain of what I said.  Nobody has yet pointed out any gaffes that I (might have) made. It was amazing that we as a group were able to hit the one hour mark exactly.  The ARL staff did a great job organizing the event.  Thanks to all the people who attended/listened in. The presentation will get posted to the web as a video sometime soon and I’ll get to feel self-conscious about it, but for now I am happy about how things seemed to have gone.  The other participants did a wonderful job and I learned not only from them but from the process in general.  While I may not have hit the nail on the head, the technology itself is pretty awesome and I can imagine all sorts of uses for it or similar systems.  Thanks to Jennifer Laherty for being a great partner in the project and to all of my many friends at the IUB libraries for supporting the many projects that we spoke of briefly.  You’re all awesome.

Speaking of the Libraries, I was saddened to learn recently that Library Dean Patricia Steele would be leaving IU for the Deanship at the University of Maryland.  Pat was been an amazing supporter of progressive reform in scholarly communications and has been a real leader in cultivating new roles for the library in this domain.  She has led or supported many general initiatives of great importance to me and she has been a great patron for Museum Anthropology Review.  Maryland is very lucky.

In the great news department, Carolyn Walters was named Interim Dean today.  Carolyn shares Pat’s commitments and enthusiasms for scholarly communications issues and I look forward to supporting her own efforts in the months ahead.

Three cheers for libraries and librarians (especially those at IU).

Two Bits by Chris Kelty is Great

kelty_cvr_medA few days ago I finished reading Chris Kelty‘s wonderful book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008).  During the academic year, I could not get to it but it was a treat to read it at a time in which it could be the only big thing that I was reading (as opposed to reading it alongside course readings).  While I would have benefited greatly from reading it last year (when my involvement in the issues that it treats really began to expand), it will do me much good in the days ahead, as it relates very centrally to the work that I am now doing on scholarly communications issues.  It provides invaluable context on the emergence and present-day life of open source software, but it also offers a range of valuable theoretical, interpretive and methodological tools that are portable to other contexts.  The book also examines, in a very sophisticated way, the manner in which the processes and ideas and values of free and open source software have been extended into projects like Connexions (about which my department held a really fruitful meetup recently) and the Creative Commons license system.  All of this work is done very artfully and in ways that we can all learn from.

This post is no surogate for a careful review, but I want to flag the book’s importance to me and to suggest that it is going to be touchstone work for many of the projects that I am increasingly involved in. More ambitiously, I want to plead with my friends and colleagues to read it so that we can talk about it and draw upon it in our efforts together and in our conversations. It is a great work of ethnography, history, and theory.  It is also an experiment that modulates the very processes that it describes, as is evident on the excellent and innovative website that Chris has built to extend the book.  One can purchase the book the conventional way, but it is also available to freely read and remix in a variety for formats via the website.  Some of the background for this is also provided in the “Anthropology of/in Circulation” project that Chris led and that I particupated in.  Find the article version of that project here in IUScholarWorks Repository.

Thank you Chris.

The Form of Value in Globalized Traditions

Recently, I had a unique and wonderful opportunity to participate in a small conference and workshop hosted by the Center for Folklore Studies at The Ohio State University (in partnership with the Berkeley Folklore Program).  Titled “The Form of Value in Globalized Traditions,” the workshop continued an ongoing series of discussions that were inaugurated in 2007 by Charles L. Briggs at the University of California, Berkeley.  The program for the public presentations (which were held on Friday, March 6, 2009), along with paper abstracts, can be found online at here. The overview summary describing what we were up to read:

This international working group considers the career of vernacular traditions under globalization. As cultural forms circulate ever more widely, recycled, restructured, and hybridized as they travel, regimes of value insist increasingly on point of origin. Since economic value is predicated upon scarcity, in a global framework cultural objects are marked—and marketed—as local. Form itself is fetishized as social interaction becomes attenuated. Rather than contesting the reification of culture into exchangeable goods, the resistance of impoverished groups and social movements increasingly takes shape as a struggle for control over the manner of commodification and the profits thereof. In the face of restructurings of value initiated by the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, free trade agreements, and transnational corporations, intellectual property rights become a key locus of contention between distributors and cultural producers. The public component of this year’s group meeting will explore form and value as both categories of action and tools of analysis. We hope that attendees will help us with the work of comparison and synthesis.

My own presentation considered the current reshaping of the system of scholarly communications in which folklorists and ethnologists circulate (and find expanded publics for) their work in an era of corporate enclosure, media consolidation, and library crises on the one hand and open source technologies and open access movements on the other. The participants were a great group. In addition to many wonderful students and faculty members from the OSU folklore program, the participants were: Sadhana Naithani (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), Lee Haring, City College, CUNY), Mbugua wa-Mungai (Kenyatta University, Nairobi), Galit Hasan-Rokem (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Candace Slater (University of California, Berkeley), Amy Shuman (The Ohio State University), Dorothy Noyes (The Ohio State University), Javier León (Indiana University), Diarmuid Ó Giolláin (University College Cork), and Charles L. Briggs (University of California, Berkeley).

Thanks to everyone who helped bring this great event into existence. Thanks especially to the OSU folklore students who brought great energy (and a great Saturday lunch) to the event.

Plateau Peoples Web Portal

Check out the informational website for the new Plateau Peoples Web Portal project being undertaken at Washington State University by my friend and collaborator Kimberly Christen. It is an awesome new project that builds on the work that she and colleagues have been doing developing open source community cultural archive tools. Learn more about the broader effort on her website, on the site for the Mukurtu project, and at the new Plateau Peoples Web Portal project site. Congratuations to the whole project team.

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