Read the Transcript of our March 20th Live Discussion on Open Access

These are the questions and comments from today's live discussion on Open Access with SCA President Brad Weiss, and CA Editor Charles Piot. Only questions from the discussion have been collected here, but you can see the entire discussion in this comment thread.

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Sam Grace: Many of the goals of Open Access seem to be shared with anarchist/pirates-with-a-heart-of-gold groups like library.nu (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012227143813304790.html), what lessons can OA journals take from those models’ success (and failure)?

Brad Weiss: Advocates for Open Access have lots of diverse goals and motivations, and I’m sure some of them are widely shared with social and political movements like these. But, I think there are at least some differences between OA and a project like library.nu. Journals and books are not exactly the same thing, and – for now, at least – a lot of university presses that are non-profit need to recoup some of the costs of publishing. For-profit presses that market scholarly journals really do NOT make the substantive contributions to the content they market in the ways that university presses (and even commercial presses) do for books.

For example: the SCA has a board that selects editors, who read all of the work that is submitted, and recruit readers to peer review these submissions for publications. None of these parties - board, editors, authors, reviewers- is paid anything for this effort, it’s all professional service/unpaid labor. In effect, for profit presses are charging our home institutions/universities TWICE, for the work that producers do to create the journal content, and for the attachment that the consumers have to this content that drives revenue producing subscriptions. For me, this makes the political economy of journals much more straightforward to reform than that for university press books. Even as I’m sympathetic to projects like library.nu, I think there is a way in which it didn’t recognize that the labor required for book production is not identical to the way scholarly journals work.

That said, I hope the success of OA in journals can provide a model for all of publishing that may lead the way towards much wider access to all of scholarship – who doesn’t want that??

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Fayana Richards: What were some of the barriers/obstacles experienced around preparing to make the move towards open access? Any tips for journals interested in making a similar move?

Brad Weiss: @Fayana- the biggest obstacle we faced was the AAA contract with Wiley Blackwell that would not let us go Open Access. Last summer, the AAA publication office agreed to allow one journal to go OA, and the SCA decided the timing was right for us to pursue this option. If you're a AAA journal, there's no way to go OA now. But DO lobby the AAA and your section so that when the next publishing contract starts in 2017-18, OA will be an option for the journals that want it.

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Sam Grace: There seems to be concern that Cultural Anthropology doesn’t have a viable plan for a business model for going Open Access (e.g. @ScholarlyComm @timelfen) - can you offer any assurances?

Brad Weiss: @Sam- Good question! Yes, these concerns have been raised, and YES we can offer some assurances. The first thing to note is that Open Access does not mean FREE; funding will certainly be an issue. I’m not sure this kind of chat is the best place to discuss the financial profile of the SCA, but here are some important considerations.

1) The SCA has lot of reserves at the moment. Not an indefinite amount, of course, but enough to buffer any costs we might have associated with going OA. Even if we make no royalty for the next 2-3 years of the WIley Balckwell contract (and that seems unlikely), our fund balance can absorb any loss.

2) We have invested heavily in our website and web support in the last few years, so that the entire submission and review process is fully automated and controllable by us, and the new website provides a platform on which to release the content of CA. So we have largely already paid for the infrastructure well need to get this going. The AAA was going to charge us for making pdfs and converting XTML codes for Anthrosource, but we persuaded them that we would provide a model for how publication will develop going forward, so they will pay those (modest) costs

3) Weve gotten an agreement from the AAA to let us pursue grants to develop OA, and lots of libraries are interested in partnering with us to do that. A great many libraries are also interested in partnering with us to host the journal and it’s archives, and to provide the kinds of web services we’ll need in the longterm at very reasonable costs.

4) All of these are short-term measures. But, in the long term, we are confident (cautiously, but confident nonetheless) that our annual dues will go an enormous way towards supporting our journal, and the other programs the SCA offers. We are the biggest AAA section now, and our dues, for the last several years, have, in effect, matched our production costs. Currently our best bet, and a realistic one, is that our membership dues will allow us to continue to publish with no decline in quality, no cutting corners, etc. We may have to raise dues slightly, but we do NOT think we need to; we are considering a small submission fee for non-SCA members, but we definitely do not WANT to do this. Finally, we are considering offering a print-on-demand version of CA that could generate a little revenue, and might also be a way to attract a bit more advertising. For now, none of these additional revenues is necessary, but they are all being considered.

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Tim Elfenbein: Can you give more details about the production of CA in its OA version. Is it correct that you will be using the Open Journal System platform? What costs and labor is associated with transitioning to this system? What kind of partnership do you have with the Duke Library, or with others? Will the journal have a professional staff, or will it rely more on student labor? What kind of license agreements will CA articles use?

Details, we need details!

Ali Kenner: @Tim We will be using OJS for review (as we have been) and production, as we move forward. In some ways the production costs are going to go down, but in other ways they're going to go up, or maybe just shift. Specifically, the managing editor (myself) will have to take on the production labor that was currently covered by Wiley Blackwell.

Duke Library is ready to partner with us.

The journal is going to continue to have a managing editor and a copy editor. Students mainly head up initiatives and publishing on the website, but wont be involved in the production of the journal itself (this has always been the case).

As for the license agreements, totally up for discussion still. We have a task force that will be meeting to discuss and flesh out these details. We'd love input from the community on this stuff.

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Stratos Nanoglou: Do you think that the move to Open Access will affect the authority of the journal? Related to that: what are your plans re the printed journal? Will you continue to publish that and will you keep the same format for both printed and online journal?

Brad Weiss: @Stratos- We are completely committed to maintaining the identical editorial standards we have now. That will not change in the least. We anticipate that more authors than currently know about CA may be attracted to us, and so the quality of submissions we receive may change - in a positive way. In any event, the review process and the input of editors to the publication process will be THE SAME. OA does NOT mean everything that is submitted is published!

As for the printed journal, we are looking into ways to provide a Print on Demand option at a modest cost for readers who would like a print copy. We dont know yet how that will be implemented, but the printed version should cover what is available online.

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Jonah S Rubin: While there is much excitement at the announcement, several people on Twitter also expressed concern that going OpenAccess may negatively impact the journals prestige. Could you speak to the ways OpenAccess might change the reputation of the journal, for better and for worse.

Charles Piot: @Jonah I dont see OA affecting CAs prestige/reputation. Indeed, I imagine it augmenting our rep. The editorial and review process will remain the same, we'll continue to publish the same number of articles a year. And we'll likely have a print-on-demand option for those who still want to receive hard copies.

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Leslie Aiello: Is Wiley Blackwell still involved at all or does open access mean that Cultural Anthropoloy will be published now entirely through the AAA?

Brad Weiss: @Leslie- We are still required to keep Anthrosource, the product that Wiley Blackwell sells to its subscribers, whole which means that all of our content has to be available to WB once weve posted it. However, WB will not provide us with any services; but we will draw a royalty based on the number of downloads we receive from readers who use Anthrosource.

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Darren Byler: Do you see this move to Open Access as a switch from a traditional journal publishing format to the creation of an article repository? Will the primary goal remain publishing new content or does this mark a shift in focus? In what ways do you envision Open Access transforming CA as an archive?

Charles Piot: @Darren Aside from financing, the main change will be the move from print to virtual. Well maintain our own article repository, partnering with Duke library. We dont anticipate a shift in focus, or a shift in content. Although publishing online opens up opportunities unavailable in print, like publishing more images, links to the web, etc.

Brad Weiss: @Darren- One thing that we are thinking about, as well is how to make the articles more interactive as they are posted. So going OA could allow us to have links to virtual conversations that address the articles, photo essays, etc. that we publish. But the FOCUS of CA will remain the same.

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Carole McGranahan: Where do you anticipate the publisher-side breakthrough in Open Access will come from? In terms of the AAA, the discussion often seems to be posed as an issue with Wiley Blackwell, but my sense is that many (most?) of the journals published by university presses are also still subscription-only pay models. Is there a movement afoot among university presses to go Open Access that is not shared by for-profit publishers, or is a for-profit vs. university press sort of conversation not useful here?

Charles Piot: @Carole Great question, and not sure of the answer. I do think that U presses might be squeezed by the move to OA - eg, Duke Press pays for its books through its journal subscriptions. But universites who now pay commercial presses (WB) will have money freed up to support their own presses, so that might be an avenue to explore.

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Jason Jackson: @Brad @Leslie When we speak of keeping CA whole in AnthroSource, this is shorthand (am I right?) for fully present both in AnthroSource (the AAA branded platform mainly used by members) AND Wiley Online Library, the broader (more powerful) platform subscribed to (in many ways) by libraries (more often, I think, than actual institutional AnthroSource subscriptions)? Related too (I suspect) is keeping it whole in other fee-for-access services such as JSTOR.While mainly a technical and business issues, these ongoing presences are also relevant to those interested in the status/reputation issues.Just out of my meeting

Brad Weiss: @Jason- Let me give this a shot. Yes, I believe keeping Anthrosource whole means keeping Wiley Online whole. There is a product Wiley sells, and we do, and must continue to to provide it- that was the deal we agreed to that allows us to go OA. The same is true for JSTOR; BUT we also got an agreement that says we can make the most recent 10 years of CA open, as well. Again, subscribers can use JSTOR, or they can get CA via the open portals we wil be using.

Brad Weiss: @Jason- BTW, this holds for the remainder of the WB-AA contract, through 2017

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mianthro R-R: I am interested in whether you have advice for smaller sections (e.g. sections with fewer members and funds on-hand) who might want to #OA? Is there a way to be open access if you dont have the kind of large memebrship that CA has?

Brad Weiss: @mianthro- For now, no there is no way for a smaller section, or any other AAA section to go OA. But we at SCA are hoping to develop software, platforms, etc. that we can share with smaller sections, so that OA will be a viable option for ALL of the AAA in the future. And the AAA is supporting our initiative because they want to see if OA can be a viable option for other sections after the WB contract i up.