Is Anthropology Any Different?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2005 18:21:57 +0100

Below is a notice that appeared in Peter Suber's OA News about an
article from the American Anthropological Association. I precede it
by providing some objective data on what anthropologists actually do
(rather than what they say they do).

Anthropology (10-year ISI sample):

    OA articles / (OA + non-OA articles): 3365/32912
    Percentage of articles that are OA: 10%
    OA citations / (OA + non-OA citations): 14313/59503
    Percentage OA citation advantage: 165%

The right questions to ask anthropologists are:

    (1) Do you self-archive your articles (or publish them in OA journals)?

    (2) Are you aware that (1) is possible?

    (3) Does it matter to you and your discipline whether and how much
    your articles are used and cited?

    (4) Are you aware that in anthropology (and in all disciplines)
    OA enhances citation impact by 50-250%?

    (5) Are you aware that anthropology (like all other disciplines)
    is still only providing OA to about 5-25% of its research output.

Now, having heard this, read what the AAA Anthroplogy News article wrote.

Stevan Harnad


    Why are anthropologists reluctant to share research online?

    Stacy Lathrop and Gretchen Bakke, Multivalent Networking
    is Indispensable to Communicating Information,
    American Anthropological Association, September 2005.


    In April 2005 the AAA launched a confidential survey to its full
    membership to seek information about members' current practices
    for communicating electronically about the association and their
    research....Although there is a wide recognition of the usefulness
    of posting conference papers and supplementary materials online,
    there is minimal willingness to post one's own work, and there is
    even less willingness to submit online comments on annual meeting
    papers. This is true regardless of age or employment status of the
    respondent....If respondents were to post [conference] papers and
    other substantive materials online, which they do not think should be
    mandatory, they would prefer to do so either after the annual meeting
    or in the month preceding it; they would also find such submitted
    materials most useful during this time. There is marked interest in
    annual meeting papers and abstracts being electronically accessible
    indefinitely, coupled with little interest in the preservation of
    online bulletin boards and interactive discussion forums for more
    than four months....Respondents were asked about Creative Commons
    licensing options available through AnthroCommons (these options
    range from the 'all rights reserved' of traditional copyright to
    a voluntary 'some rights reserved' copyright), and their views on
    Open Access models. (Open Access is a movement to grant access to a
    large variety of up-to-date information sources, electronically, for
    free.) Results suggest that respondents value the idea of Creative
    Commons and the Open Access model (such as AnthroCommons); yet, only
    a third of the respondents who completed this survey, or roughly the
    number who accessed AnthroCommons, completed this question. Also
    of those five people who responded that they had actually posted
    material, three respondents selected a Creative Commons license
    and two a traditional 'all rights reserved' copyright option....The
    full report of the AAA Electronic Communications Survey is available
    through the AAA website.

    Also see this comment by Judd Antin on his blog:

    is there something fundamental about anthropology that makes the
    discipline averse to an open model? Anthropology is, after all,
    based on fieldnotes which are deeply personal and often private. Maybe
    these values extend to other forms of writing as well, such as notes,
    conference papers, and even online discussions. Many anthropologists
    were (and in some cases still are) also indoctrinated with the idea
    that anthropology is about the lone ethnographer, trudging off into
    the jungle to find his or her 'people.' If anthropologists believe
    that doing anthropology is a lone enterprise, and further that the
    product of their work is too deeply personal and individual to share,
    does that erect an insurmountable barrier to Open Source Anthropology,
    at least for the foreseeable future? Or is it just a generational
    thing - the old, 'traditional' anthropologists are as stuck in the
    mud as they've ever been?...Maybe our only choice is to sit back and
    wait for the paradigm shift when the current generation of thought
    leaders fades away....So maybe the obstinacy of many anthropologists
    isn't insurmountable. The challenge is to maintain a critical mass
    of anthropologists who continue to contribute and share freely. If
    the explosion of blogging anthropologists is any indication, it's
    a promising future.

Posted by Peter Suber at 9/21/2005 10:31:00 AM.
Received on Wed Sep 21 2005 - 18:54:18 BST

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