Cultural Anthropology, Be My Valentine!

The peer-reviewed journal Cultural Anthropology has gone open access!  When the Directory of Open Access Journals boasts almost 10,000 gold open access journals, why is this big news?  For several reasons:

  • Now that the open access movement is gaining momentum, many journals begin as gold open access journals.  Cultural Anthropology, on the other hand, began as a subscription-based journal…way back in 1986.  It was a well-established and well-respected journal, chugging along just fine, but its editors decided that subscriptions and restrictions were no longer the right model.  So they thoughtfully and carefully transitioned to gold open access.
  • Cultural Anthropology is (to the best of my knowledge) the first really major, established open access anthropology journal in the United States.  The first biggie in any field is big news!
  • Cultural Anthropology is published by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA), a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which has been slow to support open access. Organizational movement toward open access in AAA is evidence (among many other pieces of evidence) that open access is no longer a fringe movement.  If it’s in the air at AAA, it’s in the air everywhere.
  • Wait, let’s step back a bit more: Cultural Anthropology is published by a scholarly society! That’s a big deal! As far as I know, no academics are worried about the fate or profits of the big commercial publishers, but many are worried about the financial health of scholarly societies, which often rely on subscription income to support other areas of operation. If SCA and AAA are confident that making Cultural Anthropology open access won’t be ruinous, maybe other associations will begin to think more seriously about embracing openness?  Maybe more scholarly societies will consider Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s statement that a society’s value “may be moving from providing closed access to certain research products to instead facilitating the broadest possible distribution of the work done by its members.”

For all these reasons, I want Cultural Anthropology to be my valentine!

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About Jill Cirasella

Jill Cirasella is the Associate Librarian for Public Services and Scholarly Communication at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
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