Monday, January 14, 2008

AJA and open access

In the contex of his "Mediterranean Ceramics Reference Stability Report, Number 4" at Mediterranean Ceramics, Sebastian Heath makes some comments on the changes underway at AJA online. The AIA will cease to make PDFs of the American Journal of Archaeology's articles available for free download. Articles will be available via the commercial service Atypon. The change was announced in this letter from Naomi Norman, the AJA Editor-in-Chief. It is not clear, to me at least, what will become of the exsting five years of AJA. (None of them, by the way, can be easily printed). For the time being they remain accessible, and there are copies of some of the archive at the Wayback Machine.


Francis Deblauwe said...

What a disingenuous editorial: presenting as progress making electronic access to articles subscription only! What world does Ms. Norman live in? This only further adds to the reasons why I dropped my AIA membership last year. The organization is too elitist and has trouble seeing beyond the interests of institutions and institution-affiliated people and their wealthy donors.

Francis Deblauwe said...

Clarification: "The organization is too elitist ..." should read "The leadership of the organization is too elitist ..."

Sebastian Heath said...

I'm sorry that the post on my blog has engendered what comes close to a personal attack on the leadership of the AIA. I find that such statements do little to influence the people to whom they refer. In this instance, it is quite easy to refute the charges of elitism at the AIA. Two points:

1. The AIA publishes Archaeology Magazine, which has 240,000 subscribers. That number makes it a leading voice in bringing archaeological news to the public.

2. The AIA sponsors lectures on cultural heritage to troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a very practical step in bringing our expertise to people who can make use of it in very difficult circumstances. You can read about this program here.

This is not a defense of the decision to stop making print-restricted PDFs freely available. My general opinion of that change is clear. But if the AIA is to be drawn into a discussion about how to distribute its digital information, we need arguments that emphasize the positive role of OA publication in reaching the Institute's goal of promoting public education and awareness of scholarly research.

Charles Ellwood Jones said...

Peter Suber comments on this issue in Open Access News

Francis Deblauwe said...

My beef is not so much with public outreach (though more and differently could be done in that regard too) as with the tendency of the AIA leadership to have a blind spot for the large group of in-their-eyes non-traditional academics, hence the reference to "the interests of institutions and institution-affiliated people and their wealthy donors." As full-time jobs with benefits are fewer and farther between, many more scholars find themselves doing research without institutional support such as unfettered access to an adequate academic library. Taking AJA offline is just one more impediment in the path of doing research "outside the system." Also, in my dealings with AIA national, I have unfortunately experienced that affiliation and location matter very much. For instance, I have run the Iraq War & Archaeology project during 2003-2006 by myself, on a volunteer basis. It started out as a review, collection of articles and info, archived and maintained, to end in its last incarnation as a blog. The site resides on an Austrian university server but that's the only support I got. Anyway, in 2003, I approached the AIA with proposals for me to produce in digital form some materials for local chapters to raise awareness about the plight of the archaeological heritage of Iraq. They didn't want to hear about it. I asked to join the Task Force on Iraq, was first told OK and then notified that, no, it wasn't OK after all. Never got a clear answer but between the lines it was implied that I was just small fry. Never mind that all the colleagues in the field of Mesopotamian archaeology were daily perusing my web resource and publicly stated so... Well, I guess I better stop here. This post is getting too long already.