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Thursday, September 20, 2007

More on the AnthroSource move to Wiley-Blackwell

When I first blogged the news that AnthroSource, the publishing arm of the American Anthropological Association, was moving from the University of California Press to Wiley-Blackwell, it was just a plan.  Now it's official.  From the Wiley-Blackwell announcement (September 19, 2007):

Wiley-Blackwell...and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) today announced that they have formed a new publishing partnership to commence in 2008.

Wiley-Blackwell will publish 23 anthropology journals and newsletters of the AAA including the American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, and the Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Wiley-Blackwell will also host AnthroSource-the premier online portal to full-text anthropology articles serving the research and teaching needs of scholars and practitioners in the US and around the world.

The AAA Executive Board's decision to join Wiley-Blackwell was the result of a year-long process centering around a detailed request for proposals and evaluation of publisher submissions. In its development of AnthroSource in 2002, the core goals of the AAA included developing a portal that could provide scholars with innovative discovery tools for accessing scholarly content, in text, photo, audio and video media, and an electronic means to expand the reach of anthropological knowledge to additional readers worldwide....

To support the AAA's mission of disseminating anthropological knowledge, Wiley-Blackwell will work with the Association over the next several years to enhance the global dissemination of its publications, including expanding its free and reduced-price access programs in developing countries....

Comment.  In June 2006, the AAA signed a public letter opposing FRPAA without consulting its members and triggered a wave of member protests.  When the AnthroSource Steering Committee expressed its support for FRPAA, the AAA disbanded the committee.  Nevertheless, many anthropologists hoped that the AAA would convert AnthroSource to OA.  Now AAA lays those hopes to rest and will have to explain to members how this move advances anthropology more than OA and why the views of the membership, and even the AnthroSource Steering Committee, were systematically disregarded.

Update.  Also see the September 19 statement by William Davis and Alan Goodman (respectively, Executive Director and President of the AAA) and Jennifer Howard's story on the Chronicle of Higher Education News blog.  Excerpt from Howard:

...The deal features a profit-sharing arrangement under which the association will get 60 percent of “excess revenues over expenditures” each year, according to a memo circulated to the association’s journal editors and section heads and sent to The Chronicle. The association is also guaranteed a minimum yearly income that should be worth some $2.7-million over the contract’s five-year life, the memo says.

Initial reaction has been cautiously optimistic, although the association’s leaders continue to take fire for how they went about the search for a new publishing partner. “I can honestly say that I support the move, and that I think the AAA did the right thing,” wrote one poster on the anthro blog Savage Minds. But “the process by which it happened has been demoralizing — more evidence that as a scholarly society the AAA does not see any need to communicate with its membership at large, solicit their input, or operate in an even quasi-transparent manner.”

Update. See the comments on Jennifer Howard's story on the Chronicle of Higher Education News blog. Here's one:

No indication that the AAA is concerned about the pricing of its journals, which I am prepared to bet will raise at at least 10% per year over the life of the contract. Letís be clear about what is going on here the AAA is using a private publisher to extract income from universities through their libraries. The bad news though is that university libraries will not be able to afford these increases. In the end fewer subscriptions will be sold and fewer people will have access to this scholarship. If the AAA really cared about scholarship in anthropology they would be pursuing an open access strategy.