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By Tad McIlwraith, University of Guelph and Caura Wood, York University

Survey Highlights

Thank you to all members and Anthropologica readers who responded to our Open Access Survey in July 2018. This article summarizes the survey results and outlines the decision to move forward with open access for Anthropologica.

The survey asked respondents about their motivation for paying for CASCA membership and subscription preferences, and then asked them to rank five different financial scenarios. Highlights of the results include:

  • 144 responses.
  • Over 90% of respondents are willing to pay for CASCA membership if Anthropologica goes open access.
  • A strong dislike for article processing charges (APCs).
  • Sixty-five percent of respondents would rather go without a print copy than pay extra for it.
  • Mixed responses to the various financial scenarios. The most popular scenario appears to be paying more for CASCA membership to make Anthropologica available free of charge. The second most popular scenario is the current subscription-based model without a print copy.

Background and Overview

CASCA members have long explored avenues for open access (OA) publishing as a means to make their research accessible to as wide a readership as possible. These discussions were accelerated by SSHRC’s move to change the criteria for its Aid to Scholarly Journals (ASJ) program, from which Anthropologica has received support since 1979. For the new funding cycle beginning in 2019, only journals that are either open access or commit to transitioning to it by 2021 are eligible to apply.

The Open Access Working Group (OAWG) was established in May 2018 to assess the financial feasibility of moving Anthropologica from a subscriber-supported journal to an open access journal. The group researched the emerging landscape of open access publishing, reviewed the financial health of Anthropologica, and considered a number of scenarios for the journal to continue with or without SSHRC’s ASJ funding. We also surveyed CASCA’s membership and Anthropologica’s readers for their views on the most desirable way forward for the journal, taking into account several financial scenarios. Our aim was to furnish the CASCA Executive Board and Anthropologica’s Editorial Board with a recommendation regarding whether or not to submit an ASJ application to SSHRC in September 2018.

In order to qualify for SSHRC’s ASJ funding under the new rules, Anthropologica must achieve by the third year of the grant either immediate open access to all articles or an embargo (pay-wall) period of no more than 12 months. Two viable options emerged from the OAWG survey: 1) Open access with SSHRC and an annual levy to be charged to all members (66% of survey respondents); or 2) Status quo, with no SSHRC and no print (20% of survey respondents).

Recommendations and Moving Forward

Since 2014, Anthropologica has partnered with University of Toronto Press (UTP) as its publisher and Project Muse as its majority aggregator. Both UTP and Project Muse are non-profit organizations. It is noteworthy that Project Muse only accepts enrollment from nonprofit publishers. These partnerships have generated 2,000 institutional subscriptions for Anthropologica and over 7,500 article downloads per year. The current relationships also achieve “Green Open Access” for Anthropologica whereby SSHRC’s requirements for scholars to publish openly can be met if the author files their article in a public repository. To date, this is a model that CASCA and Anthropologica editors have been proud to offer authors, readers and members – and it is a standard we believe we must match or exceed with a broader, “gold” open access model.

Based on the overwhelming demand and moral support for open access from the membership, and the low level of support for Author Processing Charges, the Working Group recommended to the CASCA Executive that Anthropologica apply for SSHRC’s Aid to Scholarly Journals. In doing so, we recommended that Anthropologica adopt a plan to transition to full open access by the third year of the grant cycle. This recommendation was accepted and the application was submitted to SSHRC in early September by current editor Sonja Luehrmann.

The CASCA Executive supported a full move to open access in Year 3 rather than implementing a twelve month paywall to block access to journal content to all but subscribers. The Executive concluded that a moving paywall is unlikely to generate much revenue for Anthropologica or CASCA. Moreover, SSHRC has previously indicated that it might move to get rid of the moving paywall option at some point in the near future. And, from an author’s point of view, open access in Year 3 has the benefit of providing immediate exposure for our work.

Questions Raised in the Survey Reponses

Survey respondents asked useful questions and made helpful suggestions in their responses to the survey. Many expressed reservations about article processing charges as potentially creating a two-tiered system that excluded early-career and contingently employed authors. The idea behind the levy model is to remove financial barriers to submitting manuscripts as well as to reading the journal. Some requested that the CASCA Executive Board be included in these discussions and decisions. The Board received the recommendations in August, provided guidance around the paywall question, and ultimately accepted the recommendation on behalf of the organization to move to open access. Your comments have also prompted additional research efforts on our part. We are aware of Cultural Anthropology’s open access model and have it in mind in our deliberations. Should we implement a membership levy to support open access, we will consider seriously a tiered system which reflects one’s ability to pay. And, as we continue our work as a working group, print-on-demand publishers and private sponsorship – suggestions for consideration from you – remain part of our deliberations. We are working together with Anthropologica’s editorial board and team of editors to ensure that Anthropologica remains a high quality journal and one in which we take pride.

Next Steps

The work of the Open Access Working Group continues during the fall and winter. Our primary tasks now include the evaluation of various open access funding models. We are also the researching broader funding options (such as Libraria or Érudit) and platform alternatives (for example, PKP, Coalition Publica, U Toronto Press, and individual university libraries), and emerging best practices. Members of the working group have been meeting with librarians and faculty at their institutions to find out about the experiences of other societies and journals. We have also met with board members of Libraria and Coalition Publica to ensure that we understand their OA models.

Also in the fall of 2018, OAWG co-chair (and former CASCA treasurer) Caura Wood attended a conference session of the Scholarly Communication Institute in North Carolina. The session was titled Understanding and Mitigating the Risks of Open Access for Scholarly Societies and, in it, Caura met with members of other learned societies and Libraria to discuss the benefits and risks of open access publishing. The 2019 joint CASCA/AAA conference in Vancouver will provide an opportunity to exchange experiences with editors of other anthropology journals, as well as for OAWG members to consult with Anthropologica’s editorial board and readers.

The Open Access Working Group is committed to identifying open access solutions that provide the widest possible reach of the journal and ease of access for our research interlocutors, colleagues, and community stakeholders, without compromising quality or the ability of readers to find our work. As the transition continues, we will remain in place to advise the CASCA executive board and Anthropologica’s editors and board members about successes and challenges.

We are fortunate to have such a regionally diverse and talented group comprising the OAWG. We would like to thank Sonja Luehrmann, Udo Krautwurst, Brian Thom, Alicia Sliwinski, Linnéa S. Rowlatt, Heather Young Leslie, and Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, as well as the helpful staff at UTP for their time and invaluable contributions and collaborations on all of OAWG’s work and outputs.

Finally, the Open Access Working Group is always looking for new members. If you are interested in helping us with this work, please contact us by email. And, thank you again for your support of our work and of Anthropologica.

On behalf of all members of the OAWG,

Tad McIlwraith and Caura Wood

tad.mcilwraith@uoguelph.ca / caura.wood@gmail.com

Open Access Working Group Co-Chairs

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