Press Room

AAA Director of Publishing Speaks to Developments in Access to Research

For Immediate Release
February 28, 2012

Oona Schmid, Director of Publishing at the American Anthropological Association is engaging in dialogue with Columbia University students this afternoon at the Scholarly Communications Program Panel to Consider Recent Developments in Access to Research. "Protests, Petitions and Publishing: Widening Access to Research in 2012" to discuss how Occupy Wall Street, the Research Works Act (RWA), the boycott of Elsevier journals by a growing number of academics, and other recent developments are informing the debate over access to research and scholarship.

During the discussion, Schmid discusses encompassing the widest possible readership for AAA publications. She identifies that while the publications department has a large number of volunteers, such as editors and reviewers, there still remains overhead and personnel costs of running the Association.  She also identifies the academic reward of a formal publishing process, which is still regarded as valuable towards tenure and professional development. This process includes peer-review of the journal piece as well as the necessity for long-term preservation, which aids in access when the article is cited.

AAA is responsible for half million digital objects with articles dating back to 1888 available via AnthroSource. AnthroSource is a service that offers AAA members and subscribing libraries full-text anthropological resources, including: a digital searchable database containing the past, present and future AAA publications; more than 500,000 full-text articles from AAA journals, newsletters, bulletins and monographs in a single place; and 24/7 access to scientific research information across the field of anthropology.  Resources older than 35 years are available for free public use.

During this panel, Schmid reviews AAA’s 2010 cost structure. In the presentation, Schimd displays a pie chart to demonstrate how AAA met the costs of its expansive publication program in 2010 (page 7). If AAA were to provide open access to all of its publications, she pursues the options for replacing the  63% that currently comes from library subscriptions. The first option is that AAA members might pick the cost; however, membership dues would increase enormously . In the second option, the author might pay for their work to be published. This option might lead to students, international anthropologists, and underemployed authors being discriminated against, as they might not afford publication.  Commentaries and book reviews, which are a significant role in anthropological publications, might not be funded under this option. The third option might be to reduce costs. While a common perception is that the Association could stop printing copies, ending print only reduces the 2010 costs by 24%, not the 63% that is paid for currently by subscriptions.

As AAA strives to find a way to provide access to the widest possible readership, the Association currently offers the following access to research:

  • Sliding scale membership:  Access to AAA’s digital, online literature is available to individuals on a fair and reasonable sliding scale annual fee structure that ranges from $30 to $306 (
  • Free Access: Access to AAA’s digital, online literature is available free of charge to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges, and qualifying institutions from less developed countries (  In addition, AAA participates in four philanthropic programs to provide free access to our content in under-resourced countries. These programs are administered by agencies with presence on the ground in these areas, such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the International Council for Science.
  • “Ungating” back issues of journals: Access to back issues of AAA’s journal American Anthropologist (AA) is available free of charge 35 years and longer after publication. That means that in 2012, all back issues of AA are available free of charge from 1888 to 1977; in 2013, the year 1978 will be “ungated.” Sections are encouraged to follow the same plan. To date, three sections have agreed. CFPEP is charged with assessing the success and costs of this arrangement.
  • Anthropology News online ( is open access for two months before content is gated and archived within AnthroSource.
  • Grey Literature Hub. With funds raised by the AAA Research Development Committee (RDC), AAA endorsed and is working towards the establishment of an “Anthropology” category on the online open access Social Science Research Network (SSRN; for the purpose of disseminating grey literature, anthropological content that is otherwise not available.
  • Author Rights and Permissions: In the author agreement for AAA journals, the author reserves the right (among other rights) to post his/her article on the author’s personal or institutional website, and to post the article on free, discipline-specific public servers. Because of these clauses, AAA's author agreement is rated green by SHERPA/RoMEO, a project designed to help facilitate green open access (

To view Schmid’s complete presentation, click here.

Want to know more about AAA’s publishing program, check out these FAQs.

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Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world's largest professional organization of anthropologists and others interested in anthropology, with an average annual membership of more than 10,000. The Arlington, VA – based association represents all specialties within anthropology – cultural anthropology, biological (or physical) anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and applied anthropology.