The headline on Monday’s announcement seemed impressive: “AAA Creates ‘Open Access’ to Anthropological Research.” But ...

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The announcement starts off by calling the new policy of the American Anthropological Association “a groundbreaking move” that would provide “greater access for the global social science and anthropological communities to 86 years of classic, historic research articles.” The problem, critics say, is that the emphasis should have been on the word “historic,” because those 86 years worth of articles aren’t the most recent 86 years. Rather the association will apply its new policy for its flagship journal, American Anthropologist, only 35 years after material was published. The association has created open access to the scholarship of the ’50s and ’60s.

The anthropology association has been divided for years over open access — the view that research findings should be online and free. Many rank-and-file anthropologists embrace the idea, seeing it as a way to most effectively communicate without imposing huge financial burdens on their libraries. But the association relies on revenue from subscriptions to its journals and has resisted repeated pushes from its own members to move in the direction of open access.

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