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QuickWire: Anthropology Journal Moves to Open-Access Model

The journal Cultural Anthropology has just published its first free, open-access issue, which it says will help in “returning publishing to the commons, where academic life begins.”

“The editors hope this move will expand the audience of the journal to curious readers—academic or not—who would not normally have access to the latest research in anthropology,” the journal said in a news release. The release also said that the Society for Cultural Anthropology, which publishes the journal, hopes that the move “will contribute to the extension of Cultural Anthropology’s intellectual reach, and that this in turn will influence the society’s practice and that of anthropology at large.”

Brad Weiss, a former president of the society and an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, noted in an editorial that the switch from a subscription-based model had not been easy.

The society is a section of the American Anthropological Association, which has a contract with Wiley-Blackwell to publish some 20 journals, but in 2012 the association proposed a test in which one section’s journal would be allowed to go open-access “for the duration of the Wiley-Blackwell contract.” Cultural Anthropology was the only volunteer, Mr. Weiss writes. It has since worked to create publishing systems and a business model, as well as to assure that the publication will continue to be properly indexed and cataloged.

“The economic impact of open access is very difficult to gauge at this point,” Mr. Weiss says in the editorial. “The SCA is fortunately well positioned to handle even major expenses in the years between now and the end of 2017. Beyond that, the SCA hopes to show that a major journal can remain viable through a combination of grants, institutional sponsorships, and, crucially, membership support.”

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