Friday, February 17, 2012

Why OPEN ACCESS is Good for the Anthropology

The American Anthropological Association is reconsidering changing its publications policy after openly opposing "Open Access" to scholarly publications. This is a welcome step. However, it should never have been a problem, as I argue below. The problem is the "academic society" business model that still dominates the AAA and many other disciplines. It is time to change the business model so that it serves all of society (especially that part that pays for it).

By OPEN ACCESS here I mean free access to its scholarly publications.
If anthropological research is to be useful to the public and taxpayers who pay for it, then one can argue that "Yes" it should be free.

It should be free because it would be the completion of what today is an incomplete economic transaction. That is, the taxpayer gives money to the government which in turn advertises (RFP) for a product -- research -- through one or more of its social or health science agencies. The academic anthropologist bids on the RFP and is award a grant or contract to produce the product requested. The grant or contract is awarded and the research is performed and a financial report is filed with the government. The product may be delivered to academic community, BUT it is not necessarily delivered to the buyer -- the taxpayer in a usable form.

Taxpayers pay not only for the research but they pay for the publication when academic journals charge researchers for publishing their papers. The "scholarly publishing" practice is really nothing more than in the trade would be called "Variety Press." Then, to turn around and sell these publications (articles) at exorbitant prices through a 3rd party is bad business sense. It cheats the taxpayer, and the author, of the intellectual property they have purchased and/or created. Is this fair??

Among the taxpayers, who support such research efforts, are anthropologists and other social scientist who are not part of the academic community; nor who have direct access to the research product that such affiliation affords. These researchers and practitioners are forced to 1. ignore or remain ignorant of the results from such subsidized government research; or 2. pay exorbitant prices for reprints often with little or no information other than a title of what they are buying ("buying a pig in a poke"). In both cases we end up with an inefficient distribution of information.

From the point of view of the public, the vast amount of economic data and writing produced by that discipline (academic) and government makes economics THE AUTHORITY for social policy decision making. And anthropology, used only by academic anthropologists, remains but an arcane ivory tower activity of marginal economic value. Ask Scott Walker about that.

For those of us who pursue careers outside of the academy, the inaccessibility (logistically and/or financially) of recent anthropological research and discussions means that we come to rely on secondary and tertiary sources or use other perspectives that might produce a similar utilitarian result for us. As a result, those of us who would be supporters and wholesale customers for anthropological products, and who could serve as spokespersons promoting anthropology to the public and the taxpayer are left out. We are left out by the economic barriers that prevent or deter us from using timely anthropological research.

Without the demand that we might create for such research, there is little reason in tough financial times (other than national security spending) to fund what is perceived in the minds of government funding agencies and Congress as basic soft social science research.

Anthropology is not the only social science, it competes with the others for research funding, student recruitment, and external (non-academic) employment opportunities for its graduates. Any barriers to the free flow of information between the branches, and sub-disciplines, of anthropology puts us in a weaker competitive position via-a-vis our sister social/behavioral and policy sciences.

Finally, economic barriers to the free of information is, by the AAA and SfAA's own ethical codes, unethical.

That's my opinion. I will be interest to hear how others feel.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Little History of Applied Anthropology on the Local Level 1974

The Following is an article I wrote for the Anthropology Newsletter (Vol 16 No. 8 October 1974) about a local self help group formed in Tucson Arizona. The group which called itself the Society for Professional Anthropology (SOPA/aka SPA)was the precursor of the Local Practitioner Organizations and NAPA. It was formed for the purpose of bring unemployed and other "anthropologists" together and to recognize the diversity that exists within the local community of trained anthropologists.

The following material was written by Barry R Bainton,founding member of the Society. —DD\N

In recent years a growing concern among anthropologists and their students has been the changing employment market. If an anthropologist obtains employment outside of the "traditional" academic setting, he or she often finds it difficult or impossible to maintain professional identity as an anthropologist. In November 1974, a group of non-academically employed anthropologists in Tucson, Arizona, began a series of meetings to discuss this problem. Out of these meetings the Society of Professional Anthropologists (SPA) was formed.

The Professional Anthropologist
The use of the term "professional" has stirred and continues to stir debate within the group. Other names for describing the group have been offered, eg, "applied," "nontraditional," "practicing," etc. Yet none so completely encornpasses the concept that the group seeks to express as does "professional." What is a professional anthropologist? At first glance, the answer is obvious: one who is employed as an anthropologist is a professional anthropologist. Very few persons trained as anthropologists, however, are employed specifically as "anthropologists." To restrict the professional identity to those whose job title or description specifies "anthropologist" or "anthropology," is too strict a definition for it excludes all those who have developed new and possibly unforeseen "uses" for the art and science of anthropology and the anthropological perspective. A broader, and for the group useful, definition is an individual who is formally trained in anthropology, is employed or seeking employment in a professional capacity, and identifies anthropology as his or her primary source of professional focus. By "primary source of professional focus," I mean the basic intellectual and ethical foundation of his or her approach to his/her professional activity. That is, the individual brings to his/her employment an anthropological perspective or ethic. Thus, the Tucson group includes in its membership the traditional university level teaching anthropologist and the less traditional anthropologically trained businessman.

Why a Separate Group?
Another issue the Tucson group has considered is "why a separate group, why membership in AAA, the Society for Applied Anthropology, or other special interest groups?" In the discussion it quickly became evident that there exists a very large gap between the needs of the professional anthropologist and the current services available from the national organizations. Among these needs are: timely information about job openings in the range of fields professional anthropologists have exploited or seek to exploit; information about local developments within the professional activity area in which the anthropologist finds himself; a forum where anthropologists employed in similar and/or complementary areas can get together and discuss issues of local concern from an anthropological perspective; creation of a local pool of consultants by fellowship in a common interest group; role models for those who wish to practice their anthropology in a non-academic setting; and contact between the teaching and practicing anthropologist to help each understand and benefit from the perspective of the other.

On another level, then is a need for a local group representing a wide interest base to monitor local legislation and lobby for anthropological interests. Current federal funding patterns, ie, formula grants, revenue sharing and planning and review requirements, make it crucial that anthropologists on the local level be able to influence state and local agencies in the development and implementation of local legislation designed to take advantage of federal legislation. The critical point in the system is frequently the person in the local or state agency who writes the rules and regulations that ultimately put flesh on the bare skeleton of legislation. Therefore, those who initially met and who continue to meet in Tucson feel that the formation of a locally based professional association of anthropologists is desirable for their purposes. Membership in the SPA does not require membership in any other anthropological association, nor does it exclude it. One's professional interest may require membership in a wide range of special interests groups. In fact, the SPA encourages its members to be active in other groups. The information derived and shared with the membership of SPA can only help to meet the needs of group members.

The Purpose
The Society recently adopted the following purpose statement: "The purpose of the Society of Professional Anthropologists is to promote anthropology as a profession. The Society seeks to develop the art and science of anthropology and to promote its use for the betterment of the community. To further these goals, the Society and its members seek self development through active support of formal and informal means of communication between members and to promote the public's awareness of the values of anthropology and the anthropological perspective."

The History of the SPA
The Society developed out of two general local movements in Tucson. One movement evolved among local program evaluators. Recent federal social legislation has included the requirement of program evaluation as a program component.

In Tucson, program evaluators have been hired by the city government, local school district, health and research planning agencies, behavioral health programs and by private consulting firms, among others. In some cases, one-man evaluation programs operate in social or health service agencies. As these evaluators developed contacts with colleagues in other agencies and programs, a number of anthropologists discovered one another. From these discoveries they began meeting to discuss common problems in evaluation and to rekindle their anthropological interests.

At the same time, archeologists at the Arizona State Museum, located at the University of Arizona, have for several years been doing salvage and contract archeology throughout Arizona. In the last year, a new program was introduced at the University. The program, Cultural Resource Management, was stimulated by the federal legislation requiring a historical and archeological impact statement to be filed as part of the environmental impact statement for major construction projects. As a result a number of archeologists trained as cultural resource managers have been matriculated and have met to discuss common problems.

In November 1974, a meeting was called by the author and Margaret Knight to discuss the major events of the AAA annual meeting in Mexico City, which Knight had attended. Members of the evaluation and archeological groups, as well as persons who were known to share an interest in professional applied anthropology, were invited. Out of that meeting was born the Society of Professional Anthropologists.

The Society has a mailing list of 125 persons, and an active membership of approximately 105 drawn from the Tucson and southern Arizona community Functionally the membership is drawn from the following activities areas: Services, 20; Teaching and Training, 19; Administration, 20; Research, 16; Students, 25.

Broken down by discipline, the membership shows the following distribution: Education, 32; Government, 7; Health Related Fields, 11; Social Services, 8; Business, 12; Archeology, 6; Housewives, 3; Students, 25.

The Society is governed by a Steering Committee composed of 18 persons. The Steering Committee meets regularly to plan group activities. A workshop on Consultancy, as well as discussion groups on Program Evaluation and Environmental Impact Statements, have been held. A newsletter has been created and published. A jobs network has been created to advise members of local employment opportunities. Plans are currently being made to monitor local and state governments for developments of concern to anthropologists and to prepare the group to help lobby for and against legislation that directly affects anthropologists and anthropological interests. One final point should be made concerning the Society of Professional Anthropologists. That is, it is a local, grassroots organization. Its activities and structure are designed to meet the needs of the professionally employed anthropologists in Tucson. Others in other locales may find their needs are different. We would encourage others who wish to, to form their own groups to serve their local needs. We would welcome word from any such group in the country.

If anthropology is to be successful in marketing its perspective, skills and students in the non-academic market, it will require those of us who profess to be professionals and anthropologists to demonstrate the utility of that perspective and those skills to the public and to potential employers. We may do this individually, but we can also do it collectively. In Tucson, Arizona, we have chosen to do it both ways.

ANTHROPOLOGY Newsletter October 1975

Vol. 16 No. 8 pp. 4 - 6

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Where are/is our ambassador? Where is our Margaret Mead?

Who is speaking out for anthropology in the public arena today? I can remember a one time when Margaret Mead was the voice and face of American Anthropology. For those who did not attended the 2010 AAA meetings in New Orleans, Dr. Jeremy Sabloff raised this question.

At the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in New Orleans, LA Dr. Jeramy Sabloff from the Santa Fe Institute. gave the Distinguished Lecture. His lecture was entitled "The Circulation of Ideas: Anthropology and Public Outreach" was delivered on Friday, November 19.

Dr. Sabloff is introduced by AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez.

2010 AAA Distinguished Lecture: "The Circulation of Ideas: Anthropology and Public Outreach" by Dr. Jeremy Sabloff, Santa Fe Ins at the American Anthropological Assn. from Vimeo.

This is an excellent and timely statement about the issues facing the Anthropological profession and making it relevant to society at large. The insular nature of academic anthropology and reluctance to stand up for and take action on the issues, many seem to feel, are critical and only weakens the brand and influence of what should the prince/ess of the social sciences. Trans-disciplinary is the appropriate word for the potential contribution anthropology can make. For the past thirty years, the opportunity has been there and still in 2010 we are talking about it, rather than having done anything about lending our insight to the public understanding of the problems and solutions of building a planetary socio-cultural system.