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Open Anthropology Index: How Open is the Access to Anthropology Journals?

When we were leaving Marmato, a gold mining town where we were doing fieldwork in Colombia, the miners we had been working asked us not to forget them. They also expressed their interest in knowing the results of our research. Presenting the findings of a research project, however, is a process full of obstacles. Publishing academic articles is the most common way of reporting results. Yet, to whom are we talking when we write these kinds of texts? Certainly not the communities we have worked with, but other academic peers who will assess/examine the connection between our empirical data and theoretical insights.

For anthropology to have a bigger impact in solving social conflicts, it must speak to a wider audience. Therefore, we have decided to build the Open Anthropology Index. The Index will evaluate the “openness” of anthropology through different variables in various domains, which we will explore through the entries of this blog. In this entry we want to introduce you to the first variable of the Index: How open is the access to anthropology journals?

We analysed the anthropology journals indexed in Scopus*, a database of the most read journals in the world, to calculate the percentage of those that don’t restrict access to content via a paid subscription. This has been commonly called Open Access. The following includes the main results:

  • Out of 324 journals, 50 are Open Access, ie. 15,4%.

  • 48% of those 50 journals are published by journals in the global North (Western Europe and US).

  • Out of 118 US journals, 3% are Open Access.

  • Out of 137 Western Europe journals, 14,5% are Open Access.

  • 93% of Latin American journals are Open Access.

  • 9,6% of the highest rated journals (Q1) are Open Access, while the open access percentage in Q2 is 20%, in Q3 is 22%, and 10,5% in Q4.

The journey towards a more open anthropology will be a long one. The results of the first variable of the index show that open access publications are overwhelmingly a minority. Furthermore, the countries with more resources to invest in research are the ones with fewer open access journals. The percentage of open access publications of Q1 is even less to the percentage of Q4. Additionally, non-open access journals usually charge authors for liberating the access to their articles.

Is it enough to open the access to journals to actually open anthropology? The answer is no. The fundamental obstacle is the complex, hard-to-understand language that has been used to communicate anthropological knowledge. This language, in fact, is against the main principle of anthropology: the capacity of understanding each other despite our differences. This Index will also measure anthropologists' capacity of reaching audiences beyond academia and of reconnecting their academic work with public action.

An essential part of being anthropologist is to promote mutual comprehension. If our labour is to translate difference, so far we have done so only for ourselves.

*Click here to download the database we have been working with.

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