May 28, 2022

Interview: Heather Paxson, Interim Head of MIT Anthropology, on a New Model for Open-Access Publishing in Anthropology

From MIT News:

Publishers, librarians, research funders, and leaders from across the field of anthropology — including journal editors and representatives of the major Anglophone anthropological societies of both Europe and North America — gathered at MIT on April 24 for an invitational workshop focused on a sea change for everyone who attended: moving the discipline’s journals to an open-access (OA) model.


Professor Heather Paxson, interim head of MIT Anthropology, and an event organizer, shared her thoughts on the workshop and new OA plans with SHASS Communications.

The interview consists of four questions and fours answers. Here’s one exchange.

MIT News: What are the key features of the new “Library + Funder” (L+F) model proposed by the anthropology journal collective Libraria, and what are its pros and cons?

A (Paxson): The L+F model proposed by Libraria at our MIT workshop acknowledges the complexity of today’s knowledge ecology and includes all players who participate in the production and distribution of scientific and humanistic knowledge: scholarly journals and societies, research granting agencies, publishers, and libraries.

The basic idea is to ask granting agencies to support the open publication of their funded research so that findings may reach a wider audience, with libraries covering remaining publication costs out of the subscription fees they’re currently paying to for-profit publishers who keep articles behind paywalls, or impose steep article processing charges [APCs] to open articles on an individual basis.

The major “pro” of this funding model is that it offers a way around a problem currently common to open access publishing — namely, the exploitation of underpaid or volunteer labor of production staff, or of the goodwill of authors and their backing institutions in paying APCs. By escaping proprietary agreements, the L+F model also promises greater budgetary transparency and access to data analytics for all involved.

As discussed at the MIT workshop, a major challenge of the proposed model is bringing research funders on board. The agencies that support anthropological research represent a variety of organizational structures, each raising its own set of issues. For example, for a small private research foundation also to invest in publishing might require shifting limited resources away from funded research.

Meanwhile, national foundations like NSF [National Science Foundation] and NIH [National Institutes of Health] would require a change in federal law to be able to collaborate with individual journals, since their expenditures are currently required to be via grant, cooperative agreement, or competitively-bid contract. Such structural diversity poses bureaucratic challenges to setting up a mechanism for the broad participation by funders suggested by the L+F model.

Direct to Complete Interview

See Also: Participants comment on the Anthropology Open Access event at MIT

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.