Here are some interesting findings of a survey by the American Anthropological Association about members’ current practices for communicating electronically about the association and their research. In the anthropological blogosphere, we often wonder about why anthropologists lag behind other scientists in publishing papers online:
"Although there is a wide recognition of the usefulness of posting conference papers and supplementary materials online, there is minimal willingness to post one’s own work, and there is even less willingness to submit online comments on annual meeting papers. This is true regardless of age or employment status of the respondent.
There is marked interest in annual meeting papers and abstracts being electronically accessible indefinitely, coupled with little interest in the preservation of online bulletin boards and interactive discussion forums for more than four months.
In terms of who should be permitted access to material related to AAA annual meetings, most believe that session information and abstracts should be made available in searchable format online to the general public. Yet, papers, works-in-progress and comments should be limited to session participants, and perhaps AAA members.
Results suggest that respondents value the idea of Creative Commons and the Open Access model (such as AnthroCommons); yet, only a third of the respondents who completed this survey, or roughly the number who accessed AnthroCommons, completed this question."
UPDATE: See Judd Antin's comments:
"Is there something fundamental about anthropology that makes the discipline averse to an open model? Anthropology is, after all, based on fieldnotes, which are deeply personal, and often private. Maybe these value extend to other forms of writing as well, such as notes, conference papers, and even online comments. Many anthropologists were (and in some cases still are) also indoctrinated with the idea that anthropology is about the lone ethnographer, trudging off into the jungle to find his or her ‘people.’ If anthropologists believe that doing anthropology is a lone enterprise, and further that the product of their work is too deeply personal and individual to share, does that erect an insurmountable barrier to Open Source Anthropology, at least for the foreseeable future?"
UPDATE 2: Very interesting inside-information by Alex Golub on Savage Minds. We hear "the native's point of view" on publishing papers online:
"People like to use email to send papers to each other. Why? Because it’s private, they already know how to use it, they use email as a file system to store, index, and retrieve attachments, they’re not actively interested in adopting new technology for its own sake (if it’s not broken, don’t fix it), and new genres are not obviously sufficiently better than existing onces to induce a switch. In other words, we use email because it is a good tool for the job we want to do.
Why would people be averse to publishing their papers online before the AAA meetings? Two things occur to me here. Come on, folks: we write our papers the night before we give them. (...) Second (and more importantly), conference papers are some of the worst work we produce—they are poorly edited, the citations are often incomplete or wrong, and the arguments we make in them may change over time. (...) Why in the world would we as scholars want these hesitant, initial steps of our thoughts to appear at the top of a Google search for our name?"