Monday, January 5, 2009

Is the SAA trying to change how they publish?

I just got a ballot from the SAA (Society for American Archaeology) with the regular voting on committees and positions. The ballot also includes sweeping changes to the by-laws that eliminate entirely the descriptions of duties of standing committees (such as the Publications Committee). This will put much more power into the hands of the Executive Board, who would find it easier to make major changes in how the society operates. In the case of publications, this could result, for example, in a positive move toward Open Access, or it could result in retrenchment and a move away from OA (see my prior post on this). It is hard to predict the ways in which the proposed by-laws changes will be beneficial to the society, or the ways in which they may have negative consequences; it will depend on how the board uses its enhanced powers.

A more streamlined and centralized decision-making process (the stated goal of the changes) would certainly be one consequence of the proposed changes. But is this a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure. I have not seen any discussion of the proposed by-laws changes. The material provided with the ballot is terse and only mentions a few factors that favor the changes. Contrary views are not included. I, for one, would like to see such an important issue receive more public discussion and debate.

How would the proposed changes affect SAA publications? I have no idea, but it would be nice to see some discussion of this before making sweeping changes in the organization of the SAA. My inclination would be to vote AGAINST the by-laws changes at this point.

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