American Institute of Archaeology under fire from watchdog groups for lack of transparency
AIA opposes open access to taxpayer funded research
Wayne G. Sayles |
May 23, 2012
On the point of open access, collectors and some archaeologists do find common ground. In response to the American Institute of Archaeology’s public stand against open access, the Open Access Archaeology organization has reported that they will be removing all links to AIA materials and will cease actively promoting AIA resources.
In an open letter on the AIA web site, president Elizabeth Bartman takes aim at the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 introduced in both houses of Congress on February 9th. Bartman says “We at the Archaeological Institute of America, along with our colleagues at the American Anthropological Association and other learned societies, have taken a stand against open access… we particularly object to having such a scheme imposed on us from the outside when, in fact, during the AIA’s more than 130-year history, we have energetically supported the broad dissemination of knowledge…” Coin collectors largely disagree and say that the AIA opposition to open access legislation is self-serving and ironic. Although the bill would not even apply to AIA, the organization’s vocal condemnation exposes a philosophical stance against public access to taxpayer funded research. The “dissemination of knowledge”, cited by Professor Bartman, is apparently not so liberal a view as to embrace open public access. Collectors are reminded of George Orwell’s words, “Who controls the past controls the future.”
Independent scholars, including private collectors of ancient coins and other utilitarian objects, have long complained about a lack of access to archaeological research materials. Many feel that the attitudes and policies of academic archaeology are regressive and purposely repress public knowledge—not unlike the cloistered academia of the Middle Ages. In their scholarly publications, the AIA has for decades restricted research information about artifacts that had not been discovered through sanctioned archaeological excavations.
The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is a “grass roots” non-profit organization that has been waging a legal battle against broad reaching, AIA supported, import restrictions that unilaterally target American collectors and the associated trade. Collectors, who widely favor open access, point out that the vast majority of published material about ancient coins is due to the work of private collectors, independent scholars, coin dealers, and auction houses.