Open access to scientific journals is currently heavily debated but progress is recognizable. Accessibility to material depends on time and money to travel and the benevolence of the curating institutions and people. Virtual Anthropology leads in overcoming such limitations.
The virtual work space at its base can easily be extendedover labsand continents. Using the Internet, there are no more barriers to the exchange of know-how and digital data. A growing number of researchers and curators have already recognized the possibilities of unrestricted collaboration. When browsing through scientific journals, we recognize that papers with content related to Virtual Anthropology have become more numerous over the years. It is no longer a surprise that initial description and publication of novel fossils are often based on CT scans now.
In 1999, we started to publish the first electronic media with digital data of an important fossil specimen, the cranium of Bodo. Since then with the help of dedicated curators, other fossils have been made available in our 3D-archive of fossil hominoids.
The discussion about the accessibility of virtual fossils, the need for transparent and reproducible results in a field of the natural sciences, and the protection of discoverer's rights was stimulated in publications over the last years. Meanwhile, other institutions have started offering digital access to fossil hominids as well.
Data from comparative collections of extant primates are important, too, and we are confident that precious scans of chimp, gorillas or orangutans will be collected and be made available in the near future.
Internet questionnaire 2002
Outcome of a questionnaire amongst anthropologists on the topic of sharing data.
Transfer of knowledge and data
Our science needs more people trained to get information out, not just to put data it in. Electronic archives will inevitably grow and fill the storage of computer systems.