Archive for October, 2006

Undergraduates: Use Data in Your Research and Win a Prize!

Posted October 26th, 2006 by Katherine McNeill

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world’s largest archive of digital social science data, is hosting two opportunities for undergraduate students to gain experience in working with their data:

  1. The ICPSR Undergraduate Research Paper Competition will highlight the best undergraduate student research papers that use data from ICPSR.

    * Up to three cash prizes will be awarded. The winner will receive a monetary award of $1,000. Second place receives $750 and third place $500.
    * Deadline for submission is January 31, 2007.

  2. The ICPSR Summer Undergraduate Internship Program will take place June 11-August 17, 2007.

    * Gain experience using statistical programs such as Stata, SAS, and SPSS.
    * Learn data processing skills to prepare social science data for archiving and distribution.
    * Deadline for application is January 5, 2007.

For more information on either of these programs, contact Katherine McNeill-Harman, Data Services and Economics Librarian, at

New MIT Press Book Addresses Open Access to Research and Scholarship

Posted October 23rd, 2006 by Ellen Duranceau

A new MIT Press book, The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship illuminates many of the complex issues and concerns reflected in MIT’s new initiative to support faculty in the retention of rights when assigning copyright to publishers. (See the MIT amendment to publisher copyright transfer agreements for more information about this initiative).

Opening Access: The Right to Know

In The Access Principle, John Willinsky, University of British Columbia Professor of Literacy and Technology and developer of Open Journals Systems software, offers a compelling summary of the important social, political, and economic issues raised by the “state of declining access to research and scholarship within an otherwise expanding global academic community,” and describes how changing models for scholarly publishing can increase access to (and the impact of) research and scholarship.

Willinsky defines the access principle as the belief that a “commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit by it.” He places this access principle in a long line of human history, as a fundamental human and moral right—the “right to know.”

Research and Scholarship as a Public Good

His fundamental premise is that research and scholarship are a public good, which is something “beneficial to everyone who seeks it, without their use of it diminishing its value.” This “lighthouse property of knowledge” is directly at odds with the traditional commercial publishing enterprise, which seeks to create barriers to access in order to generate profit. Willinsky marshals significant and telling facts to support his contention that it is time for change in this model. Among the many such facts: 50,000 journals are published worldwide; 20,000 or more of them available online, but just three for-profit companies control 60 percent of the research indexed in Web of Science.

Increasing Impact

The limitations of this current economic model are brought into high relief by the availability of new technology, which makes new uses of content and new modes of publication possible. The kind of access models available through the web stand to benefit universities, the public, and developing countries, and perhaps most of all, authors — by increasing the impact of their research. Willinksy refers to many studies that demonstrate that making a research article available without the barrier of a subscription will lead to more use and citation. In one such study “…open access computer science papers [were shown to] garner 4.5 times as many citations as their print equivalents.”

Copyright Out of Balance

His arguments support the kind of effort MIT faculty are making with the MIT copyright amendment. He wryly observes that a typical author agreement will “reverse what would otherwise seem to be the case, namely, that the academic community hires the publishers, in effect, to provide a service necessary for the circulation of knowledge. Instead, the contract positions the editor, and by implication the author, as working for the publisher.”

The digital environment has “add[ed] to the significance” of this traditional copyright transfer, such that: “…copyright is too often used to protect the publisher’s right to charge what it will for its journals, placing what can be a prohibitive price on entry into what is otherwise thought of as the public realm or common property…. Copyright is being used by some publishers to ensure that the transfer from print to digital publishing does nothing to diminish the profitability of scholarly publishing, and, if possible, increases it.”

In a full chapter on these significant problems with copyright, Willinksy notes that law intended to balance the interests of the creator and the public has instead led to “’the enclosure of the intangible commons of the mind’” borrowing James Boyle’s “analogy with the historic enclosure and loss of shared grazing lands or commons.” Willinsky reviews how Creative Commons and other efforts have arisen to redress the imbalance between public interests and those of the rights-holder, and what role individual authors can play in this struggle.

Long History of Opening Access to Scholarly Publishing

Willinsky’s positions today’s debates over open access as “another kind of upheaval in scholarly publishing” that is only the latest in an ongoing evolution; Willinsky describes a continual progress toward more openness, as technologies have made that openness possible. Thus, open access could be “the next step in a tradition that includes the printing press and penny post, public libraries and public schools. …[and] the ‘invisible colleges’ of the seventeenth century…”.

Setting the context for his argument, Willinsky includes a valuable chapter covering a history of the academic journal – starting with its origin nearly 350 years ago in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions of 1665. It seems worth recalling today, in the face of the many fears and concerns raised by open access, that this journal was a “risky, untested form of publication” that “challenged how the Royal Society, as well as the university community, went about doing science, leading them to see the value of greater openness and access to the work they were doing.”

A Critical Juncture

Willinsky offers an overview of ten different models for open access to scholarship and research, along with an analysis of the impact of increased access on publishers, scholarly societies, libraries, and the developing world. His contention is that our society is at a critical juncture — that “…the research article is currently at the center of a struggle over the economics of access that may determine the global presence and impact of the research enterprise.”

Willinsky offers a readable and compelling summary of how we arrived at this critical juncture and what we can — and should — do about it. The suggestions he offers for individual and collective action to increase access to research and scholarship are of vital concern for MIT and its faculty.

If you have any comments or questions about the issues raised here, or in relation to the MIT amendment, please contact

See information about the MIT Libraries’ copies of this book.

Online oral histories enrich documentation of MIT’s 20th century development

Posted October 23rd, 2006 by Lois Beattie

The Institute Archives & Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability online of transcripts of oral histories with Walter A. Rosenblith and William R. Dickson.

Walter Rosenblith (1913-2002), Provost, Professor of Communications Biophysics, then Institute Professor, had a tremendous impact in the scientific realm and in the policies and academic structure of MIT. During much the same period, Bill Dickson (1935-2006) oversaw the dramatic growth of the Institute’s campus. We feel that these two oral histories make an interesting juxtaposition

The Collage Library

Posted October 20th, 2006 by Jim Eggleston
collage The Humanities Library is hosting “Ripped & Recoded: Collages by
Marlene Manoff.” Come check out this exhibit in the Humanities Reading
Room in 14S-200. Each collage is assembled from hundreds of
brilliantly colored images.

Save the date! Lewis Music Library anniversary celebration Wednesday, Nov. 15

Posted October 16th, 2006 by Christie Moore

Lewis Music Library turns 10!

The Lewis Music Library will host a celebration from 2-4 pm on Wednesday, November 15, 2006, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the library renovation.

Join us for live music performances, refreshments, a raffle for an Apple iPod, and remarks by Ann Wolpert, Director of the MIT Libraries. We hope to see you then!

Looking for answers? – Ask Us – Humanities

Posted October 13th, 2006 by Jim Eggleston

If you’re looking for answers in the Humanities Library, at least during certain hours, you now have an alternative to traipsing back down the stairs to the Hayden service desk. From 3:00-4:00 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or from 4:00-6:00 Tuesday & Thursdays, a Humanities librarian will be available in the second floor reading room.
Outside of these hours, please ask at the Hayden desk or consult another of the Libraries’ Ask Us services.

Raffle winners from Barker Library’s Media Suite Open House

Posted October 13th, 2006 by Remlee Green

Congratulations to the movie ticket raffle winners of Thursday night’s Barker Engineering Library Media Suite Grand Re-opening Event!

Nick Cordella
Ana Posada
Satoshi Takahashi
Albert Wang

About 125 people joined Barker staff in an event showcasing the new Media Viewing Suite in Barker on Thursday, October 12th. For more details about reserving and using the room see the Media Suite guide.

Join us for the Open House at the new Barker Library Media Suite: Thursday, October 12, 4-6pm

Posted October 11th, 2006 by Remlee Green

The Barker Engineering Library has a newly renovated Media Suite. Celebrate its reopening at an OPEN HOUSE on Thursday, October 12th, 4pm to 6pm.

Refreshments will be available as well as drawings for movie tickets!

The Barker Engineering Library Media Suite has been redesigned and equipped to support access to digital media for the MIT Community. It’s equipped with a 48″ plasma screen, a DVD/VCR player, laptop and computer station connections, and is web and cable-accessible. It supports small group viewing (up to four viewers for copyright-protected media), or larger informal viewing for other resources.

Outside the suite are two individual viewing stations, also equipped to handle web-accessible, DVD, and VHS media. Together, these offer an updated and comfortable environment for viewing items from Barker’s collection of engineering-related DVD’s and videos, as well as the growing amount of web-accessible seminars, lectures, and other video material available through MIT World, OCW, and non-MIT sites.

The room can be reserved for groups of up to 15 people by calling the Barker Service Desk at x3-5661 or emailing See the Media Suite guide for more details.

We hope you can join us on the 12th!

Barton catalog upgrade: records can now be saved across sessions

Posted October 10th, 2006 by Darcy Duke

The Barton Catalog has been upgraded!

A major new feature allows you to save records permanently in “Your Bookshelf”. Previously, Your Bookshelf allowed you to only save records during the current active session and would delete the records when the session was reset.

The records you save now can also be organized into folders, so you can keep together materials relevant to certain classes, research projects, etc.

In order to save records permanently, you must have a login and password to Your Account (available to current members of the MIT Community). You may obtain these by stopping by or contacting any service desk.

Access to Hoover’s Online canceled: Libraries reject unacceptable licensing terms to protect MIT

Posted October 10th, 2006 by MIT Libraries

The MIT Libraries have reluctantly chosen not to renew Hoover’s Online, a popular database of company information, as a result of a new contract requirement from Hoovers that MIT could not accept.

The new contract, required to renew our subscription, stipulated that MIT would be financially responsible for any activity Hoovers deemed — or even suspected — was fraudulent, putting MIT at financial risk and setting an unacceptable precedent.

Why an unacceptable precedent?

In addition to over 32,000 electronic journals, the MIT Libraries offer over 500 databases to the MIT community, and have signed license agreements (contracts) for most of them; not a single one of these contracts leaves MIT responsible when a provider suspects or even proves that there has been inappropriate use. Accepting financial responsibility in cases where a provider questions misuse would not only expose MIT to financial risk, but would ultimately make it more difficult for MIT to continue to purchase the content needed for MIT under viable, scalable, and fiscally supportable terms.

We did not make this decision lightly.

Hoover’s Online is a popular and heavily-used database and the Libraries made every effort to avoid losing access to it; we have never before had to drop a product because we were unable to come to agreement with a provider. We continued to work on a reasonable compromise after our subscription expired in September and Hoovers cut off access, but when none was forthcoming, on October 6th we informed Hoovers (a Dun & Bradstreet company) that we would not be able to renew our access under their new terms.

We are very sorry that this loss will inconvenience MIT faculty, staff, and students. We have reluctantly come to the conclusion that this short term disruption is a necessary step to ensure ongoing service to the MIT community. We believe this action will safeguard our ability to offer a range of content in all disciplines, on reasonable terms, to the MIT community in the future.

Alternatives to Hoover’s Online

The MIT Libraries currently subscribe to other databases that provide content similar to Hoover’s. Mergent Online ( and Factiva ( have individual company profiles and D&B Million Dollar Directory ( provides the ability to generate lists of companies based on specific criteria. The librarians at Dewey Library are willing to assist members of the MIT community with learning to use these databases. Students, faculty and staff can visit Dewey for help anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday or request a specific appointment by emailing Ask Us (

We will also look for new products we might purchase to provide more company information.

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

Working through the complexities of contracting for digital content is a partnership among many at MIT – the faculty, students and staff who rely on the content to carry out needed education and research; the Libraries, whose role is to ensure that needed content is available to them on terms that make appropriate and needed use possible; and the many faculty and staff who grapple with the complex and difficult issues and difficult decisions facing us in the realm of intellectual property in the digital world.

We welcome your comments and thoughts. Please contact Millicent Gaskell, Head, Dewey Library [ / 617 253 5619]

Check out Books, CDs & DVDs: the Bookmobile visits Lobby 10, Thursday, Oct 5, 11:00 – 2:00

Posted October 3rd, 2006 by Jim Eggleston
bookmobile Every now and then (especially around Holidays) the staff of the Humanities and the Lewis Music libraries get restless. Then we are wont to pack up a sampling of our more interesting wares and go on the road. Look for the Bookmobile in Lobby 10 this Thursday where, from 11:00 to 2:00 you can check out books, including audio books, CDs and DVDs. Staff will also be happy to answer any questions you may have about the Libraries.
We hope to see you there!

Archives’ October exhibit evokes the smell of the greasepaint.

Posted October 2nd, 2006 by Lois Beattie
Comedy & tragedy masks The October Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections presents the MIT Community Players’ 1958 Acting Workshop Production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, by Jean Gireaudoux.Each month the Archives exhibits an example from its collections to illustrate their richness and variety. A poster is displayed in the exhibit case opposite Room 14N-118 (and the following month in the Libraries’ kiosk at the Stata Center), and a version is created for the Web. We invite you to browse the online exhibits for a taste of our collections, then come to the Archives and explore them further.