MIT Faculty Vote to Make Their Articles Openly Available

Posted March 30th, 2009 by Ellen Duranceau

Precedent-Setting Vote

On March 18, 2009, MIT Faculty voted unanimously to make their scholarly articles openly available, the first university-wide faculty vote of its kind anywhere. A similar policy was put into place in 2008 by the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences and then two other schools at Harvard, as well as a single school at Stanford, but MIT’s vote is unprecedented in originating with a unanimous faculty vote, and covering all of the faculty.

Under the new policy, scholarly articles will be made available for open dissemination via MIT’s DSpace, an open source, open access repository launched in 2002 following a joint research project between the MIT Libraries and Hewlett-Packard. Hal Abelson, the Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and chair of the Ad-Hoc Faculty Committee on Open Access Publishing, which brought forth the resolution, says in an interview with Wired Science that “what’s important here is that [the policy] is giving the university a formal role in how publications happen.”

Speaking with Marisa Taylor of Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Professor Abelson elaborated on this point: “Scholarly publishing has so far been based purely on contracts between publishers and individual faculty authors. …In that system, faculty members and their institutions are powerless. This resolution changes that by creating a role in the publishing process for the faculty as a whole, not just as isolated individuals.”

This is important because publisher business models, which are built on restricted access, impede reuse and sharing of the scholarly record, in contradiction to the university’s mission of rapid dissemination of science and scholarship. Reflecting this, Bish Sinyal, Chair of the MIT Faculty and the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning said that “the vote is a signal to the world that we speak in a unified voice; that what we value is the free flow of ideas.”

The implementation of the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy is being overseen by the Faculty Committee on the Library System, and will evolve over the coming months.

Working with the policy

  • The policy applies only to scholarly articles completed after the policy was adopted on March 18, 2009.
  • To be thorough, faculty authors are encouraged to use the MIT addendum for publisher copyright agreements that reflects this policy.
  • There is an opt-out option (see more)
  • Procedures for submission to DSpace under this policy are still under development. For now, contact copyright-lib@mit.edu if you have a paper you want to submit.

More Information

Text of full policy
Details on working with the policy
MIT News story

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