MIT Student Day of Action for Open Access

Posted February 21st, 2007 by Ellen Duranceau
Students prepare labels

MIT students supported a national effort when they carried out a “day of action for open access” on the MIT campus February 15.

Inspired by the National Day of Action for Open Access (sponsored by and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access), a group of students devised a project called “Overprice Tags.”

The students who worked on the project were Benjamin Mako Hill (who goes by Mako) and Annina Rust (both pictured below) along with Noah Vawter, all graduate students in the Media Lab’s Computing Culture group, as well as Daniel Jared Dominguez and Christine Sprang, both undergraduates. They created unique price tags and affixed them to the 100 journals they identified as costing MIT more that $5,000 per year.

Their goal, according to Hill, was to “bring attention to the open access issue and the sky-rocketing price of scholarly journals at MIT,” as well as to focus attention on “compelling, publicly accessible alternatives to … closed and restrictive models of academic publishing.”

Focusing on journal prices was a way to “grab the attention of people who were unaware” of the barriers to accessing research. As Hill notes, price is one of the barriers, but not the only one. Once they caught a reader’s attention by “looking a magazine with a $25,000 price tag,” Hill’s group hoped that readers would be interested enough to follow the link to the “overprice tags” website, where they could “start a real explanation of what the issues are.”

Thought to be the “first major MIT Free Culture event,” this student day of action has already raised awareness on campus. All responses received so far have been supportive of the project, and many writers expressed interest in getting more involved in events related to open access.

For those who would like more information about open access or ideas about how to get involved, Hill’s Open Access at MIT, and the Libraries’ scholarly publishing web site offer summaries of the issues, links to groups who are involved, and recommended actions. You may also be interested in viewing a short slideshow of the MIT Student Day of Action for Open Access.