Celebrating MIT’s open access policy

Comments from readers of papers in the DSpace OA collection

Today, for our final Open Access Week story, we celebrate MIT’s 13-year-old open access policy: a legal tool that lets authors hold onto rights under copyright so they can share their scholarly articles and let others reuse and remix them. 

More than 57% of papers published by MIT faculty since 2009 are OA in the Libraries DSpace repository. Those 52,000 articles have been downloaded more than 22 million times. 

A decade ago we began collecting comments from readers of OA articles in DSpace. We’ve now received more than 1,000: from high school students to PhDs; retired consultants to medical patients; middle school teachers to novelists. Readers live in Australia, the Philippines, Uganda, and they reach out to let us know what it means to them to have access to peer-reviewed, scholarly works. 

Here’s some of what they’ve told us: 

  • I am an ordinary citizen of Australia without institutional access to scientific papers. I came across this paper in the course of reading about climate science. I applaud and thank MIT Libraries for making important papers freely available.
  • I have benefited many times with open access articles as they allow us a glimpse into what cutting-edge work is happening at the knowledge frontier. Please keep this up. I feel your open access initiative is critical to avoid formation of data silos or concentration of knowledge among the rich or privileged.
    -Corporate researcher, India
  • I am an art student at Leeds Arts University and I am interested in speculative realism and materialism. This article has been really helpful in getting a better grasp of the discourse surrounding these theories, especially in light of the Covid-19 situation, where I cannot access my university library.
    -United Kingdom
  • The access has greatly helped our research on slums in Pakistan. The non-availability of quality open access articles is prohibitive for good research in developing countries.
    -Faculty/researcher, Pakistan
  • I teach at a small college. Our library cannot afford all the journal subscriptions I need to be an effective researcher, author, and teacher. Without open access, my students and I wouldn’t be able to make the same progress as those at larger institutions.
    -United States
  • I had been going through tons of material to help with my research on thermoelectric modules, and I stumbled across an article that seems to hold some vital information. I almost sank back in my chair in despair when I saw the price tag, which I know I cannot afford. What saved me was the graciousness of whoever in MIT uploaded that same material for free. You may not fully know the far reaching effects of the good you have done, but I assure you whatever your vision is, it’s working!
    -Grad student, Nigeria
  • I’m a researcher at an institution that is suffering from severe budget cuts. Among the things that have been cut are subscriptions to some academic journals (a list that was not that extensive to begin with). I couldn’t do any serious work if it weren’t for the individuals and institutions who are making an effort to provide free access to academic research.
    -Puerto Rico
  • I recently graduated with an LLM degree and I no longer have access to my school library collection. I am currently doing research on advertising and privacy laws. It is always great to find open access articles which are reliable (peer-reviewed and published), simply because it is impossible for me to afford article or subscription fees. My personal opinion is that, since scientific research is funded by universities, it should belong to everyone.
    -Lawyer, Turkey
  • I am now part of an important academic and civic conversation I would never have had access to otherwise, simply because I do not have the resources to invest in exploring new content in academic research and would never have discovered it. Open access to these articles means open access to not only information but to the very community of people that care about and work on the topics shared. This is the way forward.
    -Researcher, Mexico
  • I am an ovarian cancer patient. I will probably have to have other surgeries. The technology in this article hopefully will increase the chances of success in the treatment.
    -Materials engineer, Brazil
  • I am a 30 year old female mechanical engineer. Recently, I started a STEM women’s group at my work due to the large (and typical) disparity between the number of men and women in engineering, engineering support, and engineering management roles. As an aspiring manager, I think it is important to understand the differences in how men and women think and experience the engineering workplace. I read the article to gain insight on how non-technical/educational experience impacts men and women in engineering. I think many of the insights can be carried over and observed in the professional workplace as well.
    -United States