FAQ on the OA policy
Purpose of MIT’s faculty open access policy
No. Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School, the Stanford School of Education, among many others, have similar policies. See a list of universities in the US that have policies and a complete world-wide list of various kinds of open access policies.
Research funders are supporting such efforts as well. For instance, the National Institutes of Health was one of the first federal funders to require posting of articles derived from research they fund in an open-access repository. See more information on research funder policies here.
Complying with the policy
The policy operates automatically to give MIT a license in any scholarly articles faculty members complete after its adoption and while they are at MIT.
What if a journal publisher refuses to publish my article because of the prior permission given to MIT under the policy?
Scope of the policy
It applies to “scholarly articles.” Using terms from the Budapest Open Access Initiative, scholarly articles are articles that describe the fruits of research and that authors give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Such articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings.
Many written products are not encompassed under this specific notion of scholarly article, such as books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, lecture videos, or other copyrighted works. The Open Access Policy is not meant to address these kinds of works.
The author’s final version of the article; that is, the author’s manuscript with any changes made as a result of the peer-review process, but prior to publisher’s copy-editing or formatting.
Images are created by faculty in such a wide range of contexts and for such a wide range of purposes that it was too complex to include images in the policy. To the extent that images are contained in the articles, however, they would be covered by the policy.
Opting out of the policy
What happens if I do not opt out, but assign exclusive rights to a publisher anyway, mistakenly signing a publisher’s agreement that conflicts with the policy?
MIT’s license would still have force, because it would have been granted (through this policy) prior to the signing of the publisher contract. If the publisher expresses concern that cannot be remedied, you have several options. You could:
- Consult a librarian: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Consult with the Office of General Counsel; or
- Opt out for a given article.
The majority of faculty stated a preference for an opt out. One of the concerns frequently raised was the importance of an opt out for junior faculty who do not want to jeopardize their ability to work with certain publishers. Another was the desire to comply with a certain society’s policies even if in conflict with this policy.
Even with an opt out option, the policy changes the default for author’s rights. The new given is that MIT has rights to openly share MIT faculty work and can extend rights to the authors for their use as well.
Legal aspects of the policy
No. This policy grants specific nonexclusive permissions to MIT. You still retain ownership and complete control of the copyright in your writings, subject only to this prior permission. You can exercise your copyrights in any way you see fit, including transferring them to a publisher if you so desire. However, if you do so, MIT would still retain its license and the right to distribute the article from its repository. Also, if your article arises in whole or in part from federally funded research, you may have to retain sufficient rights to comply with public access policies.
Staff in the Office of General Counsel and the Libraries are available to support the policy and to supply guidance to faculty.
How can I use an article that appears with both a publisher copyright statement and a Creative Commons License?
Some articles in the MIT Open Access Articles collection appear with a publisher’s copyright statement (e.g. “c2009 American Physical Society”) in addition to a Creative Commons license. The publisher’s copyright statement may indicate that the article’s copyright was transferred by the author(s) to the publisher, or that the author used a template provided by the publisher in expectation of copyright being transferred. Because the MIT Open Access Policy operates automatically to give MIT a license to any scholarly articles faculty members complete after its adoption, MIT’s license predates this transfer of copyright to a publisher. Therefore, while the article’s copyright is held by the publisher, that copyright is subject to MIT’s pre-existing license.
MIT has chosen to distribute articles under its Open Access Policy using one of the standard Creative Commons licenses: the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. If a CC license appears with an article, it is the CC license that determines how the article may be used.
This particular CC license means that you are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the work) and remix (adapt) the work under the following conditions:
• Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggest that they endorse you or your use of the work)
• Noncommercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes
• Share Alike: If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.
What happens with articles that fall under the policy
Yes, the license allows MIT to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use the articles to provide search or other services, so long as the articles are not being sold for a profit. This is true even if the services generate advertising revenues or the company charges for the services. For instance, the license allows MIT to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, so that they can more readily be found, and to be used to provide other value-added services as long as the articles themselves are not sold for a profit. MIT also could authorize use of the articles in a commercial service that provides information extracted from the articles (but not the full text itself), such as bibliographic data or citation lists. Any arrangements would be consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles.
How the OA policy affects scholarly publishing
There is no empirical evidence that even when all articles are freely available, journals are canceled. The major societies in physics have not seen any impact on their publishing programs despite the fact that for many years an open access repository (arXiv) has been making available nearly all of the High Energy Physics literature written during that period. If there is downward pressure on journal prices over time, publishers with the most inflated prices – which tend to be the commercial publishers – will feel the effects sooner. Journals will still be needed for their value-added services, such as peer review logistics, copy editing, type setting, and maintaining web sites.
Will this policy harm those in tenure processes who need to show publication in high quality journals?
We expect that as similar policies are passed at more universities, the overall climate for scholarly communication will improve, to the benefit of all institutions of higher education. Smaller universities may not have the resources to build their own repositories, but shared repositories are starting to become available for such cases.
The policy would increase the impact of MIT research by making it more widely available. Studies show a very large citation advantage for open access articles, ranging from 45% to over 500%, but restrictive publisher business models limit wide sharing through onerous terms in contracts with university libraries and individual authors. For example, many publishers prohibit authors from posting their work openly on the web, and publishers commonly ‘rent’ access to their content, putting access at risk following cancellation of subscriptions. Performing systematic searching, advanced indexing, or analysis are prohibited in virtually all contracts.
The policy would give MIT a means of negotiating for more attractive terms with publishers, an effort needed in a context of dramatic inflation and market consolidation: the 5 largest journal publishers now account for over half of total market revenues, and over the past 15 years, the price of scholarly journals has grown roughly three times as fast as the Consumer Price Index.
More information on the policy
How is granting a nonexclusive license to MIT compatible with MIT being able to exercise ‘all rights under copyright’?
The legal framework for copyright is that you can’t give away what you don’t have. MIT will have been granted nonexclusive rights, and will not be able in turn to grant exclusive rights. MIT, however, will be able to exercise all of the other rights under copyright, including reproducing, displaying, distributing, and making derivative works of articles covered by the policy, as long as these activities are not done for profit.
Why make this an automatic license? Why not just suggest that faculty individually retain a license for open-access distribution?
Experience has shown that “opt in” systems have little effect on authors’ behavior. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy was optional. During that period, there was only a 4% level of compliance. Experience in many areas has shown that opt-out systems achieve much higher degrees of participation than opt-in systems.
Individual faculty benefit from a blanket policy because it makes it possible for MIT to work with publishers on behalf of the faculty, to simplify procedures and broaden access.
The 2009 policy applies only to faculty because in a faculty policy it seemed clearest to focus on faculty work. (MIT already receives a license to Ph.D. theses; in addition, many student articles will be co-authored by faculty and will be subject to this policy.)
MIT already has the technical infrastructure in place to store the articles, in the form of the open access repository DSpace@MIT. In addition, the MIT Libraries have experience supporting access to faculty research such as technical reports and working papers, and for the past several years have maintained an Office of Scholarly Publishing, Copyright, and Licensing to assist faculty who wish to retain rights in their published works. Once an implementation plan is developed, it will be possible to assess what other staff or technical support might be needed, if any, and to reassess priorities in light of those needs.
The NIH Public Access Policy applies only to NIH funded research – about 1/3 of MIT’s funded research dollars. It requires authors to deposit their peer-reviewed articles in the open access repository PubMedCentral where they must be accessible within 12 months of publication. Making the policy mandatory has had a dramatic effect on deposits: the rate has increased from under 10% to an estimated 60%. The policy makes tax payer funded research available to taxpayers.
A particular article could be subject to both this policy and the NIH Public Access Policy, if it is peer reviewed and arose, in whole or in part, from NIH-funded research. If an NIH-funded article is covered by this open access policy, the author would use the MIT amendment to publication agreements to cover NIH’s obligations and accommodate the MIT policy. Even if the author decides to opt out of the policy for an article, the author must reserve rights sufficient to comply with the NIH policy when entering into a publication agreement for the article.
This policy takes only a first step towards re-balancing the scholarly publishing system, giving MIT a means of negotiating for faculty and allowing wider sharing of their research. Other steps will no doubt make sense in the future. MIT, for example, supports open access journals with a fund authors can use for publication fees.
Why doesn’t the policy offer a delay before posting the articles, so that the MIT version doesn’t show until after journal publication?
With or without this policy, the academic community will need to work on the problem of version control in digital scholarship. There are technical and standard-based solutions that will address this problem. Some of those examining this issue include an International working group of scholars, scholarly societies, and publishers and the AAAS, among others. Nomenclature and modeling efforts have been begun by the National Information Standards Organization and the Version Identification Framework. These efforts will be closely monitored.