The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is known for its ambitious effort to give away its course materials free online, and now the university is giving away its research, too.
Last week MIT’s professors voted unanimously to adopt a policy stating that all faculty members will deposit their scholarly research papers in a free, online university repository (in addition to sending them to scholarly journals), in an effort to expand access to the university’s scholarship. The policy is modeled on one adopted last year by Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At MIT, like at Harvard, professors can opt out of the policy if, for instance, a journal their paper is accepted to does not allow free publication of articles.
Peter Suber, a research professor of philosophy at Earlham College and a longtime promoter of open access to scholarly publishing, said the move was a sign of growing momentum for open-access policies. “It’s a strong signal that these measures have faculty support,” he said. “The more momentum there is for open access, the more it looks like a mainstream idea,” he added. “There’s no doubt that it started out as a fringe idea.”
He said there were now about 30 colleges and universities around the world that have adopted similar open-access policies for their research, and he pointed to a list of such policies maintained by ePrints, a company that makes open-access archiving software. Most of those institutions are in Europe, and many of the U.S. colleges that have jumped in have adopted policies only in a school or department.
In the past, some publishers have expressed concern about university open-access policies — especially some scholarly societies that publish journals and worry about whether giving away articles will undermine their ability to keep their publishing efforts afloat. —Jeffrey R. Young