MIT adopts universal open access policy

March 19th, 2009

Yesterday the MIT faculty approved a university-wide open access policy. The full txt of the resolution, which passed unanimously, i available on Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog. Here’s an excerpt.

“Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. … The Provost’s Office will make the scholarly article available to the public in an open- access repository. The Office of the Provost, in consultation with the Faculty Committee on the Library System will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty.

I have to say I am conflicted about this and wish I was more informed. As a researcher, I am 100% for the right to make papers describing our results freely available. But I also recognize that publishers and professional societies are an essential part of our research infrastructure and their business models are partially built on copyright and controlling access to content.

Just as we are seeing the big changes in main stream media, we will probably see related changes in publishers, including professional societies. We’ll have to wait and see if they represent a phase shift to a new and better model or simply the collapse of the old one.

The analogy between the two is far from perfect. Traditional MSM publishers pay a professional staff to research, write and edit stories. Journal publishers and professional societies don’t typically pay their authors who increasingly deliver camera ready copy or near camera-ready electronic copy.