We Want Open Access Free-for-All, Says MIT

23 March 2009 5:36 pm

The world of open access is widening. The faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology voted last week to make their published papers freely available on the Internet. The move comes a year after Harvard University's arts and sciences faculty also adopted an open-access policy, and Harvard's law and government schools and Stanford University's education school have since followed suit. The difference, says MIT, is that its policy is university-wide. After they publish a paper in a journal, faculty members will give MIT a nonexclusive license to post a copy in its free online repository.

How radical is the policy?

It depends on timing—that is, whether MIT shares the article immediately or waits until the publisher says it's okay. The National Institutes of Health waits up to 12 months to post its grantees' papers online so as to be consistent with the journal's own "embargo" for making them freely available. The MIT policy does not specify whether authors can ask for a delay: "We're going to work that out," says Hal Abelson, the MIT computer science professor who led the push for the new policy. But if MIT follows Harvard's lead, it will stick with the journal embargo date. Harvard's system "supports embargoes," says Amy Brand of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. That should ease concerns that some MIT faculty members will be prevented from publishing in certain journals. Faculty members can also ask for a waiver for a particular article.

The wording of the faculty resolution appears here on Peter Suber's open-access blog.

March 24 update: Amy Brand response in the comments.

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