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MIT faculty vote for university-wide Open Access mandate
March 19, 2009 3:19 PM   Subscribe

The MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide Open Access mandate. Open Access got a big boost yesterday because of MIT's move.

For those of you not in academia/libraries or who are too lazy to click either of the links, this basically means that if you're on faculty at MIT and you publish something, you grant MIT (among other things) the right to make that work available for free on a website they set up to be a repository for such work.
posted by tarheelcoxn (46 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
More on OA (open access) here.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 3:23 PM on March 19, 2009


Coming on the heels of OpenCourseWare a few years ago, another step towards free and open access of information. Academic publishing is a terrible racket: free content, free labour, unearthly subscription fees. The sooner Elsevier and other for-profit publishers shrivel up and die, the better.
posted by bumpkin at 3:24 PM on March 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


Hardcore. Too bad probably the only people that can understand what MIT faculty write are MIT faculty.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 3:29 PM on March 19, 2009


Too bad probably the only people that can understand what MIT faculty write are MIT faculty

I work in an academic library. Academic libraries are already benefiting from the work MIT has put into figuring out how to maintain collections of open access materials. I'm talking about dspace. So it won't just be other researchers (and there are plenty of researchers at other institutions who will benefit) who benefit.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Excellent. We just got the mandate from Irish funders that all publications must be open access from here on in. Wonderful stuff. It does make a difference to the equitable distribution of knowledge.
posted by stonepharisee at 3:36 PM on March 19, 2009


Harvard already does this, FWIW.

Glad to see the push coming from the big-league schools. OA publishing on the web is the future of science.
posted by chrisamiller at 3:37 PM on March 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Are there journals this kind of agreement stops you from publishing in, or have all the biggies capitulated?
posted by grobstein at 3:48 PM on March 19, 2009


Awesome. This is awesome. Scholarship is heading in a good direction here. (I was going to just say Science, but obviously there is more. Does anyone know if non-STEM fields have open access issues? I've only heard about them in science and engineering.)

Now, will certain journals change their copyright policies, or will people simply stop publishing in them? (Or will the opt-out be exercised by faculty far more than one would hope?)
posted by whatnotever at 3:48 PM on March 19, 2009


tangentially related -- does anybody watch the itunes university courses? What are some of the best ones? Maybe I should use askme.
posted by empath at 4:02 PM on March 19, 2009


work, MIssThing! ...*snap,snap,snap*
work!
posted by sexyrobot at 4:08 PM on March 19, 2009


Harvard already does this, FWIW.

Not across the board, only within the FAS, to my knowledge. Indeed, I suspect the most lucrative scientific publishing is in biosciences, and, unsurprisingly, the Harvard Medical School did not sign up (though it is starting to warm up to the idea). I think it's fair to say that MIT is unique, so far, in embracing open access as a whole institution.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:10 PM on March 19, 2009


Hardcore. Too bad probably the only people that can understand what MIT faculty write are MIT faculty.

That's completely ridiculous. There are a lot of topics that are only (or mostly) covered in academic papers.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 PM on March 19, 2009


Too bad probably the only people that can understand what MIT faculty write are MIT faculty.

Try it and see. I've googled for a few specialty topics in the past and gotten academic papers. I couldn't follow it all (particularly the jargon or the unfamiliar types of math) but I got the gist enough for it to be useful.
posted by DU at 4:17 PM on March 19, 2009


Does anyone know if non-STEM fields have open access issues? I've only heard about them in science and engineering.

In the corners of the humanities that I know well, this is not really an issue at all, and journal prices are mostly quite moderate. Things do vary a lot from field to field, and I think there are specialized corners of some disciplines where the sole high-prestige publisher resembles (or is) Elsevier, but the hardcore profiteering, and hence the push for open access, seems to be concentrated in scientific/STEM publishing.
posted by RogerB at 4:22 PM on March 19, 2009


I don't think I fully understand how this works. What if the major publications in a field retain copyright of submitted articles?

e.g. for the IEEE, which claims to publish a third of the world's technical literature, from here:
7) Prior to publication by the IEEE, all authors or their employers shall transfer to the IEEE in writing any copyright they hold for their individual papers. Such transfer shall be a necessary requirement for publication, except for material in the public domain or which is reprinted with permission from a copyrighted publication.

MIT's policy is waived if you entered into an incompatible licensing agreement before the policy entered into effect, but presumably from now on, things have changed. From my reading of it, the IEEE has an incompatible licensing agreement. Has MIT just thrown down the gauntlet here? Will MIT profs no longer submit to IEEE journals until IEEE changes its policy? Or am I missing something?
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


PercussivePaul: According to the article, individual profs can ask for individual exceptions, and I'd assume that "the only good journals in this sub-sub-field are incompatible with open access" would be considered. But this does sound like a unanimous statement from MIT faculty that they'll be trying to avoid publishing in IEEE journals for now, doesn't it?
posted by hattifattener at 4:53 PM on March 19, 2009


I'm pretty sure IEEE needs MIT more than MIT needs IEEE.
posted by DU at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Now, will certain journals change their copyright policies, or will people simply stop publishing in them? (Or will the opt-out be exercised by faculty far more than one would hope?)
posted by whatnotever at 3:48 PM on March 19 [+] [!]


Some journals are charging authors extra for free access. On the other hand, free access journals (PLoS) charge authors to publish anyway.
posted by 445supermag at 5:00 PM on March 19, 2009


I don't understand why MIT gets to decide what professors do with their work. Did ALL professors really agree with this proposal, or was it imposed upon them?

As nice as it is for everyone else that there is open access being provided, it certainly doesn't seem cool for a university to dictate that its professors make their works freely available.

Count me among those who think that professors who author works should be able to decide the terms on which those works are released to the public.

(Please enlighten me if I am completely missing the point here.)
posted by jayder at 5:41 PM on March 19, 2009


445supermag: Paid-access journals often charge authors to publish (in the form of "page charges"), too.
posted by hattifattener at 5:49 PM on March 19, 2009


Does anyone know if non-STEM fields have open access issues?

In Communication (which can fall under humanities or social science depending on what flavor of comm you study) there are three giant publishers that pretty much have a lock on journals in this field, including all the top journals: Wiley Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and in 3rd place, Sage. So far as I know, none of them are compatible with open access.

This is a topic that I care about a lot, and am deeply ambivalent about because of one main hitch: tenure & promotion. At research universities this means publishing in the top journals, or at the very least 2nd tier journals, and if all of these journals are published by companies that do not support open access, then publishing in open access journals or other venues can effectively sabotage a career.

I don't see anything in the MIT resolution about T&P - will senior faculty administrators no longer look for junior faculty to publish in highly ranked journals if those journals do not support open access? Because if they don't, then no one has any incentive to participate, and in fact they have more incentive to ask for waivers for all of their pubs.

(on preview: jayder the MIT faculty unanimously passed this resolution)
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:01 PM on March 19, 2009


Jayder, the link (and title of this page) both say that it was a faculty vote that granted the open access, and more than that it was a unanimous faculty vote. MIT is not deciding, it was the faculty. Now, one can claim that peer pressure & faculty groups influenced this, but that's missing the forest. It was indeed that ALL professors agreed with this proposal.

Furthermore, to at least some degree the university has a right to dictate these types of terms to their professors. The credibility of MIT is based in part on the publications of its professors, and there's an implicit contract with its hires that they will publish ('publish or perish', which is not always good but that's a derail) in respectable journals. In the hypothetical, MIT would decide that a respectable journal is one that does not interfere with Open Access. The profs wouldn't have to publish in them, but they would be denied advancement/tenure due to a lack of real publications.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:03 PM on March 19, 2009


Like the Harvard policy, the MIT policy allows faculty to opt-out.

It'll be interesting to see how many faculty opt out of open access. And, good lord, be sure to look at the link about the atrocious bill Rep. Conyers re-introduced into the House last month. Apparently he's in the pocket of the for-profit journals.
posted by mediareport at 6:22 PM on March 19, 2009


Harvard vote previously
posted by mediareport at 6:23 PM on March 19, 2009


Count me among those who think that professors who author works should be able to decide the terms on which those works are released to the public.

Who pays for their equipment, supplies, grad students and salary?
posted by DU at 6:35 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know if non-STEM fields have open access issues?

We (ibiblio.org) host at least one: Open Humanities Press, "An international open access publishing collective in critical and cultural theory."
posted by tarheelcoxn at 6:49 PM on March 19, 2009


Jayder, the link (and title of this page) both say that it was a faculty vote that granted the open access, and more than that it was a unanimous faculty vote.

Guess I should have RTFA.

Who pays for their equipment, supplies, grad students and salary?

Well, on the flip side, who paid for their undergraduate and graduate education, who paid for all those years when they were underpaid teaching assistants, and who pays them for all the nights of reading and research on their own time? Should merely paying a professor's salary allow a university to dictate the extent to which a professor can profit from or limit distribution of his or her own work?

I know the prestige of an MIT teaching post will make this policy largely a non-factor in most people's decisions to accept or reject an MIT post. Going forward, I suppose it applies to new hires despite the fact that they did not vote for the policy. If I were a professor, I would want to be able to decide the terms on which my writings are distributed and published.
posted by jayder at 7:00 PM on March 19, 2009


Like the Harvard policy, the MIT policy allows faculty to opt-out.

OK, I am such a dumb-ass. Would somebody put me out of my misery and nuke my stupid comments from this thread? There's a reason I am not a professor.
posted by jayder at 7:02 PM on March 19, 2009


I'm pretty sure IEEE needs MIT more than MIT needs IEEE.

See, I was thinking about this. It's pretty much unfathomable for an electrical engineer to not publish with the IEEE. Take a look at this page, and notice the list of the top 20 journals in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (sorted by impact factor), and notice how 18 of the 20 are IEEE.

I don't think the IEEE needs MIT. But MIT is enough of a titan that this could get interesting. If Harvard already has a similar policy, how long before Stanford and Berkeley follow suit, and will the rest of the big names then fall like dominos? Then there would be pressure on IEEE to change their policies.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:14 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I can predict this being a problem.

First of all, CNS (Cell, Nature, and Science, for those of you who aren't in the know) are the big three, and you generally have to publish an article or two at least in there to really have some clout in the biological community. CNS are emphatically not open access, and a lot of us, including Bora Zivkovic, bitch about it.

People who have already published in CNS will publish in open-access journals such as PLoS. People who have not will be less inclined to publish in open-access journals.
posted by kldickson at 7:59 PM on March 19, 2009


If I were a professor, I would want to be able to decide the terms on which my writings are distributed and published

In all seriousness: to what end? For pride? For more money? Because honestly if you're publishing in academia it's not for the royalties. It's for the career advancement, the love of the topic, etc.

Furthermore, if I were a professor I'd love to be able to pick the times of day and locations (next door to my office, please!) of my courses, alter the curriculum to suit my whims, hand out research assistantships to my students like candy, etc. etc. In reality very, very few professors get that kind of freedom. We give up some kinds of freedom in academia in exchange for others.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 8:04 PM on March 19, 2009




It's pretty much unfathomable for an electrical engineer to not publish with the IEEE.

...

First of all, CNS (Cell, Nature, and Science, for those of you who aren't in the know) are the big three, and you generally have to publish an article or two at least in there to really have some clout in the biological community.


So the problem is not that some journals charge for access, and not that people choose to submit to those journals, but that those in the position to award tenure, grants and other such clout place all their emphasis on those journals. A dilly of a pickle.
posted by scope the lobe at 8:21 PM on March 19, 2009


(Please enlighten me if I am completely missing the point here.)

I can't speak for all academics, particularly those in the more lucrative corners of the sciences. But for many of the rest of us, wider distribution of our work is the most valuable commodity of all. I have never and will never make any money off the actual publication of my work, especially in journals. (Even a complete hardback run of a book would only net me a couple grand.) I have even had to pay application fees to journals in the past to get them to accept a submission, which they then rejected. On the other other hand, having people read my work and associate me with other names in my field - better yet, having search engines do it automatically in OA journals - *does* do me a lot of good, both in livening up my scholarly activity and in making the case to my university or potential competitors that I'm valuable to them. If I found out that someone was running photocopies of my articles and handing them out for free at a conference (cough cough and people were taking them cough cough), it would be great news for me along these lines. OA online journals do that without the paper, and the paper and ink are the only reason that publishers exist.

There are other elements to controlling my work, of course. I want it in a journal that people take seriously. I want it to be protected from misuse or others stealing it to resell as their own, and a host of other things. But the existing print journal system isn't that spectacular at these things and there's no reason an OA system couldn't be as good or better. (Just from personal experience, I had some material lifted from something I wrote and placed verbatim in a book published by Yale University Press. When I complained about this, the answer was essentially, "We're Yale. Go ahead and sue us.") Publishers are businesses with interests of their own, and I think most academics would tell you that publishers protect authors' interests only to the extent that they coincide with their own. The stuff that matters to academics is the stuff that academics are already doing themselves anyway, e.g. editing, peer review. OA and online access at least promises to cut out the middleman and preserve the things you mention at least as well as the current system.

The other question might be whether MIT can tell their professors where to publish their work at all. I'm sure they can't stop you form publishing elsewhere, but they can surely discredit works outside that system when it comes to tenure review, merit pay, and other in-house matters. Universities generally have policies like that when it comes to peer-reviewed journals, for instance. But again, if there are respected, peer-reviewed OA journals, then many academics have no incentive or interest in going elsewhere, exceptions like biosciences notwithstanding. That's projecting a ways down the road a bit, but I think MIT's aim here is to point in that direction, instead of perpetuating the current system. My real worry as someone who writes and works at not-the-wealthiest academic institution in the world is the potential for licensing fees. If I have to cough up a couple thousand dollars to publish an article (as some accounts suggest), my institution may not cover that. Do I pay it out of pocket? Publish less? Wait for a fairy godmother to come in the form of a nonprofit foundation? Hard to say. Aside from that, I look forward to an OA future.
posted by el_lupino at 8:58 PM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's the dirty secret of many open access journals. The authors pay per page of publication. Two of the pubs on my CV were paid in this fashion so that they might be freely available.
posted by fake at 9:54 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, editing, peer review, and even just keeping the journal available (online or in print) costs money. Somebody's got to pay for it. Better the author (or rather the author's grant money).
posted by nat at 10:43 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


From what I've seen, journals will charge to make a paper open access *themselves*, in their own system, but I'm not sure they'd charge you just because it's open access somewhere else, like in MIT's repository.

Also, in computer science at least, I've seen most copyright releases explicitly allowing the author to post their own version of the paper (i.e., not formatted/typeset by the publisher) to his or her website. (And those for which I haven't seen such a clause one way or the other haven't bothered me about doing so myself.)
posted by whatnotever at 11:10 PM on March 19, 2009


Should merely paying a professor's salary allow a university to dictate the extent to which a professor can profit from or limit distribution of his or her own work?

It's a non-exclusive license, the professors can still distribute their articles however they see fit, and profit off them, if possible. [Someone correct me if I'm wrong here].
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:41 AM on March 20, 2009


I can still remember my disbelief when I submitted my first paper to a journal. "So wait, I have to do all the layout and typesetting myself, following rules set by the journal? And then I have to do the legwork of gathering addresses and contact details for about a dozen potential referees? So what the fuck does the publisher actually do?"
posted by primer_dimer at 3:46 AM on March 20, 2009


So wait, I have to do all the layout and typesetting myself, following rules set by the journal?

I'm curious, how long ago was this? What did this entail?
posted by chillmost at 4:19 AM on March 20, 2009


I'm not sure I understand what this applies to - would papers be deposited as an alternative to being published in a peer review journal or following publication? If publication already involves transferring the copyright to the journal publisher what rights are left to give to MIT for open access?

Apologies if I'm misunderstanding here, I was only tangentially involved in the journal process many years ago.
posted by patricio at 4:39 AM on March 20, 2009


Well, editing, peer review, and even just keeping the journal available (online or in print) costs money. Somebody's got to pay for it. Better the author (or rather the author's grant money).

Yeah, good idea if you have grant money. What about those that don't?
posted by fake at 6:03 AM on March 20, 2009


If Google Books wants to read all the books in the world, and Google can translate all/most/some of what it reads, won't the combination of Google caching MIT's open papers, and then translating them, vastly increase access to those papers (allowing for the quality of the translation to improve over time, especially with this difficult new material)? And so would that add momentum to the swing away from the closed pubilshers?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:21 AM on March 20, 2009


On the other other hand, having people read my work and associate me with other names in my field - better yet, having search engines do it automatically in OA journals - *does* do me a lot of good, both in livening up my scholarly activity and in making the case to my university or potential competitors that I'm valuable to them.

But non-OA journals are still indexed by google, either directly or through indexing databases like ingentaconnect and jstor.

The whole dispute seems very silly to me. We have to restrict where our faculty publish, in order that members of the public can download the article from their homes instead of having to endure the agonizing trauma of going to a university library to read or download it.

NB: my perception is blindered, because in my discipline all of the decent journals are run by professional societies who use publishers as typesetters and printers. Personal subscriptions are usually included with membership and library subscriptions almost always run <$500.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 AM on March 20, 2009


So wait, I have to do all the layout and typesetting myself, following rules set by the journal?

I'm curious, how long ago was this? What did this entail?

I didn't post the earlier item you're inquiring about there, but I can say something on those lines. I edited a book that came out about two years ago, and had to do all of the typesetting to get it to camera-ready PDF state. Really got thrown in at the deep end there, much to the frustration of myself and those at the press. I also had to assemble lists of contacts (hundreds of folks) who might read the book to send notices, research online resources, newsgroups, etc. that might include someone who would read it, write additional material for promotion, and sundry other tasks. A more senior editor associated with the press proofread it, but she was another academic like me, doing it on the side. So I not only edited and typeset the whole book, I think I also did most of actual legwork of marketing it. The publisher, as far as I know, only produced the physical copies, created a merge file with the names and addresses I gave them, and gave me standard paperwork to fill out and file. This was not the biggest press in my field and things might have been a but better with a bigger house, but my sense form the people I've talked to is that the direction with many journals is towards more of this work being shifted to authors and (academic) editors.
posted by el_lupino at 8:09 AM on March 20, 2009


But non-OA journals are still indexed by google, either directly or through indexing databases like ingentaconnect and jstor.

Yep. With moving walls of two to five years for many journals in my field, which only seem to exist to keep a hold of the shrinking number of schools who can't afford full electronic access and get physical copies of smaller numbers of journals.

There are also journals that simply drop the ball on this in various ways. My personal favorite is the article I wrote for a journal that (a) doesn't allow or provide electronic copies of its articles to anyone, (b) doesn't submit its contents to the Philosopher's Index (the big one in the field, from which google and others would draw) and (c) stopped producing physical copies three years ago because they fell behind and short of funds from their overlords. Granted, that's an outlier, but it's an outlier driven by the effort to control physical copies and send them only to subscribers, and the authors and editors are the last set of interests to be considered, if at all.
posted by el_lupino at 8:32 AM on March 20, 2009


So wait, I have to do all the layout and typesetting myself, following rules set by the journal?

I'm curious, how long ago was this? What did this entail?


This was about 3/4 years ago, for a bioinformatics journal - I forget which one. If I remember correctly, they had an example MS Word document that you had to download, then you had to make your paper follow the exact same formatting, lay out your figures to the right size, rewrite your references and citation list to their house style. Basically, you had to generate 3/4 pages worth of journal, just to submit an article for review.
posted by primer_dimer at 6:22 AM on March 23, 2009


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