Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MIT adopts a university-wide OA mandate

This afternoon, the MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide OA mandate.  Here's the resolution the faculty approved (thanks to Hal Abelson, MIT professor of computer science and engineering, who chaired the committee to formulate it):

MIT Faculty Open-Access Policy

Passed by Unanimous of the Faculty, March 18, 2009

The Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: 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 or Provost's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs MIT of the reason.

To assist the Institute in distributing the scholarly articles, as of the date of publication, each Faculty member will make available an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article at no charge to a designated representative of the Provost's Office in appropriate formats (such as PDF) specified by the Provost's Office.

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.

The policy is to take effect immediately; it will be reviewed after five years by the Faculty Policy Committee, with a report presented to the Faculty.

The Faculty calls upon the Faculty Committee on the Library System to develop and monitor a plan for a service or mechanism that would render compliance with the policy as convenient for the faculty as possible.


  • This is big.  Another of the world's great research universities has an OA mandate.  Unlike Harvard and Stanford, which now have OA mandates for some of their schools, the MIT mandate is university-wide.  Moreover, while the votes at Harvard and Stanford were unanimous within the relevant schools, and the Boston University vote was unanimous within the University Faculty Council, this is the first university-wide unanimous faculty vote. 
  • Like the Harvard policy, the MIT policy allows faculty to opt-out.  Faculty must make separate requests for separate works, and must give a reason. 
  • MIT developed DSpace (with Hewlett-Packard), of course, and already has an OA repository (also named DSpace) with over 30,000 deposits
  • The new policy does not specify the method of deposit.  Faculty are not even asked to make direct deposits, merely to make their work available for deposit.  The Provost's Office will insure that the works make it to the repository.  Note that a faculty committee has an essential role in the interpretation and implementation of the policy.
  • Kudos to Hal Abelson and the MIT faculty!
  • Also see our past posts anticipating this policy at MIT (1, 2), and our many posts on MIT's other OA projects, including its pioneering Open Courseware

Update (3/19/09).  Also see Hal Abelson's 'comments:

I chaired the committee that drafted the resolution and led faculty discussions on it throughout the fall. So I’m particularly gratified that the vote was unanimously in favor. In the words of MIT Faculty Chair Bish Sanyal, the vote is “a signal to the world that we speak in a unified voice; that what we value is the free flow of ideas.”

Our resolution was closely modeled on similar ones passed last February by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and by the Harvard Law School, also passed by unanimous vote. Stanford’s School of Education did the same, as did Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government just last Monday.

Harry [Lewis] blogged last month about the execrable “Fair Copyright in Research Act” introduced by Rep. Conyers of Michigan, which would repeal the National Institute of Health mandate on open-access publishing and forbid government agencies from imposing similar mandates. This act is harmful to the progress of science and should be scuttled. Now that there are unanimous votes supporting open access by faculty at world-leading institutions supporting open access, Rep. Conyers should recognize what everyone else does, and deflate his ill-conceived trial balloon.