Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, March 23, 2009

More on the MIT policy

Dennis Carter, MIT makes research available on the web, eSchool News, March 23, 2009.  Excerpt:

Hal Abelson, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at MIT who formed an open-access committee last summer, said the audience for faculty researchers has shrunk in recent years as fewer people have access to pricey journals.

"It just seems obvious to me that the way you support the progress of scholarship is that you make your works available as widely as possible," said Abelson, an MIT faculty member since 1969.

As the publishing industry has consolidated over the past 20 years, Abelson said, access to critical research papers has been restricted.

"The whole publishing process moves in a direction where it captures things and closes them off," he said....

"I was really happy," Abelson said about the unanimous vote, adding that the open-access mandate has an opt-out clause for faculty. "We don't often get a unanimous vote on anything."

[Peter] Suber, a longtime open-access advocate and author of the blog Open Access News, said making the peer-reviewed literature available on the web would not take money from researchers' pockets, because they typically aren't paid [by journals] to publish their research.

"They write for impact, not for money," he said. "They have an interest in finding the largest possible audience. There is also the natural desire to take advantage of new technology [to reduce costs and widen distribution at the same time]."

But John Tagler, executive director of the AAP's professional and scholarly publishing division, said the claim that open access is free is misleading. Although readers do not have to pay for the scholarly articles online, Tagler said, publishers still must bear the costs of peer reviewing and publishing the works.

"Open access just means the economic model has shifted," he said. "The costs have to be borne somewhere."

The rising prices of research journals have been exacerbated by the current economic crisis, which has affected campus endowments and operating budgets. Charles B. Lowery, executive director of the Association of Research Libraries, wrote in a 2008 article that faculty have been frustrated by the dwindling supply of research material as libraries are forced to cut back.

"I would observe that there is really only one problem as the camps face off--academic libraries cannot afford to purchase the information that they need to deliver in order to satisfy the appetite of our teaching and research mission," wrote Lowery, a professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies....

The open-access battle between researchers and publishers has become contentious, Lowery said, sometimes distracting academia from the goal of making research available to everyone for free....

Suber said there are at least a dozen more American universities considering some form of open-access mandate for campus research, including the University of California.