Maintaining Our Resolutions: Implementing the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy
In March 2009 MIT faculty voted unanimously to make their scholarly articles freely available on the Web. [Click here for the complete text of the faculty resolution.] That vote, however, was just the first step. The task remained of making the policy work: of getting the faculty’s articles into DSpace@MIT, MIT’s on-line repository, and of making access to them as straightforward as possible. Although The Faculty Committee on the Library System has overall responsibility for policy, the real work has been done by staff in the MIT libraries.
One aspect of that work is largely complete. The DSpace@MIT Open Access Collection came on-line in October 2009, and provides the necessary structure for the Policy. It is designed to work seamlessly with Google Scholar, so that articles can be found even by people who have never heard of MIT, using a wide variety of search criteria.
With the structure in place, the focus has now turned to getting as many faculty papers as possible into DSpace@MIT – no easy task since over 6000 are published each year. There are several issues here. One concerns the attitude of the publishers. The policy automatically gives MIT necessary rights for openly sharing the articles, and many publishers have been cooperating with the policy. Others, however, including Elsevier/Cell Press, Nature, Oxford University Press, Science (AAAS), and Wiley have been less cooperative. Nevertheless, if there is an inconsistency between the Open Access Policy and a subsequent publisher’s agreement, then it is the first agreement – the Open Access Policy—that takes priority. So even if a publisher’s agreement states that they have the sole copyright in an article, and even if they refuse to accept the copyright amendment form, a copy can still be legally deposited on DSpace@MIT. It is only if a publisher insists that an author must opt-out of the policy that it will lack force; and so far few publishers have insisted on this. (A full list of publishers with whom the Libraries have had discussions, including many who are cooperating in various ways, appears on the scholarly publishing Website at: libraries.mit.edu/publisherpolicies).
But even if there are few legal barriers, the job of acquiring so many articles is daunting. Over the past year, the Libraries have been targeting a small number of departments in an attempt to devise policies that can be applied across the Institute. Three methods have been pursued: working directly with publishers; identifying faculty papers from MIT Websites; and asking authors for the final manuscripts of their papers. In developing these methods, library staff have been guided by the Policy’s requirement that things be made as “convenient for the faculty as possible.”
A case in point is the Physics Department, where, by a combination of methods, nearly 60% of recent faculty articles have been obtained. An agreement with the American Physical Society allowed the library to download directly all the articles by MIT faculty that appeared in APS publications. Personalized e-mails from the library to Physics faculty allowed the collection of articles that had been identified from databases. And a system has been put in place whereby faculty who deposit final versions of their papers in arXiv can alert the library so that they can be incorporated directly into DSpace@MIT.
Library staff hope to extend similar methods across MIT. One hope is that the collection of articles could be incorporated into procedures that already exist, such as the annual submission for the President’s Report. Both the library staff and the Faculty Committee on the Library would welcome suggestions for other methods. In the meanwhile, MIT faculty are strongly encouraged to submit the final manuscript of their papers to DSpace directly (dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/49433/submit).
The Open Access Policy provided a tremendous start in making the fruits of MIT research available to those who do not have the luxury of a large university library. But voting on the Policy was the easy part. The DSpace collection now contains over 2,100 articles, and received over 63,500 downloads in the first year – approximately 10,000 per month since June 2010. Nearly 30% of available articles are being collected. If faculty will support the library staff’s work by submitting their papers, we can catch the remaining 70%.