Update on MIT’s Open Access Policy and
Continued Negotiations With Publishers
In October 2019, MIT Libraries announced a Framework for Publisher Contracts, developed in collaboration with MIT’s Committee on the Library System and Open Access Task Force. MIT Libraries will be using this framework, endorsed as of November 3, 2019 by over 160 institutions, to guide ongoing and future negotiations with scholarly publishers, including for upcoming renewals of contracts with several major publishers that are due to expire at the end of 2019, notably Wiley, Elsevier, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The framework calls for terms that are aligned with the recommendations of MIT’s Open Access Task Force, preserving the control of scholars and scholarly communities over their own intellectual output while recognizing that publishers can provide value-added services for which MIT is prepared to pay a fair and sustainable price.
The benefits to society and to the world are greatest when the fruits of scholarly labor are immediately and freely available. All MIT faculty enjoy broad rights to share and reuse their scholarly articles due to MIT’s Open Access Policy, established by the Faculty in 2009.
Today, nearly 50% of MIT faculty authored articles published since 2009 are openly accessible through MIT’s open repository. However, a small but influential group of publishers require that MIT authors waive the open access policy, undercutting MIT authors’ rights.
Publishers whose revenue stream depends on charging institutions for subscription access to scholarly content have strong incentives to place this and other limits on open access and use. These incentives and the limited negotiating power of individual university libraries relative to major publishers have set the stage for the unsustainable trajectory of increasing costs for scholarly journals seen over the past decade.
More recently, however, global developments have set more favorable conditions for a move toward immediate open access as a norm of scholarly dissemination. These developments include open access mandates from a wide variety of research funders, including the Gates Foundation, all major U.S. federal agencies, and most recently the international consortium cOAlition S. The latter’s PlanS will require all funded authors to meet particularly stringent open access requirements: publishing in a purely open access journal, on an open access platform, or making the article immediately available in an open access repository. Equally important, open access repositories are becoming increasingly popular, and more and more are becoming available. MIT’s Framework for Publisher Contracts aligns MIT with this global shift and positions the Institute to continue playing a leading role in enabling immediate open access for MIT authors and advocating for open access for scholars around the world.
In addition to funders, universities are increasingly playing key roles in the push for open access. In recent years, subscription cancellations across Europe have signaled a major shift in the global environment. Consortia in Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have been pushing for contracts that incorporate open access for articles written by authors at their universities. In cases where publishers have refused such deals, three national consortia cancelled contracts with Elsevier: Germany’s Projekt DEAL, Sweden’s Bibsam, and Hungary’s EISZ; and France’s Couperin cancelled their contract with Springer. In the United States, the University of California ended negotiations with Elsevier in February 2019 when no agreement could be reached under the UC’s proposal, which provided open access for all UC-authored articles published in Elsevier journals while containing costs. According to the UC Office of Scholarly Communication, Elsevier’s proposal included much higher payments (an 80% increase), and reduced rights to perpetual access to journals.
During the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, representatives from the Committee on the Library System and MIT Libraries will be partnering to engage with individual departments and units throughout the Institute to provide further information about the Framework and the current state of negotiations, and to gather input from the faculty and broader MIT community.
Our goal is to ensure that the Libraries’ negotiating position reflects the interests of the entire MIT community. While all negotiations are undertaken with the hope and expectation of concluding in agreement, we recognize that adherence to our principles may require us to end, or at least suspend, relationships with certain publishers, and this could have a short-term negative impact on our community. We aim to communicate the range of potential outcomes and ways to mitigate the impact, and to advance the broader dialogue around scholarly communication.
The present negotiations between MIT and scholarly publishers are one part of a larger transition toward a system that in the long run will be better for us all, a transition that involves multiple steps and multiple players. We envision a world in which the free flow of ideas and data accelerates scholarly progress and permits us to better address key societal needs. Achieving this vision will give MIT an ideal position from which to communicate its remarkable scholarly outputs to the entire world, simplifying or eliminating constraints on dissemination by MIT authors. However, adherence to this framework will help not only MIT. Removing barriers to publication and dissemination of scholarly content will make it easier for everyone to engage in scholarship, both as producers and consumers. Practicing and aspiring scholars around the world who are currently unable to afford access to scholarly content will be more able to engage, better produce scholarship of their own, and disseminate this content. Broadening the range of organizations and individuals engaging in scholarship, and removing obstacles to this engagement, will advance MIT’s mission to “advance knowledge and educate” and ultimately benefit scholars and global society alike.