MIT restricts academic freedom?

According to an article at Ars Technica, the faculty at MIT have voted to require that all academic publications be open-access. More specifically, the policy requires that when submitting an article to a journal publisher, authors must grant MIT a license to distribute the work for free, and authors have to provide the publication to the MIT provost. If you want to publish with a journal that refuses to allow open access, you have to submit a written request and get approval from the provost.

I’m all for open public access. But I am also all for academic freedom. When a university dictates where its faculty can publish, that seems to me to set a dangerous precedent. If a university can say that faculty cannot publish in Journal X because the university doesn’t like the journal’s copyright policy, who’s to say that the next step isn’t “Don’t publish in Journal Y because we don’t like their editorial position on [fill in controversial issue here]“?

3 thoughts on “MIT restricts academic freedom?

  1. I appreciate where your coming from with your post Sanjay, but I don’t think the open access mandate violates the spirit of academic freedom at all. Rather, I would argue that it expands it (due to the evolutionary changes that are being facilitated in the publishing world because of these mandates). I rather doubt that the university would absolutely forbid one to publish in x journal if, for some unknown reason, it was absolutely essential for it to be published there. And if the university refused, it would be as much the journals fault for refusing to adopt open access – choosing to hoard their knowledge behind their walled and gated ivory tower.

    We should definitely oppose any real attempts to limit academic freedom. But the open access mandates is not one of those attempts.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Patrick. Since writing the original blog entry, I’ve heard that the “approval” process for publishing in non-open journals is going to be pro forma — everybody who makes the request will get approved pretty much automatically. If that is true, and if that’s written into the policy, then my concern would largely be alleviated.

  3. this is just in compliance with the govt-mandated open access policy. MIT can’t have two policies (one for federally funded research, which has to to into PUBMED) and one for non.

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