MIT White Paper: Access to Science and Scholarship

Key Questions about the Future of Research Publishing

December 2023

NOTE: This (previously) unpublished report was authored by a self-selected group of MIT faculty and staff, along with an external consultant, who met periodically during the spring of 2023 to explore the scientific and scholarly communications landscape in relation to changes in publishing business models and public access policy. The views expressed in this report are the consensus views of the signed authors, and not an official statement on behalf of MIT.

Announcement of the Report's Release

The health of the research enterprise is closely tied to the effectiveness of the scientific and scholarly publishing ecosystem. Policy-, technology-, and market-driven changes in publishing models over the last two decades have triggered a number of disruptions within this ecosystem:

  • Ongoing increases in the cost of journal publishing, with dominant open access models shifting costs from subscribers to authors

  • Significant consolidation and vertical (supply chain) integration in the publishing industry, and a decline in society-owned subscription journals that have long subsidized scientific and scholarly societies

  • A dramatic increase in the number of “predatory” journals with substandard peer review

  • Decline in the purchasing power of academic libraries relative to the quantity and cost of published research To illustrate how researcher behavior, funder policies, and publisher business models and incentives interact, this report presents an historical overview of open access publishing.

The report also provides a list of key questions for further investigation to understand, measure, and best prepare for the impact of new policies related to open access in research publishing, categorized into six general areas: access and business models, research data, preprint publishing, peer review, costs to researchers and universities, and infrastructure.

The full text of the report (with an executive summary) is available in PDF.  There is also a featured Q&A with Amy Brand and with Phillip Sharp.