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The worldwide impact of open access to MIT faculty research

Worldwide Downloads from the MIT Faculty Open Access Articles Collection, October 2010–June 2012
Worldwide Downloads from the MIT Faculty Open Access Articles Collection, October 2010–June 2012

Three years after MIT faculty chose to make their scholarly articles openly accessible through the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy, individuals around the world have benefited from free access to MIT's research. Comments submitted to the Open Access Articles Collection in DSpace@MIT reveal that faculty articles have helped a wide range of people — students trying to complete professional and undergraduate degrees; professors at universities with limited access to scholarly journals; independent researchers; those in need of medical information; and those working to stay current and advance their careers.

"I am an independent researcher from a third-world country not affiliated to any university or a company," a commenter from Nepal said. "I neither have access to paid journals nor I can afford them. MIT's Open Access is something I love and rely upon. … Thank you again for thinking about the unfortunates and keeping the information free and open."

Before the open-access movement, and even now, much of the content published in academic journals was inaccessible to general readers due to high subscription costs. The MIT faculty's groundbreaking decision to share their articles with the public has made a significant impact within academia and well beyond. Since the policy went into effect in March 2009, more than 7,000 papers, roughly 33 percent of MIT faculty articles published in that period, have been made openly available. The papers have been downloaded 630,000-plus times, and readers have come from nearly every country in the world (see figure). Their stories have clearly answered the question of whether there were potential readers of MIT-authored papers who would benefit by open access.

One particularly poignant story came from a reader who wrote that his wife was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer. "As her husband and caregiver, I try to do everything I can to make her journey easier, and everything I can to create a full recovery for her. Part of that is arming myself with EVERY bit of knowledge I can gather about her cancer," he said. "Access to the Open Access articles allowed a 'non-medical, non-academic', like myself, access to this invaluable and leading edge data. I cannot THANK YOU enough."

Another reader wrote that he is "a displaced electrical engineer from Eastman Kodak" and that "the MIT Open Access Articles allow me to obtain technical articles to help me prepare for interviews since I am not associated with any institution at this time. I am extremely grateful to the MIT faculty for allowing individuals like me to get access to such valuable resources."

Inspiring stories have come from all around the globe: In Norway, a retired sub-sea engineer who creates ocean models uses data from MIT articles to update and improve upon his models. In Portugal, a medical dentistry student finds the articles "very useful" to finishing his degree and believes open access is "the right way to follow." In Denmark, a university researcher thanks MIT faculty for "a significant contribution to making scholarship more efficient, comprehensive and accurate." In France, a professor found an article that assisted him with research on a new topic: biorobotics. And in India, an editor in the embedded design community writes that his audience will benefit from reading an article from the collection.

These stories demonstrate how MIT faculty are making a tangible difference by sharing their research with the world, directly supporting MIT's mission to share knowledge for the "betterment of humankind."

Explore the Open Access Articles Collection online to find the most accessed articles, and latest submissions. Search articles by author, subject, issue date and more. MIT faculty can deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts to the Open Access Articles Collection at:

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