January/February 2022Vol. XXXIV No. 3

Scholarly Publisher Contracts and New Benefits for MIT Authors

Roger Levy, Chris Bourg

MIT has been using the Framework for Publisher Contracts to guide negotiations with scholarly publishers for more than two years. This principles-based framework aims to support the needs of scholars, reflect Institute values, and advance scholarship. In a short period of time, MIT has used the framework to reach several agreements with publishers that demonstrate the viability of our approach. We encourage MIT scholars to take advantage of the open access publishing benefits of these agreements.

Toward Equitable and Open Publishing

The Committee on the Library System (CLS), the Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access to MIT’s Research, and the MIT Libraries jointly developed the Framework in 2019, incorporating feedback from School council meetings and input from external experts. In January 2020, members of the Deans’ Group affirmed support for the Libraries adhering to the Framework in negotiations with publishers, and recently reaffirmed that commitment in November 2021. Additionally, nearly 200 libraries, at institutions ranging from large research universities to liberal arts colleges, have endorsed it.

The Framework is rooted in an overarching principle:

MIT recognizes that the value in published scholarship originates in the labor of authors, peer reviewers, and editors, and the institutions that support them. The benefits to society are greatest when this scholarship is freely and immediately for any lawful purpose. (MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts)

While fair and sustainable costs are a key element to Framework-aligned contracts, our negotiations with publishers are not guided solely by finances. In keeping with MIT’s mission, the Framework creates a mechanism for ensuring scholarly research outputs are openly and equitably available to the broadest and most inclusive audience possible. It also reflects our belief that an equitable opportunity to contribute to scholarly literature is as important for the integrity and usefulness of scholarship as is the open accessibility to read.

The MIT Framework Elements

Successful, Framework-aligned agreements make progress toward three goals: 1) terms aligned with MIT’s mission, principles, and policies; 2) terms that represent a fair and sustainable price for the value-added services provided by publishers; and 3) terms that preserve and protect scholars’ and scholarly communities’ control over their own intellectual output.

The core elements of Framework-aligned contracts include:

  • No requirement to waive MIT Open Access policy
  • No requirement to relinquish copyright; generous reuse rights
  • Direct deposit in MIT’s open repository (DSpace@MIT)
  • Computational access to subscribed content
  • Long-term preservation commitment
  • Institutions pay for value-added services

The MIT Framework in Action: Benefits to MIT Authors

The principles of the Framework translate to immediate benefits for Institute authors. As a result of these recent agreements, the Libraries will pay the majority of our authors’ publications costs. MIT corresponding authors can now make articles with the following publishers freely and openly available upon publication, at no cost to them:

  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • American Institute of Physics (AIP) Publishing
  • Public Library of Science (PLOS)
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Springer and Palgrave
  • Wiley

Many of these agreements also include text and data mining permissions, automatic deposit into MIT’s institutional repository, DSpace, and/or no requirement to waive MIT’s Faculty Open Access Policy. For more information on these individual agreements, see the Libraries’ Scholarly Publishing website, and contact scholarlypub@mit.edu with any questions.


Elsevier is the one major publisher that remains unwilling to produce a proposal for MIT that aligns with the Framework.

Consequently, the Institute is out of contract with this publisher. In the meantime, alternative access to Elsevier’s paywalled content is available. In response to concerns that turnaround times for some alternative access methods was not meeting research and teaching needs, the Libraries are implementing new document delivery services and technologies to significantly expedite access to recent content. We continue to pursue Framework-aligned contracts with all major publishers, including Elsevier.

Looking Forward

Our success in negotiating Framework-aligned contracts with a diverse set of non-profit, society-based, and commercial publishers gives us confidence that adhering to the MIT Framework is an advantageous path forward for MIT, and for scholarly communications. To confirm the viability of this approach, we are gathering data about how effective these agreements prove in transforming scholarly communications into an open and equitable system, optimized for applying knowledge to the world’s greatest challenges. MIT scholars who are interested in learning more about how they can support MIT’s pursuit of open and equitable scholarship are encouraged to contact us at rplevy@mit.edu or cbourg@mit.edu.