Reflecting on our OA growth for Open Access Week 2021

Highlighting Press initiatives including Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, Direct to Open, and MIT Open Publishing Services

Open Access Week 2021 gives us the opportunity to reflect on how the pandemic has affected our work at the MIT Press. In some respects, working from home has been business as usual as it has allowed us to get our books and journals out to the world without major disruptions. The world of open access publishing at The MIT Press has also flourished in the last 18 months. It has been very rewarding to see Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), Direct to Open (D2O), and MIT Open Publishing Services (MITops) all get off to a great start. 

Rapid Reviews: COVID-19

RR:C19 is an OA overlay journal dedicated to peer reviewing COVID-19 preprints and publishing those peer reviews in order to forestall the distribution of potentially harmful claims about the pandemic. We came up with the idea for the journal just as the pandemic was exploding in the United States in Spring 2020. With generous assistance from our funding partners at The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and our editorial partners at the University of California, Berkeley, we managed to bring it from conception to first content published in under five months. This is a new record for MIT Press Journals! 

Since Rapid Reviews went live in August 2020, the journal has published several hundred peer reviews across a broad range of COVID research, from public health and medicine to economics and political science. The concept of an overlay journal that rapidly solicits and peer reviews COVID-19 preprints represents a signal change in academic publishing. The pandemic (and, by extension, other emergencies with global impact) has made it clear to us that speed, transparency, and accountability are now critical criteria for advancing science. RRC19 has been one of the earliest innovations providing this service during the COVID-19 epidemic. Our model also creates a mentorship pyramid that has provided training and feedback for scores of student volunteers. Looking to the future, we’re anticipating expanding the journal into new directions and taking our innovative model and adapting it to new areas of inquiry that have embraced preprint publishing. 

Direct to Open

We are thrilled about the enthusiastic response from the library community and beyond for Direct to Open, the MIT Press’ innovative new program for making its scholarly monographs and edited collections open access. The collective action model underpinning D2O, which relies on library pledges to open our books up to the world, has been warmly received, and the Press is making significant progress towards its goal: More than 100 libraries have committed to it. 

As Greg Eow, president of the Center for Research Libraries and member of the MIT Press Management Board, wrote at the time of launch​: “The D2O model is the kind of bold experiment that university presses and research libraries ought to be working on together to shape the emerging academic publishing ecosystem. D2O represents an opportunity in the current moment to reconstitute institutional relationships among mission aligned organizations, such as university presses and research libraries, to create an open knowledge commons. It is exactly the opportunity libraries should be supporting.” 

MIT Open Publishing Services

The MIT Open Publishing Services (MITops) program is a scholar-focused, MIT-branded hosting and publishing services operation. In concert with our development partner, the Knowledge Futures Group, we offer hosting of OA content on the PubPub platform, an open-source collaborative authoring and publishing platform developed jointly by the MIT Press and the Media Lab. MITops is able to leverage distinctive, open source, mission-aligned infrastructure, initially developed at MIT, with conventional value-added publishing (through support for peer review processes, careful editorial development; professional copyediting and design; discoverability efforts; and global distribution networks for long-form print products). Our inaugural project, launched this past February, is the SERC Case Studies Series from MIT’s Schwarzman College of Computing. 


Learn more about Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, Direct to Open, and MIT Open Publishing Services