There has been a fairly strong debate among many funding agencies and top-tier academic institutions about scholarly publications and access issues over the last few years. Last fall, I heard an interesting interview on National Public Radio's Science Friday podcast concerning the National Institute of Health's efforts to make research they funded open-access. From my dealings with with the Social Science Research Network to promote dissemination of academic publications on entrepreneurship (see Entrepreneurship Research and Policy Network), I suspected that efforts to push open-access publication are likely to be dealt with at the disciplinary level and that the mores of the each discipline in adopting norms are extremely different.
Yesterday, I saw a new announcement from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which has caused me to wonder if open-access is reaching a tipping point that could sweep across academia. MIT's release of a campus-wide, open-access publication model for its faculty's research has the potential to cascade across the U.S. and the globe. MIT, with its diversity of strengths in academic research, would seem an ideal place to begin such a domino effect. You can read their actual policy or a good overview article on the whole process at ars technica.
One thing I didn't see specified in the MIT policy that I will be interested to find clarification on is how MIT plans to treat the underlying research data which scholarly publications are based upon. This has been a murky area in Economics, but less so in other disciplines, and how the university treats the research data could have other significant implications. MIT's libraries have a page devoted to open data, which do give an overview of some of the big players in this area but I diddn't see reference to open data in their policy.