14.2 - Open Research and Free Interchange of Information

The encouragement of research and inquiry into intellectual areas of great promise is one of the most basic obligations MIT has to its faculty, to its students, and to society at large. The profound merits of a policy of open research and free interchange of information among scholars is essential to MIT's institutional responsibility and to the interests of the nation as a whole. Openness requires that as a general policy MIT not undertake, on the campus, classified research or research whose results may not be published without prior permission — for example, without permission of governmental or industrial research sponsors. Openness also requires that, once they are at MIT, foreign faculty, students, and scholars not be singled out for restriction in their access to MIT's educational and research activities.

The vast majority of on-campus research projects can be conducted in a manner fully consistent with the principles of freedom of inquiry and open exchange of knowledge. MIT, however, is an institution that plays a unique role in important areas of science and technology that are of great concern to the nation. It recognizes that in a very few cases the pursuit of knowledge may involve critically important but sensitive areas of technology where the immediate distribution of research results would not be in the best interests of society. In such cases, exceptions to these policies regarding publication, classification, and access by foreign students and scholars may be made, but only in those very rare instances where the area of work is crucially important to MIT's educational mission and the exception is demonstrably necessary for the national good. If these conditions are not met, MIT will decline or discontinue the activity and, if appropriate, propose it for consideration off-campus or elsewhere. Since the implementation of classified or otherwise restricted research on campus would drastically change the academic environment of the Institute, it is essential that each project be reviewed and acted upon in light of its impact on the Institute as a whole.

It is the policy of the Institute, therefore, that every research project within the academic structure of MIT (excluding Lincoln Laboratory) that requires a classification on the research process, classification as to the source of funds, classification of the research results, or imposition of other restrictions on publication or access must receive the prior approval of the Provost, who shall seek the advice of the Faculty Policy Committee and will inform the committee of all approvals. When unrestricted research at MIT is important to the national security, appropriate efforts will be made to ensure that relevant government agencies are informed of the results at the same time as are others in the scholarly community.

Theses, whether undertaken by graduate or undergraduate students, are an integral part of the research program of the Institute and fall within the statement of policy concerning classified or otherwise restricted research on campus as stated above. No thesis requiring that a student have a clearance or requiring a security review upon its completion may be embarked upon without the prior approval of the Provost. When graduate theses are involved, the Provost shall seek the advice of the Committee on Graduate School Policy in cases that involve modification of existing policy and will inform the committee of all approvals.