Holds and restrictions on thesis publication

Thesis research should be undertaken in light of MIT’s policy of open research and the free interchange of information. Openness requires that, as a general policy, thesis research should not be undertaken on campus when the results may not be published. From time to time, there may be good reason for delaying the distribution of a thesis to obtain patent protection, or for reasons of privacy or security. To assure that only those theses that meet certain criteria are withheld from distribution, and that they are withheld for the minimum period, the Institute has established specific review procedures.

Written notification of patent holds and other restrictions must reach the Institute Archives before the thesis in question is received, as under normal circumstances, all theses are open and available for public inspection once they have been received by the Institute Archives.

For initial thesis hold requests, students should follow these processes:

  • Thesis hold requests should be directed to the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) when related to MIT-initiated patent applications (MIT holds intellectual property rights; patent application process via TLO)
  • Thesis hold or restricted access requests should be directed to the Office of the Vice Chancellor by completing a thesis hold request form when related to:
    • Student-initiated patents [up to 90-day hold]
    • Pursuit of business opportunities [up to 90-day hold]
    • Government restrictions [up to 90-day hold]
    • Privacy and security [up to 90-day hold]
    • Scholarly journal articles pending publication [up to 90-day hold]
    • Book publication [up to 24-month hold]

In some circumstances a student may want to request a hold beyond the initial period. Requests for extended thesis holds longer than the initial hold period require the approval of the Vice President for Research. Such requests will be granted given reasonable justifications. Requests should include the appropriate hold time and made for well-justified reasons, including but not limited to the student’s patent applications or other pertinent business opportunities; government restrictions; privacy and security concerns; peer-reviewed publication, and book manuscripts. Students should include a letter of support from their advisor(s) or department head to provide additional context for the request. The Vice President for Research may consult with other entities to determine the advisability and appropriate length of the follow-on hold. The number of such requests and approvals will be provided annually to the Faculty Policy Committee.

Thesis holds related to MIT-initiated patent application

In many circumstances, thesis work may result in intellectual property that a student and faculty advisor wish to patent. Thesis research that was supported by Institute funds and/or the use of Institute facilities is, by default, the property of MIT. In this case, technology should be disclosed to MIT’s TLO who will then review the patentability of the work, and file for a US patent if appropriate.  A brief thesis hold allows the student to delay public access to research findings and to prevent premature public disclosures of the work.  Request for a thesis hold must be made jointly by the student and advisor directly to the MIT Technology Licensing Office as part of the technology disclosure process.

Specifically, a student who would like to withhold their  thesis from immediate publication while disclosure is being reviewed should refer to the thesis while answering question 6 on the Disclosure Form: “Dates of conception and public disclosure.” The Technology Licensing Office may, if necessary, request a delay in publishing by notifying the Institute Archives, and the thesis will be withheld from distribution for up to one year. If an extension to this original period is required, a request must be made to the Vice President for Research. If approved, the Vice President for Research will inform the Institute Archives in writing of the extension. The Technology Licensing Office will inform the Institute Archives as soon as the thesis can be released. Additional relevant technology licensing information for students may be found here.

Thesis holds related to student-initiated patent applications

If it has been determined by MIT’s Technology Licensing Office that a student holds the rights to the intellectual property contained in their own thesis, and if the student wishes to pursue other business opportunities related to this work, such as a startup company, a request must be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for permission to withhold the thesis from publication.  If granted, the Vice Chancellor’s office will inform the Institute Archives, and the thesis will be withheld from circulation for a period of up to 90 days. If an extension to this original period is required, a request must be made to the Vice President for Research.

Thesis holds related to other business opportunities

Occasionally a student who holds the rights to the intellectual property contained in their own thesis may wish to pursue a business opportunity after graduation, unrelated to any intellectual property that is patentable by MIT. In this case the student may submit a thesis hold request to the Vice Chancellor.

Thesis holds related to government restrictions

The Committee on Graduate Programs recognizes that certain government agencies that sponsor research may require that theses be submitted for security review before they can be placed in the MIT Libraries or published. In the event that the agency does not permit immediate public disclosure of a thesis, this does not preclude its acceptance, but the Vice Chancellor will consider a thesis hold request of up to 90 days. If a longer agency review period is required, the student may ask the Vice President for Research for an extension of the hold. A student should not embark on such a thesis without prior approval from the funding agency that the work may be published upon thesis completion.

Thesis holds related to privacy and security

Occasionally, on completing a thesis, a student may feel that its distribution will jeopardize the privacy or safety of the author or other individuals. If the thesis cannot be rewritten to remove the problematic material, the author and advisor should submit the thesis to the director of their graduate program who will prepare a recommendation to the Vice Chancellor in consultation with the Vice President for Research. The Vice Chancellor will advise the Institute Archives in writing of the restricted period. In all cases the restricted period will be kept to a minimum.

Restricted access related to book publication

Any MIT doctoral degree recipient who is attempting to publish a book based wholly or in part on his/her dissertation may request a temporary removal of the thesis from public access on DSpace@MIT for a period of no longer than two years (24 months).

Such a request must be accompanied by documentation that demonstrates that the author’s manuscript cannot be published due to the availability of the related thesis online. The request will be reviewed by the Vice Chancellor. If approved, online access to view and download the thesis will be limited to those with MIT certificate permission.