You’ve all heard about it now, the tragic story of Aaron Swartz’s suicide last week. And I assume you’ve read many of the thought-provoking pieces that’s been written as well, such as:
- Lawrence Lessig: Prosecutor as bully
- danah boyd: Processing the loss of Aaron Swartz
- Wired: Aaron Swartz, coder and activist, Dead at 26
- A very personal account from one of his friends (my favorite): Matt Stoller: Aaron Swartz’s politics
- Remember Aaron Swartz
You should also check out:
- Aaron Swartz’s 2011 review of books (as well as his blog in general)
- Swartz’s learning method: Learn (1), Try (2), Gab (3), Build (4) or “How to get a job like mine”
I never met Swartz and so many have already written smart and touching about his life and internet activism. However, I would like to pick up on the topic of open access to academic info. Swartz faced federal hacking prosecution for allegedly downloading millions of academic documents from the JSTORE database via MIT’s guest network, using a laptop hidden in a networking closet.
For a brand new PhD candidate to me, it is almost shocking to see all the research I haven’t had access to for the past 10 years (since I finished my Master’s at Georgetown). Now as I’m back at the University, I can access all the goodies, but for the past few year, I haven’t been able to keep track of or get access to academic research on social media, online politics and activism, online media, etc, except if an academic friend has been so kind to share some articles with me. It is ridiculous how locked up and unavailable research is today, something Jill Walker Rettberg also has written about and I totally agree with her on this statement:
Open access to research publications is one of the most important research policy questions internationally today. We need to push nationally and internationally for governments and professional organisations to require open access publication, and perhaps national copyright law needs to be changed to ensure that publicly funded research is available to the public.
As a new PhD, I’m not that familiar with Open Access. But I’ve been interested in open data for years, especially from a journalistic viewpoint, so open academic access is logic in my ears. And I already know that it will become crucial for me in the years to come to push and fight for much more openness in academic publishing. As we can read on the Norwegian site for Open Access (my translation):
The purpose behind openaccess.no is to contribute to an effective system for open, academic communication in line with science’s basic foundation: To share scientific results as widely as possible.
A commentator in the Guardian goes even further today:
Publishing behind paywalls is immoral.More than that, it’s oxymoronic: if it’s behind a paywall, it hasn’t been published.
As a scientist your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. Hiding it behind a journal’s paywall is unacceptable
What about you, do you have any opinions about Open Access?
UPDATE: If you have suggestions and advice for how to be an open access scholar, please do! Thanks Jill for your helpful blogpost, How to be an open access scholar!