An online tribute to Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old activist who helped create RSS and committed suicide this past week, has attracted more than 1,500 links to research and academic papers. The site with the full list of links and research is here.
It’s an effort to honor Swartz, who faced up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines after he downloaded 4.8 million documents from JSTOR. He had wanted to make them more freely available before he took his life this week.
Micah Allen, who researches brain plasticity, cognitive neuroscience, and cognitive science, suggested the idea on Reddit earlier this weekend: “A fitting tribute to Aaron might be a mass protest uploading of copyright-protected research articles. Dump them on Gdocs, tweet the link. Think of the great blu-ray encoding protest but on a bigger scale for research articles.”
Two acquaintances of Swartz, Eva Vivalt and Jessica Richman, picked up the call and ran with the idea.
“Open access is something he was and we are really passionate about,” said Richman, who also co-founded Science Citizen, a non-profit that encourages academic scientists to include citizen science in their research.
“Imagine you’re a musician and you have to pay someone to produce your music, and then your can’t even access your own music unless you pay them again,” she added.
Swartz wrote a Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto five years ago, in which he criticized research journals for locking up valuable scientific knowledge and history and urged people to engage in civil disobedience to make these works more widely available.
“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations,” he wrote. “Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.”
Richman says she hopes that maybe this nascent effort to help lead to the creation of a repository, where research that is funded with public money and grants be available and openly accessible.
JSTOR said four days ago that it was making the archives of more than 1,200 journals available for limited free reading by the public. This didn’t happen in connection with Swartz death, however.