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Aaron Swartz And The Open Access Movement

Aaron Swartz at the Boston Wiki Meetup (Flickr/ragesoss)

Aaron Swartz at the Boston Wiki Meetup in 2009. (Flickr/ragesoss)

In July 2008, Aaron Swartz posted a manifesto online. Here’s some of what it said:

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. 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…..We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world… We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

The news that Swartz took his own life last week sparked expressions of solidarity from those who support the Open Access movement, which, among other things, demands that publicly funded research be made publicly available.

Academics across the world paid tribute to Swartz by posting PDFs of their copyrighted works online. On Twitter, the hashtag #PDFTribute triggered an open and thoughtful debate on copyright, academic work and access.


  • John Willinsky, Stanford University Professor, founder of the Public Knowledge Project and author of “The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship”
  • Bryn Geffert, chief librarian at Amherst College

Other stories from this show:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Call_Me_Missouri

    Question for your guest…  Remember last year the big deal over those H1N1 Studies that showed that small alterations to the Virus would turn it into a pandemic…  Should that information be made publicly available?

    Is there a line in the sand where public safety is a limiting factor?

    I should note that I agree with Aaron Swartz.  It is in the best interest of our Nation that at the very least 100% of Academic Publishing should be publicly available in the United States if not the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535282775 Actenon Amzil

    Hello, For a long time I have been thinking that one can create something like wikipedia (one can call it wikiblication) where peer-reviewed specific journals can be setup with editorial boards. I am looking for people who would be interested in this idea to join me and make this idea a reality.

  • Wrtng4nothn

    What about the book authors who are essentially writing scientific books for free for large publishers like Springer and Elsevier and they don’t even get a free copy of their own book in some cases yet the publisher will sell it for hundreds of dollars. They are profiting heavily from the fact that those in industry and academia have to publish…they have to. The publisher is not paying for this content, they are not paying the writer. It’s a full profit for them in most cases.

  • Phil

    I’m in academics.  The important effort that goes into scholarly work is done not by journals but by academics and researchers.   We recruit the editorial board members, we serve on the editorial boards, we do the research, we write the articles, and we review the articles written by others.  The journals don’t pay for any of that.  The organizations that do pay for it—the universities, the research institutes and labs, and the funding agencies–receive none of the profits.  Fortunately, we as the authors have the option of choosing to publish with journals that have good open-access policies.  Those of us whose funding ultimately comes from public sources such as the National Science Foundation should make that choice.

  • Rudie Lion

    As an outsider it seems to me the academic publishing industry is a self-regulating ecosystem whose main purpose is to build and sustain reputation and power. Knowledge is a tool rather than the objective, and publishers are reputation facilitators. They create authoritative journals that serve as reputation vehicles by allowing academics and researchers to submit and judge content. Monetary gain for academics and researchers is achieved as they build their industry standing, which translates into easier access to grants, higher paying positions, speaking engagements, etc. Non-monetary gains relate to status and position. The value that publishers provide, then, is a gateway to power and success. This is a business function that ought to be compensated, even though the height thereof can be disputed. Direct compensation for articles disrupts the ecosystem, as does open access. 

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