Below is the text of an email that I sent out to all faculty and graduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Western University on 13 January, 2013.
On Friday, Aaron Swartz, a brilliant young American programmer and Open Access advocate, committed suicide in Brooklyn. Swartz was, at the time of his death, facing prosecution from the US government for downloading 4 million articles from JSTOR via MIT’s computer network, and faced a $1 million fine and up to 35 years in prison for his “crime”; this despite the fact that he did not “hack” the system and made no attempt to distribute the articles. The “victim,” JSTOR itself, declined to prosecute Swartz, and publicly disavowed the Dept. of Justice’s case. Alex Stamos, an expert witness in the case, has written an excellent summary here:
In the wake of Swartz’s death, there has been an enormous upsurge in support for Open Access among academics online and elsewhere; those interested in following the discussion on Twitter can do so via the hashtag #pdftribute. In that spirit, I would like to remind you of the existence of two important resources for those interested in pursuing Open Access for scholarly publications.
1) Scholarship@Western is our own Open Access online repository for academic publication. Run by Western Libraries, Scholarship@Western “aims to facilitate knowledge sharing and broaden the international recognition of Western’s academic excellence by providing open access to Western’s intellectual output and professional achievements. It also serves as a platform to support Western’s scholarly communication needs and provides an avenue for the compliance of research funding agencies’ open access policies.” Any faculty member or student can deposit eligible research publications, and create a profile, in Scholarship@Western.
2) Most journals and academic publishers have in place policies regarding the Open Access online archiving of research materials. In some cases, these are quite liberal, and permit, for instance, the immediate archiving of PDF copies of pre- or post-print copies of an article, or archiving 12 months after initial print publication. SHERPA/ROMEO is a database that makes available information on the Open Access and archiving policies of an enormous number of scholarly journals, and makes it possible to determine easily the policies of a particular journal within which you may have published.
If you have not already, I hope that you will give some thought to supporting Open Access publication, and raising, in the process, Western’s international research profile, through the use of Scholarship@Western.