Following the death of Internet activist and developer Aaron Swartz, hundreds of academics took to Twitter this past weekend to honor him by posting open-access links to their research. And among them were at least one current and one former KU faculty member.
Swartz committed suicide in New York on Friday as he was awaiting trial for charges that he illegally downloaded nearly 5 million documents from JSTOR, an academic research database. He was an advocate for the free flow of information on the internet, after gaining fame by playing a role in the development of both the Internet tool RSS and the site Reddit, the so-called "front page of the Internet."
In tribute to his efforts, and perhaps in protest of his prosecution, researchers on Twitter linked to open-access research articles they'd written, using the hashtag #pdftribute.
Through a brief Twitter search, I spotted a couple of people with KU connections who joined in.
If you scroll down a bit in Baym's Twitter feed, you'll see some additional commentary about open access to research. She notes that KU encourages open-access publishing. Indeed, a number of KU faculty members have joined a boycott of the academic publisher Elsevier, alleging exorbitant subscription prices and other policies that discourage open access. And the KU Libraries system (which pays millions to provide faculty and students access to academic journals each year) also took part last fall in the international Open Access Week promotion, during which U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder spoke about legislation that would make all federally funded research articles available for free within six months of publication.
Those were the two folks with KU connections I managed to find who took part in the #pdftribute movement. If anyone else out there took part, feel free to note that in the comments.
And to contribute to our own free flow of information here, don't forget to send your KU news tips to email@example.com.
We've got a story this week about a KU archaelogist who's become an expert the last decade or so on the "2012 phenomenon" related to the Maya civilization and the date Dec. 21, 2012, which is coming up in just a few days now. (Hint: The Mayas did not predict the world would end on Friday.)
When I was talking with that faculty member, John Hoopes, one thing he said caught my attention: He said perhaps the best single source out there on the "2012 phenomenon" is the Wikipedia article on the subject.
Perhaps we're several years past the perception of Wikipedia as something not to be trusted, but I still thought it notable that an article on the free crowd-sourced encyclopedia would get such an endorsement from a scholar. Of course, Hoopes can vouch for its accuracy because he's been one of the main contributors and editors of the page.
He said he's served as a Wikipedia editor for quite some time now, and he's had students in his classes create wiki-style articles on various subjects. He's a fan of getting information out into the world, he said, and Wikipedia is great for that because it's free.
He also told me that the "2012 phenomenon" page will be the featured article, out of about 4.1 million total, on the main page of the English-language Wikipedia on Thursday, the day before the fateful Dec. 21 date.
If you'd like to learn more about the Maya civilization and the whole 2012 thing, Hoopes also recommends this Q-and-A feature he wrote for Psychology Today.
Hoopes did not say that sending a KU news tip to firstname.lastname@example.org would help stave off the end of the world. But it couldn't hurt, could it?