The best tribute to Aaron Swartz

January 15, 2013 by Giulio Prisco

Aaron Swartz in 2012 protesting against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (credit: Daniel J. Sieradski/Wikimedia Commons)

If you are a scientist, you can pay the best and most effective tribute to the memory of Aaron Swartz by sharing PDFs of your published work on via the hashtag #pdftribute on Twitter.

Researchers are now offering open-access versions of their work using this hashtag.

I also suggest to boycott the pay-walled journals of the science mafia and publish on arXiv, or one of the many excellent open access science journals like PLoS and eLife. Hit them in the wallet where it hurts; it is the only effective way to protest.

New Scientist | Hundreds of researchers have been sharing PDFs of their work on Twitter as a tribute to Aaron Swartz, the internet freedom activist who committed suicide on Friday.

Swartz was facing hacking charges from the U.S. government after accessing the network of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading nearly 5 million articles from the digital library JSTOR.

In a statement following his death, Swartz’s parents criticized the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office for pursuing charges against their son, and MIT for failing to support him. [NOTE: see also Time | Aaron Swartz’s Suicide Prompts MIT Soul-Searching.]

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, tweeted his own tribute: “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”

Update Jan. 15, 2013: ars technica | On Monday afternoon, a group of online archivists released the “Aaron Swartz Memorial JSTOR Liberator.” The initiative is a JavaScript-based bookmarklet that lets Internet users “liberate” an article, already in the public domain, from the online academic archive JSTOR. By running the script — which is limited to once per browser — a public domain academic article is downloaded to the user’s computer, then uploaded back to ArchiveTeam in a small act of protest against JSTOR’s restrictive policies.