Making your research openly available – #pdftribute

Over the weekend many of you may have heard of the death of Aaron Swartz by his own hand. If you are unfamiliar with Aaron, his work, and the controversy and court case because of his actions, see the obituary in the New York Times here: as well as a follow up article here: There are many, many, many tributes to Aaron Swartz scattered across the Internet.

As a result of his death, the feeling that the ongoing legal case against him directly contributed to his death, and to honor his belief that information should be available for all, there has been a growing movement, particularly apparent on Twitter under #pdftribute, for researchers to post their work online. There have ­­­been blog posts like this one and this one from Jonathan Eisen about how to make your academic work openly available.

What underlay Aaron’s work in his short life was a deep and profound understanding that we need to ensure that people who want to share their work can do so, and that the consequences for society of locking up knowledge (especially knowledge funded by the public) are dire indeed.

And that’s why I am writing this post. If you are interested in making your past work openly available or in making sure your future publications are openly available or, at the very least, better understanding what your copyright transfer agreement or book contract actually says, contact your librarian. Or contact the Scholarly Commons directly. We have experts who can:

  • Help you get a better understanding of terms in copyright transfer agreements and book contracts  so that you maintain better control of your work;
  • Show you tools like Sherpa/Romeo that highlights publisher copyright policies re posting your work openly, the Directory of Open Access Journals,  IDEALS  – Illinois’ institutional repository – where you can post your work;
  • Come to research groups, classes, faculty meetings, or other groups to talk about copyright, open access, the pressures within the current scholarly communication system, or other related issues; and
  • Talk you through how to provide open access to your past, current, and future research whether on your website, through IDEALS, or a disciplinary repository.

Individual acts can sometimes have big consequences. Let’s make one of the larger and enduring consequences of Aaron’s life be a serious engagement with opening access to and ensuring that we, researchers, control our own research products in order to promote the greater good.