RIP

The informed randform reader knows that I am a proponent of open access to (up to now) mostly publicly funded academic papers with the side remark that the full access to results with possibly hazardous implications may eventually need to be treated differently. In the randform post “petition for open acess to EU research results” MIT’s open courseware was mentioned as a good example for open access. In this article it was also mentioned that

At this point one should maybe remind the EU about the benefits of open source software and communities for their research institutions. These open initiatives are supported by individuals who contribute to the community usually in their free time.

In an older randform post: focus and context, part IVa: Codes and context, based on an observation by Aaron Swartz, it was mentioned that this engagement depends on the overall living conditions of that individuals.

Given MITs engagement in open access I was now shocked to hear that MIT was apparently involved in charges against Aaron Swartz, which were made because of his release of JSTOR documents. I didn’t know that the charges could have brought him 35 years in prison – I had viewed the JSTOR-release rather as an act of a kind of civil disobedience. I also didn’t know about his apparently rather strong depressions, in fact I never met him, not even communicated with him. I am shocked and very sad to hear about Aaron Swartz suicide. My consolations to his family.
I find it quite evident that such exorbitant charges contributed to his overall psychic condition and the role of the involved institutions and people sheds no good light on them.

Nevertheless in general I think it may be important to speak out about depressions and other comorbidities of academic life (and maybe also other lifes under pressure).

But speaking out alone may – so sad and heart-wrenching – not be enough.

Thus as a consequence of Aaron Swartz death Ian Gent and Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson (via Sarah Kendrew) opened a blog called depressedacademics:

So that’s why I’m starting this blog. Academics should have a place to see other people’s stories. To see that it’s ok to be depressed. To see that it’s normal. To comment and discuss if they want. And to share resources on depression, whether related to academia or not.

…where I am not sure wether it is really good and normal to be depressed. It should also be pointed out that speaking openly out in public about disorders and sicknesses should probably made only by individuals in secure social conditions. Being open about that topic may have severe consequences on your health insurance, occupational disability insurance, work and carrier opportunities etc.

As a side note: There may be a blog freeze on randform. That is my MAC seemed to have died now for sure and I am currently writing on a borrowed one. The laptop made suddenly only more 3 beeps while trying to boot, a signal which means “no good banks”.

6 Responses to “RIP”

  1. cravallerie Says:

    open access! open courseware! so you are one of those who don’t want to pay for books and get everything for free! Have you ever thought about where this can lead us to?

  2. Sara Says:

    There is also a good article about the dangers of open access in science on by Sabine Hossenfelder.

  3. nad Says:

    cravallerie and Sara, thanks for your comments.

    @Sara

    it seems Sabine Hossenfelder sees not only different dangers about open access than me, but there is actually quite a bit more there where I see things differently and it would take me longer to explain this. In particular I see stronger structural changes in the academic landscape and for research ahead, which are due to the overall global economic situation (see e.g. the post about the rise of online courses or about market competivity of humans against machines) than they are given by open access initiatives. I eventually comment on this in a blog post in the future.

    Let me just briefly mention in this context that Timothy Gowers just described in the blog post Why I’ve also joined the good guys that a new open access journal initiative has been established where:

    They aim to make the software good enough that the administrative burden on editorial boards is no greater than it is for a traditional journal.

    @cavallerie
    There is a big difference between publishing scientific work which had been funded by public money and e.g. privately financed work like entertainment, more eventually in a blog post (see above)

    Apart from this: I pay for media. We subscribe to a daily newspaper and to 3 print magazines, we buy books, music and films. Like the last music I bought was the album Digital Guilt by Zoe Leela, which is buy the way under a creative commons licence.
    I bought the music even not online but at the bookstore Dusslmann and sent it to my sister in London. The last bought film I was just watching was (“Bezaubernde Lügen”.)

  4. L. Verstrauch Says:

    nad wrote:

    it seems Sabine Hossenfelder sees not only different dangers about open access than me, but there is actually quite a bit more there where I see things differently and it would take me longer to explain this. …

    Actually have you seen her last post?
    I think with this post she was deliberately provoking you.

    That is she was talking about and linking to an article, which costs 20 Euro a day!

  5. Victor Says:

    “That is my MAC seemed to have died now for sure and I am currently writing on a borrowed one. The laptop made suddenly only more 3 beeps while trying to boot, a signal which means “no good banks”.

    Can’t take too long exchange some banks. you call your Mac Computer all to order again?

  6. bibi Says:

    I saw that you had signed the cost of knowledge protest. Do you think this is a good idea given the circumstances of your carrier? I mean it is understandable if publishers wouldn’t be supportive any more after such an uncooperative behaviour.

Leave a Reply


comments in german, french and russian will be translated into english.
you can use LaTeX in your math comments, by using the [latex] shortcode:
[latex] E = m c^2 [/latex]