Archive for January 15th, 2013


Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

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”.