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A Tribute to Aaron Swartz - Post all academic articles for open public review, and end the traditional peer-review process

I did not know Aaron Swartz but I feel deep grief at his passing, and the circumstances.

I suspect that many people believe that the research of governments and academics belong in the public domain and should be available for all to review or simply access. This would eliminate the need for journals which set up an elite system that decides who can and cannot access the articles.

The idea behind the peer-review process is that others with robust knowledge (hopefully) of the material makes an assessment of the research methodology, accuracy etc etc.

In an open review process, the article would be placed on the institution's or authors' website which is designed to allow discussion. Anyone with interest can read the article and interact with the authors. The reviewers are not anonymous and their names, qualifications, knowledge of the topic will be known and available to the authors. The discussion remains public and online. There will likely be more than the traditional 3 reviewers, and the open discussion would strengthen the critical reviews.

One of the very unfair aspects of Aaron's case is that the real "thieves" are, in many cases, one or more of the listed authors who have not contributed to the articles, have plagiarized or otherwise taken credit for the work of others. The open review process might force some of the dishonesty from academic publications, while fulfilling the hope of open access.

What are your thoughts?

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  • Jan 16 2013: Maybe there should be an alternative to destroying a young man's life in a situation like this. In fact, maybe there was. I wonder if he was confronted with this problem and asked to stop and shown how to stop doing this. So my question is - are minor transgressions and cases of dumbth given a chance to stop, Was Aaron Swartz a bad guy or just a "Gomer Pyle" ?
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      Jan 16 2013: I don't think the words "bad guy" apply in a case like this, though "Gomer Pyle" certainly doesn't either! Here was a genius who had been depressive for years (blogging about suicide at least five years prior) and whose father, according to news report, is an Intellectual Property advisor to MIT, the institution where the transgression took place. Intellectual property is the area of law into which this situation falls. In other words, practically no one would have had at hand more accessible professional advice on the boundaries of what is legal in this area and a better likelihood of highest quality courtroom defense than Aaron.

      This is another one of those cases that shines a spotlight on the tragedy of mental health issues, even among the privileged.
    • Jan 16 2013: George, I don't think Aaron was either. From everything I have read, he was a brilliant young man interested in open access to published materials. It seems that while Jstor, the injured party, had settled any grievances with him some time ago, the US attorney had another agenda. That is my understanding, anyway. Thanks for the input.

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