The following is the personal opinion and views of Pauline C. Ng. This
does not represent the views or opinions of GIS or
Dear Scientists and Friends,
Aaron Swartz passed away on Jan. 11. He help orchestrate the blackout
that played a critical role in defeating SOPA. He was being
prosecuted for intending to release research articles to the public community.
For this, the Department of Justice was asking for a 35-year sentence.
I did not know Aaron Swartz personally, but his death hits home for
me. Since graduating form University of Washington, I have worked in
a company (Illumina) and research institutes (JCVI, GIS). Working at
these places, it was noticeable that their subscriptions to journals
did not, and financially could not, match that of universities. When doing research, I
struggle to find access to articles -- there are many times I hit the
pay firewall familiar to so many "Pay $40 to access this article." I
have paid it too; only to find that the article was not as helpful as
I thought it would be. Through the years, I have learned tricks to
obtain articles -- but still I am unable to access all the research I
I got the idea of SIFT from a paper.
Had I not had access to that paper, SIFT would have never been
created. If you use this website, you are probably a biologist. We chose our profession to make this world a better place: to seek truth to improve humankind. How much research is not done because we don't have access
to work from other researchers? How much further scientific progress could be made if we had full and current knowledge? I can't answer that question for
others, but I know that this has affected my work.
And here is Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit, who chose to champion
making academic research available. He could have chosen something
more glamorous and glitzy, but instead, he chose something
that maybe only 0.1% of the population is aware of.
I did not participate in SOPA. I believed in it, but chickened out. I
made so many excuses -- SIFT is a small website, no one will care, it
won't make a difference, it's a hassle, etc. It's easy for us to live in our academic silos and ignore current political issues with the excuse of being "unbiased". But then I remember the "First They Came..." poem. Aaron died because he believed in freeing scientific knowledge; and this is a cause I cannot ignore.
Aaron died for us. He died for the researchers because he believed
this information (the majority of which is funded by taxpayers) should be disseminated and free. He died for the
public craving deeper knowledge -- desperate patients with life-threatening diseases that
search online for information and hope - and will reach a brick wall.
Therefore, the SIFT website will be
down on Jan. 25, 2013 (1 week after the anniversary of the SOPA blackout, 2 weeks after Aaron's death) .
Thank you Aaron for making this world a better place.
[Free access to scientific research for tax-payer funded research]
[Examine overreach in Aaron Swartz case]
This is solely the opinion of Pauline Ng and does not represent the views or opinions of GIS or BII.