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Academic proposal

This is a very old idea that I’m putting out in the public domain so that someone can use it. I’ve already shared it with several academics but so far nobody has tried to use it to my knowledge….

For dual-academic couples: one person publishes an academic article and puts in the acknowledgements “X, will you marry me?” The other person then has to either publish another article with their reply or perhaps write up their reply as a comment to the first article!

Reminded of it as I see this is making the rounds. Yes, I know, my idea takes a lot longer!

Call for feedback

Over 100 million impressions. 50,000 tweets. Twitter dump here.

This might be the last update of the twitter dump, as others have continued to scrape the tweets and have added in some of the data from the older tweets. Please let me know if you’d like the occasional update to continue here in .csv form (e.g. for some of the other data contained in the tweets beyond the scraped pdfs).

Looking back on coining a viral hashtag + behavioural economics argument about tweeting

- You get to see it mentioned on almost every major online news source (NYTimes, FT, BBC, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, Businessweek, FastCompany, Huffington Post, SFGate, The Daily Beast, Slate…), almost every major tech source (TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Arstechnica, CNET, PCMagazine…) and some cool ones like Nature’s blog, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Wikipedia!
- You meet a great group of people.
- Long-lost friends and acquaintances get in touch.
- You get a better understanding of how journalism works.

- You get a better understanding of how journalism works (just joking!).
- It really screws with the results that appear if someone googles you. I have done more things than coin a hashtag, people.
- You get almost no sleep for several days.

I alluded to this before: I have a lot of things depending on me that are not this. I’m not the one to carry on the fight, though I may post from time to time about it.

Finally: tweeting can’t be the end, but it’s a very good start. Apart from the arguments previously posted, there’s a behavioural economics literature that says that when people commit to something publicly, they are more likely to do it. I hope the tens of thousands of people who tweeted about #pdftribute continue to feel a connection to the movement, keep sharing their papers and keep pressing the system to change.

(NB: Since there might also be an “I already did my part” effect, the effects of tweeting could in principle go either way, but that’s my bet.)

Some concrete things coming out of #pdftribute

#pdftribute as a hashtag is dying down, but several concrete endeavours are arising from many good people who were involved in or motivated by it.

Here are a couple of initiatives about which I am aware (merely curating; this does not count as an endorsement):

1) The Papester Collective. Need to get behind a paywall? Send a tweet.

2) Github for research. Searchable paper repository. Easy upload, perhaps with a tweet. Brought to you by a collaboration of the people behind pdftribute.net, http://edward.io/pdftribute, @tmccormick, @thejbf, and @mrgunn at Mendeley.

Some people have argued that since these kinds of ventures don’t change the underlying incentives for academics to publish in top journals, they won’t change the system. I beg to differ. You don’t need to change the academics’ incentives to publish in top journals. You need to change their incentives to share their papers regardless or to have others share their papers regardless. For example, it is usually perfectly fine to share late stage working papers, which many already do to help others gain access to their findings without being stuck at a paywall. These kinds of sharing mechanisms could in principle work, just as Napster changed the music industry.

Here are some other ideas from the comments received on twitter. What are your comments?

On ownership, or the lack thereof

I want it to be clear that pdftribute is not “my” movement. It isn’t really anyone’s movement per se – if it were anyone’s, it probably wouldn’t be a movement!

My involvement has been: thinking to put out the initial tweet, publicizing it, creating the hashtag #pdftribute, based on a suggestion by @venturejessica, collecting the stream of tweets and sharing it for others to scrape, and tweeting like hell for the past 48 hours or whatever (despite unreliable wifi).

Everyone else has also put in a lot. @venturejessica came up with #pdftributetoaaronswartz and got interest from Anonymous, which really helped get this off the ground. Micah Allen had suggested something similar on reddit, which might have helped it be picked up later. Thousands of people tweeting on the internet contributed as much as anyone else. The pdftribute.net guys have really been great – and now Edward Wang and James Change answered the call to scrape the pdfs from the tweets and have made them available here.

1) The kid in me has to say: SO COOL.

2) I didn’t think, when making my pledge, that it would develop into anything this big. It just seemed like a no-brainer; the completely obvious thing to do. It’s not clear yet how things will develop from here, but now that so many people are taking part and carrying this on in so many ways (and there is plenty of chatter – let me know if you would like to join the conversation), I will happily recuse myself to focus on my other endeavours. Movements like this don’t need a founder. They outlast any of us.