Read my story (english)

diego_2 My name is Diego Gomez and with 26 years old I have defined my great passion in life: the biodiversity conservation. Enjoying this passion, I have attained a BA in biology from the University of Quindío.

Currently, I study a Masters in Conservation and Wildlife Management in Costa Rica, and I have worked in research and preservation projects on endangered Colombian amphibians with local, national and international NGOs. This journey is just beginning. Despite the support of many institutions, teachers and researchers, it has not been entirely easy. What I have achieved so far I attribute it to the merits of my volunteering work, and my persistence in desiring and achieving to do research from the province, far from the large academic centers in Bogota and all major cities of the country.

Studying science (including biological sciences) from the province represents a higher level of difficulty, mainly because libraries and newspaper archives are small and they do not have the resources to pay the thousands of dollars for accessing specialized books and world’s major bibliographic databases; this circumstance limits the right to access to knowledge for students, researchers and professors who are in these regions. Not to mention that the museums or biological collections are quite scarce, to which is added that many university professors do not have a PhD as expected by their students.

Despite these restrictions, I learned about amphibians in Colombia through self-study and advice given by some professors from other universities, because at that time the University of Quindío did not have any herpetologists (those who study amphibians and reptiles). To access natural history museums, I used to save as much as I could in order to make trips to Bogota, where museums and larger biological collections are located. With a lot of effort, I managed to overcome all these difficulties and eventually I acquired books –gifts from my family or professors–, and copies of scientific articles that the world’s most renowned amphibian researchers hold in their personal libraries. In addition, along with some classmates and professors, we began a study group on amphibians and reptiles at the university, dreaming that at some point it would become a research group.

With the study group activated, the lack of funding for research did not stop us. In fact, we had a significant participation of young biology students. To prevent them from getting discouraged, I put all my effort to motivate them by sharing my experiences. First, through keynote presentations, I helped them to know basics concepts related to amphibians’ study and conservation to cope with the lack of books in the library. After the completion of my thesis and while working as a volunteer for one of the world’s most important conservation programs (Conservation Leadership Programme), as well as consulting for Wildlife Conservation Society, I began to advise some group member on their amphibian studies or researches. In addition, I connected some students with conservation projects that I used to carry out in the region voluntarily. Throughout this process, we realized that beyond the lack of specialized professors, museums and even funding of projects, one of the biggest obstacles we had was getting access to basic research information conducted in Colombia: for preserving, we have to know what to preserve and this is identified on previous research.

Internet was one of our main partners in this passionate search and study process for conservation. This tool decreased the gap between our position as students and future researchers from a provincial university, and major universities and research centers in Bogota and other cities. Through Internet, we requested and accessed the information needed to present our research and conservation projects, to define preservation objects, to publish our findings and to contribute to all students or young researchers who faced the same problems. That gap persists despite that the elitism in these disciplines has been overcome in appearance.

Internet, that increasingly useful tool in our lives that gives us access to knowledge, was the support for a few steps down the road for biodiversity conservation research. However, sharing knowledge on the Internet is jeopardizing the career I’m starting to build with great effort. With the spreading of Internet, sharing knowledge through the web quickly became a daily practice among academic circles. As usual among my colleagues, I shared with them documents and information considered relevant for our scientific interests. Assuming that I shared knowledge as an act of good faith, in gratitude for all the support I had received from other researchers in Colombia and other countries, and voluntarily for academic purposes and non-profit, I never imagined that this activity could be considered a crime.

Sharing is not a crime. Surely for those who do not know what have happened to me, sharing still is something inherent to our social and community practices; it is not associated with a crime. In the academia in general, and in such specialized field as the one I work, the important thing is to make a correct citation, attributing researchers’ work by indicating their name and year of publication and, of course, not claiming the work of another researcher, but to recognize it and value it. Therefore, what we usually do is to reference the findings and make them available to those who need them.

Three years ago, through a Facebook group in which I participated along with many others interested in the amphibian and reptile studies, I came across with a master’s thesis that was crucial to identify some amphibians I found in my field visits to some protected areas in the country. To access this information, it was necessary to travel to a library in Bogota. At that time, however, I thought it was something that could be of interested for other groups, so I shared it on the web. Although I was not the first or the only one (the document was in several sites already), for sharing knowledge –recognizing the authorship–, now the author advances a criminal case against me for “violation of economic rights and related rights.” I was told that this could result in jail sentence of 4 to 8 years.

In a few months my life has changed. Now I’m learning about hearings, accusations, lawsuits and lawyers; I am very concerned and puzzled. Above all, I’m disconcerted that this activity I did for academic purposes may be considered a crime, turning me into a “criminal.” Today what the vast majority of the country’s researchers and conservationists are doing, despite being committed to spreading knowledge, is turning us into criminals.

Today I am surprised that what is essential to the research and conservation (sharing knowledge) can be considered a crime. Today I am surprised that research and generated knowledge on natural history, taxonomy, systematics, ecology and other fields of biological sciences, which generally do not obey the market logic, is considered similar to software or an artistic work for commercial exploitation; a passion has been transformed into a market instrument. I can understand that for publishers, academic publications are market instruments, but I’m surprised that some biological sciences researchers also consider impertinent, especially illegal, that others disseminate their work without seeking profit. The work we shared on the Internet and the charge brought against me was the result of a graduate study course from the most renowned public university in Colombia. If I’m not mistaken, researchers are interested in disseminating those contributions we have made to science, and, with greater justification, when they have been generated from a public institution.

I believe my case is not unique. However, I may end up in jail even if I’m convinced that “sharing is not a crime.” We are not criminals for sharing knowledge, for researching, for contributing with our efforts for the conservation of our biodiversity and the growth of science in Colombia. What do you think?

 

23 pensamientos en “Read my story (english)

  1. Ron Mader

    Let us know how we can be supportive.

    I’ve worked in rural Latin America for many years and it is imperative that we make scholarly research available if we want biodiversity to survive these difficult times. What use is the research if it is locked up in a silo?

    Responder
  2. Clara I. Osorio

    Siento mucho que hayas terminado en esta situación tan ridícula. Parte fundamental de hacer investigación es compartir los resultados, hacer públicas las tesis en internet no solo es una forma muy efectiva de hacerlo si no que además es una práctica común en todos los laboratorios donde he trabajado. Espero que esto no pase a mayores, que no interfiera mucho con tu vida y que la legislación cambie para que no vuelva a pasar. Un abrazo y mucha fuerza.

    Responder
  3. Andrea Raimondi

    Dear Diego,
    thanks for sharing your story. First, let me say that your case is not unique. As you may probably know Aaron Swartz, applied sociologist and internet hacktivist, was prosecuted for similar reasons. He was charged with $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. I will not go through the all story here, because now what matter is your case.
    A free access to research is vital to make academic market transparent and to level up the research quality. Sharing knowledge is the way we can build a better society for everyone, a better democracy. But this is not the world we live in. Knowledge is, still, seen as a power to exercise on people, not with people. This knowledge is locked behind paywalls, accessible only to those rich enough to pay for it. This mechanism distorts the academic practices of publication and poisons researchers’ minds. But some of these still remember that knowledge is not something we should take for ourselves. Because it can help people build things we can’t even imagine, because we know that the most effective way to avoid power’s seduction is not to keep for ourselves the privilege that has been offered. And you’ve taken your stance. You’ve shared it with the world.
    You are not a criminal, don’t believe anyone how try to convince you of the contrary. You choose between a world of elitism and a world of egalitarianism. This, I believe, is an honourable choice. This is what makes you a citizen, this is where civil rights come from. But this is called piracy by those how make money by closing the entire human knowledge inside a golden prison. And you are called criminal for giving people the chance to know, read and discuss how our world, the nature, our universe works.
    Not all researchers are interested in disseminating their contributions. But remember, that’s ok. We can’t expect to impose our own ideas to an old world which systematically try to isolate, entrap and murder those that are trying to change what’s wrong, those who consider social injustice something to fix, those who believe that public institution are public only when they give back to people what is funded by people.
    I can only speak for myself, but I know I’m not alone. And so neither you. This is what I think. With enough of us we can make that old world a past world. The Open Access Movement is getting bigger and stronger. And the awareness that the old system is grounded on lies, power abuse and theft of public knowledge is growing. The old world knows that. That’s why he’s try to make you afraid. Don’t be. They will not make an example out of you. You will be an example against them. Ask for help, ask to those that share your values. We live the internet, we fought for keeping it free and we will keep doing this. Ask for help and your voice will be identity through the many.

    truly yours

    Andrea

    Responder
  4. +1-781-222-5200

    Could you cite the article please? (Title, Author, Publisher, Date) Maybe you have even email and (even better) her/his twitter-handle

    Maybe she is receptive to public debate …

    You do have our support!

    Responder
    1. Andrea raimondi

      You say it’s a master thesis right? I don’t know how your country’s regulation deal with it but, in some countries, thesis are not protected by copyright. They are public document stored in the universities db. It is like having a document stored in one of your public administration database.

      781 is right, can you give us info about the author? We can help you by engaging with him in public discussion. Anyhow, check the copyright regulation specifically for thesis, because is different in respect to a paper.

      Responder
  5. Luca Assen

    Sharing of information and knowledge is the way humans are progressing and advancing. I feel sad and puzzled knowing that a scientific author, allegedly gifted with a functional brain and part of the positive human progress, believes the contrary.
    I share your grief and I fully support your case. Free ideas in a free world !
    Luca

    Responder
  6. Ivan Llanos Bustos

    Dear Diego,
    I understand you, the knowledgment couldn’t be privative and must be shared so many others could learn and support. This case is not unique I live on Chile and many universities has the same thoughts “WE MUST HAVE THIS DOCUMENTS ON PRIVATE” like their knowledgment were unique or better than others while you keep the acknowledgment to the authors the good content must be shared!!
    All my support to you

    Responder
  7. Ed

    Yo concuerdo con “+1-781-222-5200″ — ¿Quién está te demandando? Creo que muchos académicos ajudarian y pedirian que esta persona abandona el caso, si supiéramos quién era.
    I agree with commenter “+1-781-222-5200″ — who is pushing this lawsuit? I think many academics would be willing to put pressure on this person to drop the case, if we knew who it was.

    Responder
    1. karismacom Autor

      Hola,

      Diego has decided not to make this case a personal one, we are respecting his decision not to do it but to concentrate on the issue of science knowledge circulation. Colombian jounalists that had tried to contact him but he does not want to give his side of the story
      Diego decidió no hacer de este caso un tema personal, nosotros respetamos su decisión y nos concentramos en el tema de la circulación del conocimiento. Los periodistas colombianos que han intentado contactarlo no han podido tener su versión.

      Gracias por el apoyo!

      Responder
  8. Lucy Telfar Barnard

    Hola Diego,

    I echo others’ request: who is the author who is prosecuting you, and what is the citation for their work.

    I can only assume the author is no longer working in academia. I can’t believe any academic in the field of conservation could take such a legal case and retain any respect from their peers. Peer pressure is likely your greatest ally right now.

    Buena suerte,
    Lucy

    Responder
    1. karismacom Autor

      Hi!

      Diego has decided not to make this case a personal one, we are respecting his decision not to do it but to concentrate on the issue of science knowledge circulation. Colombian jounalists that had tried to contact him but he does not want to give his side of the story.

      Thanks for support!

      Responder
  9. donat agosti

    Do you have specifics about this case? Who accuses you and which is the article concerned? Thanks for a brief note
    Donat

    Responder
    1. karismacom Autor

      Hi,

      Diego has decided not to make this case a personal one, we are respecting his decision not to do it but to concentrate on the issue of science knowledge circulation. Colombian jounalists that had tried to contact him but he does not want to give his side of the story

      Responder
  10. +639464183898

    HI Diego,

    Precisely you are 100% right sharing knowledge is not a crime. I even give my undergrad thesis for free on the OSG for the sake of the conservation . The important for me is they will cite me as the author of the paper. You known this way, we can help the other researcher in the other part world in conserving our wildlife through internet. Unfortunately, there are some people who cannot widen their mind. All my support to you :)

    Responder
  11. Kelsey kKauffman

    Good luck, Diego. Your actions were honorable and now you are helping to advance the entire debate around access to information. Please know that there are thousands of people on your side.

    Responder
  12. aeon

    As BoingBoing.net and the EFF are now involved, a lot of attention could be generated now. However, in this specific case, their headlines are a little complicated. The document in question is an equivalent to a masters thesis, as noted above – and even after 5 years, the author may have a legitimate interest in this thesis not to be circulated. Copyright might not even be her or his issue, but just the means of trying to mitigate a damage done. (I can easily think of a scenario where, e.g., a locality mentioned in a thesis about amphibia must be kept secret to protect a population.)

    However, without knowing what really is behind that, Diego has my sympathy. Even if the interest of the original author is ethically sound, the means of threatening someone with a lawsuit just shows how broken the law is.

    Just for the record, a recent case considering a stupid copyright claim also shows that: wikia, a US-based platform, received a DCMA takedown notice because they host a community website which is screening theses for pagiarism. This community published an analysis of a thesis handed in at the medical department of a German University – along with the thesis text, of course.

    FTR, the thesis is still freely available at the University’s document server.
    And the author of the thesis now should know about the Streisand effect.
    Which could be happening to the author of the above mentioned thesis as well. I guess reddit will already be at work… ;)

    Responder
  13. AJ

    I feel for you and want to help I just do not know how. You have not done anything wrong. Although i have not studied biology in latin america, and cannot say i know how hard it is for you, i have an inkling of your pain and frustration. I am in america, recent biology graduate, and now, when i try to research a particular topic of interest to me, i find many articles must be bought to access the information within. And it is not a small fee either. I once came across an article demanding a ridiculous 300 dollars to access. It broke my heart..I did not get into such immense debt studying a subject I love so passionately only to be told “incur more debt to learn even if it is on your own”. YOUR ACTIONS CAME FROM A MUCH NICER PLACE THAN THE ACTIONS OF THE SCIENTIST WHO IS SUING YOU. I understand the scientist must have endured his/her fair share of financial strain in getting their work out, yet it does not explain the exorbitant prices we must pay to access their findings.

    Responder

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos necesarios están marcados *

Puedes usar las siguientes etiquetas y atributos HTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>