The progress of knowledge is fueled by people who dedicate their lives to a field—to read, examine, and absorb everything they can out of passionate intellectual curiosity. Diego Gomez is one of these individuals, and is dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians.
Unfortunately, like so many scholars around the world, Diego’s work has been frustrated by a lack of access to research trapped by expensive paywalls. So he did what many researchers and academics do today when they see a barrier to knowledge: he shared the research with his colleagues. Due to excessive criminal copyright laws in his native country of Colombia, however, Diego is now being prosecuted by Colombian officials for sharing another researcher's Master's thesis online. He faces up to eight years in prison and crippling monetary fines.
The use of FLOSS was my first approach to the open source world. Many times I could not access ecological or statistical software, nor geographical information systems, despite my active interest in using them to make my first steps in research and conservation. As a student, it was impossible for me to cover the costs of the main commercial tools. Today, I value access to free software such as The R project and QGis project, which keep us away from proprietary software when one does not have the budget for researching.
But it was definitely since facing a criminal prosecution for sharing information on the Internet for academic purposes, for ignoring the rigidity of copyright law, that my commitment to support initiatives promoting open access and to learn more about ethical, political, and economic foundations has been strengthened.
I am beginning my career with the conviction that access to knowledge is a global right. The first articles I have published in journals have been under Creative Commons licenses. I use free or open software for analyzing. I also do my job from a social perspective as part of my commitment and as retribution for having access to public education in both Colombia and Costa Rica.
From the situation I face, I highlight the support I have received from so many people in Colombia and worldwide. Particularly, I thank the valuable support of institutions working for our freedom in the digital world. Among them I would like to acknowledge those institutions that have joined the campaign called “Let’s stand together to promote open access worldwide”—EFF, Fundación Karisma, Creative Commons, Internet Archive, Knowledge Ecology International, Open Access Button, Derechos Digitales, Open Coalition, Open Knowledge, Research rights Coalition, Open Media, Fight for the Future, USENIX, Public Knowledge and all individuals that have supported the campaign.
If open access was the default choice for publishing scientific research results, the impact of these results would increase and cases like mine would not exist. There would be no doubt that the right thing is to circulate this knowledge, so that it should serve everyone.
Thank you all for your support.
Diego A. Gómez Hoyos
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