One of the core pillars of academic research is sharing. By letting other researchers know what you do, ideas are criticized, improved upon and extended. Unfortunately it’s not always easy for academics to share their work, for a variety of reasons.
AcademicTorrents, a new torrent site by and for academics, hope to change this status quo.
The site was launched by Joseph Cohen and Henry Lo, two PhD students working at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The torrent site aims to provide academics with a cheap and decentralized platform to share their work and data with the rest of the world.
“Sharing data is hard. Emails have size limits, and setting up servers is too much work. We’ve designed a distributed system for sharing enormous datasets – for researchers, by researchers. The result is a scalable, secure, and fault-tolerant repository for data, with blazing fast download speeds,” Cohen and Lo explain.
AcademicTorrents allows researchers to upload datasets, articles and other research material. The site runs it own tracker and supports web-seeds as well, which guarantee that files are available at all times.
One of the goals of the project is to give research back to the researchers, instead of having it locked away behind paywalls. Currently most of the top publications are being monetized by publishers, but with AcademicTorrents any journal can distribute papers for free.
“One aim of this site is to create the infrastructure to allow open access journals to operate at low cost. By facilitating file transfers, the journal can focus on it’s core mission of providing world class research. After peer review the paper can be indexed on this site and disseminated throughout our system,” the site’s founders note.
The site supports “collections” where torrents can be grouped by interest, source, author and so forth. These collections can be followed through RSS feeds, so users are automatically notified when new content is added.
Besides supporting the free availability of research, AcademicTorrents also has a more practical use. Since all files are shared by peers, it’s possible to share very large datasets at minimal cost.
“Large dataset delivery can be supported by researchers in the field that have the dataset on their machine. A popular large dataset doesn’t need to be housed centrally. Researchers can have part of the dataset they are working on and they can help host it together,” the founders explain.