I (Gregg Housh) was given this data anonymously. I did not conduct this survey, although I have verified that the survey happened, and that the data is trustworthy. Below you will find an explanation from the person who did the survey, and then the data itself. Below the divider anytime “I” is used, it is referring to the author of the survey and not me.


Less than a week after Aaron Swartz was indicted in July 2011 for downloading about four million articles from JSTOR on the MIT network, I conducted a survey of MIT professors on their opinions about Aaron Swartz’s alleged actions and access to academic documents. This survey asked the following three questions. All three questions were optional.

On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is strongly do not identify with and 5 is strongly identify with, how strongly do you identify with the alleged actions of Aaron Swartz? On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is strongly not supporting and 5 is strongly supporting, to what degree do you support paywalls limiting access to academic journals and other educational documents? Do you have any other ideas or comments on the Aaron Swartz case, open access to journals, or other related topics? I did not provide any promises about anonymity or privacy, but I also did not say the data would be released. In light of Aaron’s recent death, I have decided to remove any identifying information and release the data. I only received thirty-five responses and the sample is not representative, but it provides some interesting information on the positions of MIT professors at the time.

There is another reason I feel that I should release this data. Aaron knew about this survey. In late October 2012, Aaron emailed me and asked if I could send him the data. I did not send it to him. Instead, I responded asking which parts he was interested in because I did not want to compromise the privacy of the participants. I did not hear back and did not follow up after that. I should have.

Below, you can find the data for download, a table with the data, and graphs. Please feel free to redistribute and use this. I have also provided a copy of this data to Hal Abelson, the person conducting the internal investigation of MIT’s involvement in the case.

I have chosen to release this data anonymously because this is not about me and I do not see a compelling reason to release this under my name. I would appreciate it if people could respect that, even if you know who I am. You can contact me at mitswartzsurvey@lavabit.com if necessary.

Table Columns:

Column 1: On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is strongly do not identify with and 5 is strongly identify with, how strongly do you identify with the alleged actions of Aaron Swartz?

Column 1 Mean: 2

Column 1 Median: 2

Column 2: On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is strongly not supporting and 5 is strongly supporting, to what degree do you support paywalls limiting access to academic journals and other educational documents?

Column 2 Mean: 2.667

Column 2 Median: 3

Question 3: Do you have any other ideas or comments on the Aaron Swartz case, open access to journals, or other related topics?

Data for download:

CSV numerical data

CSV all data

ODS data

I also received emails from sixteen people about this survey, some in place of responses. Most of these said the recipient did not feel it was appropriate to respond (for a variety of reasons), did not have enough information to respond, did not have time to respond, or had just responded. Only a few of the emails contained an opinion on the situation. For those, I think the professors may have had a higher expectation of privacy in email (and the comments contained more identifying details), so I will not release the emails without explicit permission.

post image by Nietnagel