The peer-to-peer BitTorrent protocol is often seen as being almost synonymous with copyright piracy, which with the recent court ruling striking down neutrality, may soon result in P2P traffic being blocked or widely discriminated against.
Well, just to prove that there is more to the technology than piracy, researchers from the University of Massachusetts have launched Academic Torrents, a torrent site aimed at improving the distribution of academic papers and datasets;
‘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.’
Already boasting that it makes 1.67 TB of research data freely available, Academic Torrents hopes, among other things, to address the problem that most such academic data is distributed through commercial organizations who hide the data behind (often pricey) paywalls,
‘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 diseminated throughout our system’
To the this end the website has been designed for robustness and ease of use,
‘The academic torrents network is built for researchers, by researchers. Its distributed peer-to-peer library system automatically replicates your datasets on many servers, so you don’t have to worry about managing your own servers or file availability. Everyone who has data becomes a mirror for those data so the system is fault-tolerant.’
We wish Academic Torrents the best luck, and hope that such a valuable and benign service doesn’t fall foul of the anti-copyright lobby’s prejudices.