The frustrated science student behind Sci-Hub | Science

“Publisher paywalls are the bane of scientists and students in Kazakhstan, she says, and the existing solution was cumbersome: Post a request on Twitter to #IcanhazPDF with your email address. Eventually, a generous researcher at some university with access to the journal will send you the paper.

What was needed, she decided, was a system that allowed that paper to be shared—with absolutely everyone. She had the computer skills—and contacts with other pirate websites—to make that happen, and so Sci-Hub was born (see main story, p. 508). Elbakyan sees the site as a natural extension of her dream of helping humans share good ideas. “Journal paywalls are an example of something that works in the reverse direction,” she says, “making communication less open and efficient.”

Running a pirate site and being sued for what is likely to be millions of dollars in damages hasn’t stopped Elbakyan from pursuing an academic career. Her neuroscience research is on hold, but she has enrolled in a history of science master’s program at a “small private university” in an undisclosed location. Appropriately enough, her thesis focuses on scientific communication. “I perceive Sci-Hub as a practical side of my research.” …”

Survey on Research norms for sharing and Sci-Hub

“The objective of this survey is to examine practices with respect to access and use of research publications and Sci-Hub.
Your answers will help us to better understand norms on gathering and sharing of publications and publicly funded research.

The following questions are aimed at academics, researchers and students from different disciplines.
The survey should take around 10 minutes to complete….”

Sci-Hub’s cache of pirated papers is so big, subscription journals are doomed, data analyst suggests

There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous—and, according to a U.S. court, illegal—online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. (See Science’s investigation last year of who is downloading papers from Sci-Hub.) But just how enormous is its repository? That is the question biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues recently set out to answer, after an assist from Sci-Hub.

Their findings, published in a preprint on the PeerJ journal site on 20 July, indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, an amount that Himmelstein says is “even higher” than he anticipated. For research papers protected by a paywall, the study found Sci-Hub’s reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub’s servers—meaning they can be accessed there for free.

Given that Sci-Hub has access to almost every paper a scientist would ever want to read, and can quickly obtain requested papers it doesn’t have, could the website truly topple traditional publishing? In a chat with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein concludes that the results of his study could mark “the beginning of the end” for paywalled research. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. …”

The battle for free knowledge | Fin24

“The consensus seems to be that a lawsuit isn’t going to stop Sci-Hub, it’s more than likely here to stay. 

Some in the publishing industry have even suggested that the sector needs to be introspective and acknowledge that it has failed to provide fair access to researchers.

What is clear is how much power the publishing industry that services the academic world appears to have.

Two activists who have challenged that power have met with the full force of the law. One forced into suicide and the other into hiding, fearing being kidnapped for extradition.

In a time of #FeesMustFall perhaps we as South Africans should be paying more attention to this global battle.”

The strange world of academic publishing | Ecology Ng?tahi

“A couple of days ago I tried to explain to my parents (non-scientists, obviously) how publishing a paper works and why it is so important for us scientists. No problem to wrap your head around the publish or perish principle. Naturally they wanted to know where they could read these papers and that’s where the story became a little bit more complicated and confusing for an outsider. It just doesn’t make sense to them that scientists give their work to publishers for free and that reviewers and editors, who also put in considerable work hours don’t see a penny either. The publishing companies on the other hand earn huge amounts of money by selling single articles to individuals and more importantly journal subscriptions to numerous university and research libraries worldwide. The big publishing houses basically make their profits from selling free work from scientists back to them through the university libraries with profit margins of up to 40%. Sounds a bit insane, right?”

US court grants Elsevier millions in damages from Sci-Hub : Nature News & Comment

“One of the world’s largest science publishers, Elsevier, won a default legal judgement on 21 June against websites that provide illicit access to tens of millions of research papers and books. A New York district court awarded Elsevier US$15 million in damages for copyright infringement by Sci-Hub, the Library of Genesis (LibGen) project and related sites.

Judge Robert Sweet had ruled in October 2015 that the sites violate US copyright. The court issued a preliminary injunction against the sites’ operators, who nevertheless continued to provide unauthorized free access to paywalled content. Alexandra Elbakyan, a former neuroscientist who started Sci-Hub in 2011, operates the site out of Russia, using varying domain names and IP addresses.

In May, Elsevier gave the court a list of 100 articles illicitly made available by Sci-Hub and LibGen, and asked for a permanent injunction and damages totalling $15 million. The Dutch publishing giant holds the copyrights for the largest share of the roughly 28 million papers downloaded from Sci-Hub in 2016, followed by Springer Nature and Wiley-Blackwell. (Nature is published by Springer Nature, and Nature’s news and comment team is editorially independent of the publisher.) According to a recent analysis, almost 50% of articles requested from Sci-Hub are published by these three companies….”

Sci-Hub: A Solution to the Problem of Paywalls, or Merely a Diagnosis of a Broken System?

“Is Alexandra ElBakyan the Robin Hood of science? It depends whom you ask. Some hail her as a hero; others call her a glorified thief. A graduate student studying in Kazakhstan, ElBakyan has made international waves as the founder of Sci-Hub, the world’s busiest Web site for pirated peer-review science and medicine research.

“Sci-Hub, whose precise URL has nimbly changed several times in response to legal crackdowns, boasts millions of downloads per month from users in dozens of countries. Many presumed that the majority of downloads were being performed by students and academics in poor countries without legal access to the articles in its massive database. But that changed recently when ElBakyan released data to the journal Science. The data showed that a surprisingly large number of Sci-Hub’s users appear already to have legal access to the articles they are illegally downloading. Among Sci-Hub’s download hotspots are major academic centers in the United States and Europe. This raises an obvious question: If so many users have legal access to these articles, why steal them? Many, including some on Twitter, say that they use the site neither out of desperation nor as an expression of dissent from a fee system designed to bolster the pharmaceutical industry, but for far less heady reasons: simplicity and speed. In short, convenience.

As an experiment, I tried to download a peer-reviewed article I coauthored in 2014 through various means. The “click burden” using Sci-Hub was substantially lower than going through my hospital’s online library, and it saved me many seconds (albeit fewer, once I’ve already logged in to my hospital library’s PubMed portal). But Sci-Hub’s appeal does not rest on speed alone but rather its reliability….”

Sci-Hub study suggests publishers’ embargoes ‘not viable’ | THE News

“Described as the “Napster” of scholarly publishing, the popularity of the Sci-Hub website reflects researchers’ frustration with the inaccessibility of journal papers behind paywalls. Now, one of the first academic studies of the platform, which offers free use of millions of articles, suggests that publishers’ responses to the open access movement are proving ineffective, too. Bastian Greshake, doctoral student in applied bioinformatics at Goethe University Frankfurt, found that 35 per cent of articles downloaded from Sci-Hub were less than two years old when they were accessed. He said this indicated that publishers’ minimum embargo periods – which keep papers behind paywalls for a year or two before they are made freely available – were unlikely to halt the spread of “guerrilla open access” platforms….”

Royal Society frees up journal archive

“The archive [of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society] was digitized in 1999 by JSTOR, the US-based archive for academic journals, for a sum in the ‘high five figures in US dollars’. Royal Society commercial director Stuart Taylor says they have been thinking about making part of the archive free for some time. As digitization of print works gets easier and cheaper, “we do not feel it is justifiable to continue charging for access [to out-of-copyright material]”, Taylor said. The Royal Society’s pay-per-view income for the entire archive (including papers after 1941) amounts to less than 0.5% of their total publishing revenues.

In July, programmer Greg Maxwell uploaded nearly 19,000 articles from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, all of them published before 1923, onto the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay (in stated support for computer coder Aaron Swartz, who is still facing a federal indictment for downloading over 4 million articles from JSTOR). The Royal Society’s release today means that the articles Maxwell uploaded are all now free to view. Maxwell’s action did not affect the Society’s decision, says Taylor….”