“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.” …”
“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….”
“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. (SeeScience’s investigation last year ofwho 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. …”
“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?”
“I like the new Clarivate-Impactstory partnership for several reasons….However, the Clarivate PR team…inserted this passage into the press release: “Researchers conducting online searches for scholarly articles frequently get unreliable results that can compromise their work. This is typically because the results omit journal articles behind paid-subscription paywalls or because ‘web-scraping’ utilities return versions of articles that are not peer-reviewed or are in violation of copyright laws.” …
It’s true that search results can be unreliable because they omit paywalled articles. But there are a few problems with the rest of the passage….
* The sentence on web-scraping utilities is obscure. Because it mentions articles that are not peer-reviewed, it seems to be an oblique criticism of preprint repositories. But preprint repositories depend on voluntary author deposits, not web scraping. Moreover, finding preprints in a search is a feature for people who know how to use them, not a bug. It doesn’t make the search less reliable. The criticism misses the target.
* Perhaps the reference to web scraping is an oblique criticism of Sci-Hub. But Sci-Hub focuses on refereed postprints, indeed versions of record, not unrefereed preprints. Moreover, it depends on downloads, even if illicit, not web scraping. The criticism misses the target.
* The final part implies that finding illegal copies of peer-reviewed articles in a search makes the search unreliable. This is false. The writer probably meant to criticize these copies for infringement, but instead criticizes them for unreliability. The criticism misses the target.”
“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 remains among the most common sites via which readers circumvent article paywalls and access scholarly literature. But where exactly are its download requests coming from? And just what is being downloaded? Bastian Greshake has analysed the full Sci-Hub corpus and its request data, and found that articles are being downloaded from all over the world, more recently published papers are among the most requested, and there is a marked overrepresentation of requested articles from journals publishing on chemistry….”
“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….”