“Mindful of privacy issues, I asked a friend in campus IT to take a list of 6 or 7 domains and derive an extract file from the DNS query logs, providing just date, time and query string for anything that matched the domain information I provided. Here’s an excerpt of the result: …
Producing this extract is now part of a weekly cron job so I’ll be able to monitor the relative use of these sites over the coming months. In this one particular instance, I can’t wait for the Fall term to begin…
So what did I find by monitoring DNS queries between July 3rd and July 10th?
The graph shows activity for users on the campus network. A better name for this post might be, “What does local use of ResearchGate look like?”…
Here are the numbers if you include off-campus traffic to subscription sites (DNS resolution happens here since our proxy server is on the campus network):
Sci-Hub (includes the .tw, .se, and .ren domains): 87
Springer-Link: 551 (391 on-campus users; 160 via campus proxy server)
Google Scholar: 977
ScienceDirect: 1730 (1306 on-campus users; 424 via campus proxy server)
Abstract: This paper considers Sci-Hub, created by Alexandra Elbakyan, in light of Clayton Christensen’s theory of Jobs to Be Done. Because Sci-Hub is such a good solution to the jobs many people had, but could not accomplish before, it is unlikely that the efforts to shut Sci-Hub down will be successful.
The question of whether — and, if so, to what degree — Sci-Hub and similar pirate portals will lead (or are already leading) libraries to cancel journal subscriptions has been a fraught one for some time, and the debate doesn’t seem likely to settle down anytime soon.
One recent case in point: on the LIBLICENSE listserv last week, librarian and consultant Danny Kingsley made mention of a recent story in the Times Higher Education in which it was argued that universities in Europe are finding it “easier… to ditch their journal subscription contracts because so many articles are now available for free.” Furthermore, the article observed that academic library consortia, in particular, “have in recent years struck a much more assertive line with publishers over cost and open access,” with the result that, for example, “Germany’s consortium is currently without a contract with Elsevier… in part because librarians believe that academics can access free papers through sites such as ResearchGate.”
Kingsley quoted this article with some asperity, describing it as “frustrating,” given that “there is NO causal arrow between material being online somewhere and library subscriptions.” In response, Scholarly Kitchen Chef and consultant Joe Esposito called Danny’s claim “remarkable,” saying that “ResearchGate and Sci-Hub are in the background of every library negotiation with publishers now.”
In the course of agreeing with Kingsley, noted scholarly communication researcher Anthony Watkinson observed that he was “not aware of any research on library decision making processes” — which suggests not so much that there is no causal connection between library subscriptions and free online availability, but rather that we don’t yet know what, if any, causal connection there may be. But some anecdotal evidence in support of Kingsley’s position quickly came in on the list: several librarians chimed in, one of them saying that such considerations “have certainly never been in the background on any negotiations with vendors that I have been involved in,” and another saying that the availability of free or pirated content “does not influence my decision-making and isn’t considered when it comes to subscription renewals.” A third librarian suggested that such considerations are more likely to be “in the back of the minds of every Publisher, rather than in the minds of the Librarians.” Lisa Hinchliffe, a librarian at the University of Illinois and a Scholarly Kitchen Chef, pointed out that while librarians may not specifically assess the availability of free or pirated content when making subscription or cancellation decisions, they certainly do take cost per download into account — and to the degree that any library’s patrons download articles from subscribed journals through platforms like Sci-Hub and ResearchGate rather than from the publisher through the library’s website, that library’s cost per download will go up. (The entire discussion thread may be read here.) …”
“This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control.
The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says University of California Davis librarian MacKenzie Smith, who, like so many other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.”
But one skeptic is challenging the conventional wisdom about high subscription rates and raising doubts about big deals not being good deals.
Kent Anderson, CEO of publishing and data analytics company RedLink, has argued that the subscription model is actually “pretty efficient” for institutions….”
The rise in open-access publishing has decreased the value of subscription deals as more content is available for free, said Roger Schonfeld, director of the libraries, scholarly communication and museums program at Ithaka S+R.
Schonfeld says the main reason the value of the big deal is in decline is because of something he calls “leakage,” the availability of journal content through channels not controlled by publishers.
Piracy site Sci-Hub is one service through which content is “leaking,” he said. But there are other sources of content leaks that are not illicit. Institutional repositories, for example, are an accepted part of the scholarly publishing ecosystem.
“The big deal as a bundled subscription model is definitely under threat,” said Schonfeld. “Most of all from the fact that the libraries are less interested in just subscriptions — they want read-and-publish or publish-and-read agreements that capture the full stack of publishing services.” …”
“To examine changes in the open access landscape over time, this study partially replicated Kristin Antelman’s 2004 study of open access citation advantage. Results indicated open access articles still have a citation advantage. For three of the four disciplines examined, the most common sites hosting freely available articles were independent sites, such as academic social networks or article-sharing sites. For the same three disciplines, more than 70 percent of the open access copies were publishers’ PDFs. The major difference from Antelman’s is the increase in the number of freely available articles that appear to be in violation of publisher policies….”
“One plenary session of the 2019 Researcher to Reader (R2R) Conferencewas a debate on the proposition “Resolved: Sci-Hub is doing more good than harm to scholarly communication.” Arguing in favor of the resolution was Daniel Himmelstein, a postdoctoral fellow in genomics at the University of Pennsylvania. Arguing against it was Justin Spence, partner and co-founder of PSI Ltd., and the IP Registry.
At the beginning of the program, the audience was polled as to its agreement with the resolution. Of the 100 attendees who voted, 60 were opposed and 40 were in favor. Each debater then opened with a ten-minute statement, following which each offered a three-minute response. There was then a period of discussion with the audience, and then the poll was repeated. The second poll found that 55 were opposed to the resolution and 45 in favor. Though the overall verdict was anti-Sci-Hub, the shift in five votes meant that Daniel was accordingly declared the winner of the debate….”
“For more than a decade, publishing research articles have been a lucrative business for research institutes. As a result, some sites such as Sci-Hub and LibGen have gained popularity because of offering free access to scientific articles obtained through web scraping.
For instance, Sci-Hub has more than 25 million articles, readily accessible by researchers from all over the world. But Sci-Hub and LibGen have come under intense pressure from academic publishers who are not happy with the service.
The academic publishers believe Sci-Hub and LibGen are pirate libraries which are a threat to their multi-billion dollar industry. The publishers have unsuccessfully drafted ways to shut the services down through lawsuits.
But on March 31, there was a victorious breakthrough for the academic publishers after the French Judiciary ordered several of the largest French ISPs to block access to the pirate libraries; LibGen and Sci-Hub….”
“Further, the “read and publish” model, used as a stopgap, has its critics. Roger Schonfeld, director of libraries, scholarly communication, and museums for Ithaka S+R, an educational-access consulting service, worries that problems arise with universities paying publishers one negotiated bundled fee that swallows article-processing charges. First, authors lose access to price transparency, and have no idea what the charge folded into the subscription cost was. Second, publishers could end up actually charging more than universities currently pay, which UC conceded was possible. And third, what open-access visionaries interpret as a temporary measure on the road to open access could easily become a permanent solution. Schonfeld writes, “To those European librarians who might say that their [‘read and publish’] deals are merely transitional, I would note that publishers are taking these models seriously as the future of their business.”…
Either way, the ultimate impact of UC’s split with Elsevier will depend on how other large university systems react. Early indications suggest that they are emboldened. Lorraine Haricombe, vice provost and director of libraries at the University of Texas–Austin, says that the UC move “came as a very, very pleasant surprise that has gotten the attention of our faculty on the Austin campus.” The UT system pays $50 million for a five-year contract with Elsevier. Reflecting on how the UC decision resonates at UT, Haricombe says, “we are all standing up a little bit straighter because of what they did.” “
I have a colleague with whom I talk about publication practices in science and that sort of thing and, while we generally agree, we do differ on our attitudes to traditional publishers. He has often said that he doesn’t want to drive them out of business and would like to work together with them to solve the problems. I have generally maintained that they are antiquated relics from the print age who serve no real purpose, add little to no value to the scientific enterprise and oppose necessary reforms in science. …
One of their more ridiculous complaints is that they need more time. Springer Nature suggested a phased transition approach would help. This is blatant stalling. They cannot seriously suggest that they have not had time to think about these issues and come up with a plan. They seemed similarly unprepared when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said all the research they funded had to published as open access in the beginning of 2017 and discussions around open access have been ongoing for many years!…”