Researcher to Reader (R2R) Debate: Is Sci-Hub Good or Bad for Scholarly Communication? – The Scholarly Kitchen

One plenary session of the 2019 Researcher to Reader (R2R) Conference was 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….”

Paris’s High Court has ordered French ISPs to block access to the pirate libraries LibGen and Sci-Hub

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….”

Why Should Taxpayer-Funded Research Be Put Behind a Paywall? – Pacific Standard

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.” “

Traditional scientific publishers have repeatedly undermined moves towards open access | Evidence & Reason

I recently read a profile of Alexandra Elbakyan and her pirate library, Sci-Hub. Sci-Hub provides free access to a huge number of scientific papers which would otherwise be locked away behind paywalls and only available if you paid a huge fee. The traditional scientific publishers are not happy with that, have sued her several times and continually try to take down her site. I think, given the current realities in science, that Sci-Hub is necessary until the publication process can be reformed.

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!…”

Sci-Hub’s Business Model Scares Me

Debates and discussions about Sci-Hub’s effectiveness and utility leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Outright defenses of it make me worryPromotion of it seems completely out of bounds. It’s a pirate site, yes, but there’s more to it, things that make it far more insidious than the Napster it’s often compared to. Yet, we continue to see Sci-Hub justified, rationalized, and normalized as if what it does is acceptable, even laudable….”

Sci-Hub’s Business Model Scares Me

Debates and discussions about Sci-Hub’s effectiveness and utility leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Outright defenses of it make me worryPromotion of it seems completely out of bounds. It’s a pirate site, yes, but there’s more to it, things that make it far more insidious than the Napster it’s often compared to. Yet, we continue to see Sci-Hub justified, rationalized, and normalized as if what it does is acceptable, even laudable….”

Is the Value of the Big Deal in Decline? – The Scholarly Kitchen

Last week, the University of California system terminated its license with Elsevier. There has been a great deal of attention to California’s efforts to reach a Publish & Read (P&R) agreement. The what-could-have-been of this deal is interesting and important. But I wish to focus today on the what-no-longer-is of scholarly content licensing, focusing on the big deal model of subscription journals bundled together on a single publisher basis for three to five year deals. In the eyes of major libraries in Europe and the US, the value of the big deal has declined. As a result, we are moving into a new period, in which publisher pricing power has declined and the equilibrium price for content and related services is being reset. What is the principal culprit? I will maintain today that we must look in large part to what publishers call “leakage.”…

I have heard estimates that suggest publisher usage numbers could be at least 60-70% higher if “leakage” was included in addition to their on-platform usage statistics. This includes “green” options through a variety of repositories (including some that are operated by publishers themselves in addition to library and not-for-profit repositories), materials on scholarly collaboration networks, and through piracy. The share of leakage among entitled users at an institution with a license is probably lower than this estimate, but it is likely well in the double digits.

I am in no way arguing against green models. Indeed, publishers have largely become comfortable with green open access. I am simply observing that these percentages are beginning to add up….”

The Guardian view on academic publishing: disastrous capitalism | Editorial | Opinion | The Guardian

In California the state university system has been paying $11m (£8.3m) a year for access to Elsevier journals, but it has just announced that it won’t be renewing these subscriptions. In Britain and Europe the move towards open access publishing has been driven by funding bodies. In some ways it has been very successful. More than half of all British scientific research is now published under open access terms: either freely available from the moment of publication, or paywalled for a year or more so that the publishers can make a profit before being placed on general release.

Yet, somehow, the new system has not yet worked out any cheaper for the universities. Publishers have responded to the demand that they make their product free to readers by charging their writers fees to cover the costs of preparing an article. These range from around £500 to $5,000, and apparently the work gets more expensive the more that publishers do it. A report last year from Professor Adam Tickell pointed out that the costs both of subscriptions and of these “article preparation costs” has been steadily rising at a rate above inflation ever since the UK’s open access policy was adopted in 2012. In some ways the scientific publishing model resembles the economy of the social internet: labour is provided free in exchange for the hope of status, while huge profits are made by a few big firms who run the market places. In both cases, we need a rebalancing of power….”

University of California Drops Elsevier Contract – The Atlantic

This past Thursday, the University of California, one of the largest research institutions in the world, blew up negotiations with Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of research articles in the world. The university would no longer pay Elsevier millions of dollars a year to subscribe to its journals. It simply walked away.


Not so long ago, blowing off a publisher as important as Elsevier would have been unthinkable. But academics have been joining in an open revolt against Elsevier’s extremely profitable business model. In 2012, mathematicians started a petition to boycott the publisher that has since been signed by more than 17,000 researchers. In December 2016, universities in Germany stopped paying for Elsevier’s journals. In 2018, the same thing happened in Sweden and then Hungary….”

David Worlock | Developing digital strategies for the information marketplace | Supporting the migration of information providers and content players into the networked services world of the future.

The Springer Nature announcement that they were working with ReseachGate on a fair sharing policy has elements that run right through the tracery of fissures . It tells us that commercial players have no commercial reason to do anything but compete , and that Springer Nature , Thieme , CUP and in time others want to be seen as more user supportive in this regard than , others . This is not for me a new form of permitted “syndication “ – simply a gracious concession to license what users were doing anyway and remove some friction. It also says that in the games yet to be played , many people see tracking usage of the traceable communication as an important source of information , and potentially of revenues . The pressures felt by players like Springer Nature and Wiley as they at once try to differentiate themselves from the very clear stance of a market leader like Elsevier while trying to protect their service integrity at the same time are similarly shown in the Projekt DEAL developments . Market leaders get trapped and isolated in market positions they cannot give up , while the rest dissociate and differentiate themselves as best they can , while trying hard not to lose revenue margins in the process . Then sit down and read the reactions to Plan S – Springer Nature were paragons of moderation and reason . The loudest squeals came from those with most to lose – scholarly societies with journal revenue dependence. …

So what can the market leader do about this change as they face increasing user criticism ? The traditional answer always was “ push intransigence as far as it will go , and if those who would change the terms of trade do not come to heel , change your CEO as a way of changing your own policy without losing face “ . It may of course be an entire co-incidence that Elsevier’s CEO Ron Mobed retired last week without prior indication that he was about to go , and has been replaced by a very experienced RELX strategy specialist , Kumsal Bayazit . She is warmly welcomed and deserves a good chance to rethink the strategies that have backed Elsevier into a corner with Projekt DEAL and with the University of California . The people who work at Elsevier are , to my certain knowledge , as dedicated as any group I know to the objectives of their customers and the improvement of scholarly communications : they know that at the end of the dy the customer has the final say . And let’s think about what the power of a market leader now really means : 20 years ago companies like Elsevier demanded that authors surrendered their copyrights on the grounds that only the publisher was powerful enough to protect them , while today no publisher is powerful enough to shutter SciHub….”