Publishers Announce a Major New Service to Plug Leakage – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Today, a group of the largest scholarly publishers is announcing a new effort to improve discovery and access, fight piracy, compete with ResearchGate, and position their platforms for an open access ecosystem. Their new “Get Full Text Research” (GetFTR) service will meaningfully improve access for the vast majority of users who discover articles from starting points other than the publisher website. This important development in user experience more importantly provides further evidence that publishers are finally beginning to address digital strategy in an environment of growing leakage that has steadily eroded their ability to monetize the value they create. At the same time, it probably does not yet go far enough to reset the competitive environment….

Publishers have been working on improved discovery and access for several years now. The effort to create RA21 (now SeamlessAccess.org) is helping to overcome one major access stumbling block by making the authorization process smoother. GetFTR, a service that signals to the user whether they will have access to the full-text and then routes them directly to it, is a natural next step. 

Backed by the American Chemical Society, Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley, GetFTR has two components. First, it enables the discovery service to indicate whether the article full text is available to the user before clicking on a link to the publisher page and if so to link directly to it. It requires that a user has disclosed their institutional affiliation through the SeamlessAccess.Org “Where Are You From” service, which in turn stores the affiliation information locally on their browser. The user’s institutional affiliation is sent along with the article DOI to a service which then queries the appropriate publisher to determine whether the individual should be entitled to access the article. This should take place seamlessly in the background as a list of search results is loading. The user will see, in a list of search results, clear information such as a green or red button, on whether they will be able to access the full text of each article prior to clicking on the link to it. A user who then clicks on the link will be taken to their institutional login or directly to the article without any intermediate pages if they are already logged in during the current session. This is a natural next step to improve access by leveraging federated authentication that is being rolled out more broadly in the wake of RA21. If enough subscribing institutions adopt federated authentication and the GetFTR technical implementation is successful it will measurably improve user experience in many cases. 

In a way, however, the second aspect of GetFTR is more significant, because it recognizes that, in the workflow described above, many users are not entitled to access the licensed version. Naturally, a user with entitlements through a subscription will be routed to the version of record. But the service will also provide an alternative for others who do not have licensed access, an alternative that each publisher will be able to determine for itself. Some publishers might choose to provide access to a preprint or a read-only version, perhaps in some cases on some kind of metered basis. I expect publishers will typically enable some alternative version for their content, in which case the vast majority of scholarly content will be freely available through publishers even if it is not open access in terms of licensing. This alternative pathway is a modest technical development but will have far-reaching strategic implications. 

GetFTR is intended to be entirely invisible to the user other than an array of colored buttons indicating that the link will take them to the version of record, an alternative pathway, or (presumably in rare cases) no access at all. Thus, like RA21, the brand name is not intended to face towards users. Digital Science and Elsevier expect to pilot GetFTR in the first quarter of 2020 through their platforms Dimensions, Mendeley, and ReadCube Papers. GetFTR characterizes these kinds of discovery and scholarly collaboration platforms as “integration partners.” Technical details about the service and associated APIs for publishers and integration partners are available online. …

For publishers, this situation is increasingly untenable. Pirate sites include nearly 100% of licensed publisher content. In addition, various kinds of repositories make green versions available and scholarly collaboration networks provide access to tremendous amounts of content as well. But it is not just availability elsewhere that is a concern. The use of SciHub, ResearchGate, and other alternative sources of access has exploded. With usage growing rapidly through these alternatives, the share of usage taking place on the publisher site is declining….”

Simba Information: Scientific & Technical Publishing Bucked Headwinds, Posted Strong Growth in 2018

“The report Global Scientific & Technical Publishing 2019-2023 found that the global scientific and technical publishing market grew 3% to $10.3 billion in 2018. Currency exchange fluctuations inflated growth somewhat in 2018, but even taking that into account, this is the highest growth rate tracked by Simba since 2011 when market growth exceeded 4%.

The findings stand in stark contrast to media reports that the industry is facing a long-term decline due to the rise of open access publishing. There have been more reports of university libraries canceling their journal subscription packages in 2018 and 2019. The industry also faces threats from websites that freely share pirated copies of copyrighted research papers….”

Book Review: Shadow Libraries: Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education » Open@VT

Shadow Libraries is a collection of country studies exploring “how students get the materials they need.”  Most chapters report original research (usually responses to student surveys) in addition to providing useful background on the shadow library history of each nation (Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, India, Poland, and South Africa).  As editor Karaganis puts it in his introduction, the book shows “the personal struggle to participate in global scientific and educational communities, and the recourse to a wide array of ad hoc strategies and networks when formal, authorized means are lacking… ” (p. 3). Shadow libraries, sometimes called pirate libraries, consist of texts (in this case, scholarly texts) aggregated outside the legal framework of copyright.

Karaganis’ introductory chapter does an excellent job summarizing the themes connecting the chapters, and is worth reading by itself.  For example, the factors leading to the development of shadow libraries are common to each country covered: low income; a dysfunctional market in which materials either aren’t available or are overpriced; a rising student population; and easy access to copying and/or sharing technology. The student population boom in low and middle-income countries in the last 20 years is remarkable- quadrupling in India, tripling in Brazil, and doubling in Poland, Mexico, and South Africa.  At the same time, reductions in state support for higher education have exacerbated the affordability problem, leaving the market to meet (or more commonly, not meet) demand.  Add to this the tendency of publishers to price learning and research materials for libraries rather than individuals, and the result is a real crisis of legal access….”

Need a paper? Get a plug-in

“Increasingly, however, scientists are turning to tools such as Unpaywall, Open Access Button, Lazy Scholar and Kopernio. These tools all do more or less the same thing: tap into an overlapping set of data sources to identify and retrieve open-access copies of research papers that are inaccessible or hard to find through other routes.”

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub – TorrentFreak

“Sci-Hub, often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” has suffered another blow in a US federal court. The American Chemical Society has won a default judgment of $4.8 million for alleged copyright infringement against the site. In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction which requires search engines and ISPs to block the platform.”

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. …”

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….”

Impact of Social Sciences – A closer look at the Sci-Hub corpus: what is being downloaded and from where?

“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….”