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Sci-Hub as necessary, effective civil disobedience (brembs.net)
525 points by ingve on Feb 25, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments



By and large, the academic publishing industry operates in such a way that it ignores the internet ever happened. The internet says, "Hey, you don't have 'Kant's Third Critique of Judgement in your inner-city school library. Here, let me tell you what it says" the academic publishing industry says "whoa- you're not at an institution that pays us money - you don't deserve to know what this says."

They try to make it seem like they do so much to push knowledge forward - but they take the paper you wrote in MSWord, take credit for the peer-review, then make it into a PDF and ask for your money.

The internet is going to destroy them and they are running scared. How long can you sustain a business that relies on paywalling PDF files?


Scholastic publishing knows the internet happened. They have published articles electronically for decades at this point.

Reproduction costs are irrelevant to scholastic publishing. A technical solution to reproduction won't change anything.

Scholastic publishers make money through their monopoly on the legitimate use of articles and books. The question is more like "how long can you sustain a business that relies on the law?". And the answer is probably: a long time.


Asking for your money here refers both to a potential reader, and the the author of the article.


The latter is a point that's often forgotten, and is very true. I used to do research a long time ago, prior to deciding I'm not quite academia material. If I ever get nostalgic, I literally have to pay between 30 USD and 100 USD just to get PDFs of articles that I wrote.

Of course, this is upsetting only on a personal level, but the entire process is extremely toxic to learning.


I don't think it's just on a personal level. The lack of access to journal articles is actually quite detrimental to public discourse. Last year I got into an online debate with a relative about the legacy of Rachel Carson. He was claiming that she purposefully misrepresented the findings of two journal articles to overstate the danger posed by DDT.

I wanted to see for myself, but it would cost me $45 each for these two 5-page papers that were 50-years-old. Luckily, I have a relative who is a Professor and she got me the papers, which I then directly quoted in the thread to show Carson was quoting the papers verbatim.

My relative responded by claiming I was lying. With dozens of friends and family members munching popcorn and watching our debate, the only thing I could to to defend myself was to post the papers online illegally in my defense.

I won the debate (or at least was able to walk away from it knowing nothing would convince my opponent), but in the process of researching this subject, I have found dozens of publications making the same false claims about Carson and her legacy. With few readers being able to fact-check the claims by simply having access to two 5-page 50-year-old papers the debate is complete he-said/she-said.

I fully support this civil disobedience. Defending the name of a historical figure is one thing, but when people can't get access to health research, it endangers lives.


I generally reject any paper that I cannot get full access to. This is because too many times have I seen papers making claims that are not supported by their methodology, especially in more controversial or politically charged subjects. A common example is to study some socially unacceptable population, they will look to sample from known members which are often gathered due to court cases, and then they magically make generalizations to the general part of the population. Imagine if most studies of men in the US only sampled from the prison population, could those results be generalized to all men?

Given that this data tends to be locked in the methodology section, which is quick to check if I have access, I tend to outright reject the paper as I cannot trust any claims made in the abstract. Even worse are when there are papers you cannot trust at all because of overt biases of their authors (unless the findings are produced by others who do not share those biases, normally if you get people on both sides of some issue reaching the same finding you can be more confident in the results).


Disclaimers: I live in another country, and I research in digital forensics -- that has quite an open community.

In my situation, I've never reached anywhere near that point. All my works are available for donwload as PDFs, and even if they weren't, my research group keeps a repository where we can re-download/point/email anyone who asks for them.

We haven't published in IEEE journals (yet), but as of our countrys law, we are the authors, and we hold rights to our work (for example, distribution) as we see fit. As a matter of fact, per a "new" law (it's a few years old, but it's becoming effective now), we have to keep that institutional repository I mentioned earlier.

My question is: how is your situation, and how were you forced into this ridicule thing of having to pay for your own work?!


Mine was in electromagnetism. Far less open. I don't live in the US, either, so perhaps the legal situation here would allow me some recourse. I just didn't care enough to investigate, academia is something I've long put behind me :-).

As for your questions:

1. There are publishers which require you to relinquish all your rights to distribution, copying etc.. In other words, they basically own every right to the final work. This is usually circumvented by just distributing the latest draft for free. IIRC, one of our papers was published in such a journal. We did receive a copy of the journal, which I obviously don't have, it's in our lab's library.

2. For the others, there's no way for me to say "oh, hi, I'm this paper's author, can I please have a copy?", and in at least one case, we didn't receive a copy of the journal it was published in. Some publishers are nice and give you a pre-print PDF of the article, so that you can actually substantiate your claim that you published it if your institution requires more detailed bookkeeping. But many skip straight to giving you the middle finger and telling you how you can buy the journal if you want it.

I'm hesitant to give publishers' names because this was long enough ago that a) my memory is a little foggy and b) things I say may no longer apply.

So basically, at this point, neither me, nor my former colleagues have physical copies of the journals themselves. I didn't care enough to save the PDFs (nor am I likely to care soon -- that's why I only find it funny in a moderately annoying way), and my former colleagues aren't allowed to send me the final articles in PDF format, either, at least under the paper equivalent of EULA.


Genuinely asking (not snark, and I am not a physicist): what does it mean to conduct research in "electromagnetism" more than a century after Maxwell? Did you study superconductivity? Electrical power beaming? Magnetic properties of weird alloys?

I ask only because I thought people who study these things are more likely to say they research "electrical engineering" (if they want to be general and applied), or "condensed matter physics" or maybe "materials science".

I'm really just curious about the relevant terminology / sociology of academia.


Uh :-). I said electromagnetism because it sounds waaay less pretentious than what it was generally termed -- computational electromagnetism -- and because claiming it was microelectronics, while technically correct, was somewhat frowned upon at our university because we were in the wrong department for that. Politics and whatnot.

We were doing research on simulation and model extraction techniques for passive structures in very high-frequency (think 30 GHz) integrated circuits. At these frequencies, the lumped-element approximations break down, so you can't describe the functioning of passive devices in the familiar manner, based on Kirchhof's equations et co.. That means SPICE-family tools can't give you proper results anymore, and you kind of need them to design the circuit.

The "proper" way to do it is full-wave simulation; unfortunately -- especially for very wide-band devices -- that's computationally very costly (simulating the behaviour of the device at a specific frequency isn't very cheap on its own, but we're talking about simulating it for a whole range of frequencies, which could span tens of GHz). You could plug those results into SPICE, of course, but running these simulations took hours, sometimes even days, for a single run, which is completely impractical. It's also not the level you want to work at when designing circuits -- where you're solving "circuit problems", not "field problems".

So what we were trying to do was:

a) Figure out how to make the simulations faster and more accurate, and

b) Figure out how to extract a model from them, i.e. an equivalent circuit, which could be readily used by the design engineers.

We did that through a combination of things like running as few simulations as possible and extrapolating, running simulations in parallel and so on. It wasn't some major scientific breakthrough, but then again, I worked there during my 3rd and 4th year of university; it was the most difficult kind of work I'd done until that point.


Sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing :)


Thanks for the answer!


As far as I can tell, it comes down to two things:

a) Authors need to be published in certain journals to have their work read by their peers, and gain credibility.

b) Academic journals (Elsevier, etc.) require you to hand over the rights to the paper to them.


a) Luckily in my field, most prestige comes from the DFRWS[0], which is open. And working on/with certain tools, most of which are also FLOSS.

b) As I understand, in my country it's impossible for an author to loose rights over his own work. However, I'm not a lawyer and can't give more specific details.

[0] http://www.dfrws.org/


Double ended market is a sweet position to be in right.


Civil disobedience is an important form of democracy. Maybe in the future, when all of our calls, messages and identities are monitored in full by our benevolent overlords, we won't be able to practice it anymore. Right or wrong, faraway anti-Western countries have served as counterweights against the West for Snowden, Assange and Elbakyan.


My biggest worry is the whole "security culture" that developed shortly after Snowden is encouraging more of the population to embrace locked-down walled-garden systems in which they can feel secure but have little freedom, and the general push for secure-by-default rather than open systems. A necessary condition for civil disobedience is the freedom to disobey, to defeat access controls, to exercise one's beliefs.

The fact that Snowden's leaks were made possible by insecurity, and now seemingly everyone is against insecurity, is ironic enough that it makes me wonder if that was really the intent all along...


insecurity != openness


> Maybe [...] we won't be able to practice it anymore.

Do you mean by suppressing the action before it occurs? I thought that one of the points of civil disobedience was to get caught, so as to increase visibility of the problem and become a catalyst for change.


The basic problem with the "original formulation" of civil disobedience is that power structures have evolved to thwart it.

Things that should by any right be a civil case or misdemeanor are instead charged as multiple overlapping felonies in order to coerce a plea bargain, which is effective to deter all but the most dedicated from demanding their day in court. Then the court won't allow you to make the case for jury nullification or any other argument that the law is wrong to the jury, and prosecutors will be allowed to exclude anyone from the jury who is sympathetic to the idea that juries shouldn't convict when they don't agree with the law.

You can only make the case that the law is wrong to the judge, and no matter how stupid the law is the judge can only agree with you if it violates the constitution. Which plenty of very, very stupid laws clearly don't, so you become a convicted felon without having had an opportunity to make your case to anyone with the power to do anything about it.

In theory the outrageous nature of that process should inspire the public to demand change, but have we passed Aaron's Law yet? [1]

[1] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/04/aarons-law-reintroduce...


The natural response to that is civil disobedience without actually getting caught. As a first approximation a single person operating alone could probably do around a billion dollars worth of damage without directly inflicting physical harm on anyone. Get a few thousand people to do the same and individually there going to be less effective, but things break down. Keep pushing and government becomes meaningless.

However, people are generally fat and happy. A surveillance state in wall-e's world just does not mean the same thing without the downtrodden masses which have fueled past revolutions.


>You can only make the case that the law is wrong to the judge, and no matter how stupid the law is the judge can only agree with you if it violates the constitution.

Well, yes. It's not a judge's job to strike down bad law. We're already too close to a system where the judiciary acts as a super-legislature.


A quote from Orwell's essays:

>At the same time there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference.

Reflections on Gandhi

http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/gandhi/english/e_gandhi


I think Gandhi's effort was also about arousing a moral sense (shame, guilt, questioning) in the oppressor's rank-and-file... But that works better when there are a large number of them who are not super-committed to beating innocent people.

It becomes much harder when the oppressors can use a small and dedicated mobile murder-force.


I do mean suppressing ideas before they take root. I don't think getting caught is a necessary part of it.

The most worrisome example of today is China, which has an iron grip on the spread of ideas within the country. If China deemed Sci-Hub to be an issue, they would shut it down (via DNS poisoning) and incarcerate anybody who spoke in its favor.


Thanks for the clarification. It's true; if any message can be silenced and any thought wiped out at will before it's even developed, then its hard for even the realization that you're being controlled to spread, let alone any plan to fight against the control.


Cory Doctorow makes that case all the time. You don't want perfect enforcement because it provides no opportunity to evaluate when the law is wrong. You need somebody to be able to break the law, show what happens and prove that the world doesn't end in order to make the case that the consequences are actually quite alright and we shouldn't have that law anymore.


Separation of power ideally means that enforcement and evaluation of the law are separate instances.

It doesn't work in practice. Indeed, having more laws to help enforce basic laws would seem absurd, if the practice of lawgiving was in principle wrong. But lessening law would seem absurd, if avoiding lawlessness was the idea in the first place.


not to mention silencing any mention of it


This is also Direct Action, where what you're doing is solving or mitigating the problem and so you want to keep doing it as long as you can.


I don't think it's a form of democracy any more than are breathing or rigged voting. Peace treaties aren't a form of war either.


I've said in a previous comment, sci-hub is pure civil disobedience of the noble kind. In fact i thought it would be impossible to ever sue her, because there is no moral argument that can outweigh what she offers. I use sci-hub all the time because my institution doesn't have access to all the sci journals, and i want access to ALL the knowledge for which millions of taxpayers have paid for (but they don't know where that knowledge ends up). Its the perfect complement to open access journals, for the (i believe) transitory period until we do away with impact factors and citation factories for good, like we did away with alchemy and phrenology.

I hope this increased publicity won't lead to shutting down the site or freeze its paypal account.


According to MLK, civil disobedience is only just when you accept the penalties prescribed by law.


Admittedly MLK probably didn't foresee that people could go to prison for downloading information from the internet.


What an amazing woman. She tries to downplay her accomplishment by mentioning in the comments that she was only responsible for grabbing over 20 million papers. Nice try, but that's still a remarkable job!

Edit: not sure if the commenter is her, but she's done amazing work regardless.


Although everyone seems to celebrate it, I feel a little uneasy about this.

The whole publishing scam is not about giving (or restricting) access from research to peons, it is to justify sucking the money of public institutions.

When the situation sucks for people, they get motivated to try to change the system. It is already hard enough for people to try to change things, because research is hard enough, and then if you start to refuse publishing in unethical journals the next idiot is going to do it as well as you would.

Comparatively, many people are for the status quo regarding copyright in general because they know very well that piracy is an option. At a RMS talk, the (university!) crowd mostly unanimously cheered when he said "yes piracy" and booed when he said "... thus we have to change copyright". He was then asked "but what if hollywood disappeared with the change?".


> He was then asked "but what if hollywood disappeared with the change?".

What if they did?

It's the lie of all middle-men that they are necessary to the process. Composers didn't stop writing music when the concept of a noble benefactor died: the business model changed. Architects didn't stop building beautiful buildings because religions couldn't afford giant churches and kings stopped building palaces. Movies will continue to be made if Hollywood dies, and if history is any indicator, the art form will develop more rapidly once it's no longer hampered by outdated business models.


Does Sci-Hub practice what it preaches? Do they provide a means of downloading their entire repository of research papers either via torrent or SFTP? Because if the entire repository isn't available to everyone, then how can we be sure that once they get raided those papers aren't lost forever?


SCi-Hub used hacked or shared university account to abuse the university proxies to get content. For big research institutions, it's an annoyance. To small colleges and university library it is a major headache that can get the whole university locked out from resources the library is paying dearly for.

Source: My partner is a librarian at a smaller university, this happens every few months and they lose access to major online platforms for days if not longer every time.


I feel like you're blaming the wrong party here.


The "blaming" is in your head. People who explain how things happen do not "blame".


Don't talk bullshit.

There clearly is blame put on the proxies

> it [the proxy] is a major headache that can get the whole university locked out

Whether either the practice of lock out should be blamed for immoral licensing or the proxy servers blamed for immoral illicit access, is not properly explained here.


Don't talk bullshit.

Just because you think in categories of 'blame' doesn't mean everyone else does.

For some people there is a difference between causality and guilt.


This is an important point that is not getting adequate discussion right now. A couple of days ago, the sight was unavailable for days both on the clear-net and in the dark-web. The sight resurfaced two days ago with two levels of captcha before anyone can search the site. What does this imply? My guess is that the site went down under an automated DDOS. A distributed archive will ameliorate this sort of situation.


What you describe is available through libgens scimag section, and I believe they're affiliated.


libgen scimag collection is not included in their torrents, nor usenet downloads, etc. Could someone ask them to fix this? thanks

edit: oh http://libgen.io/scimag/repository_torrent_notforall/


They apparently mirror everything to LibGen. I agree it would be nice to be able to easily mirror it though.


Why is that important? I would be just as happy with an API that allows downloading articles one at a time.


The parent comment wants to efficiently mirror the content to prevent it from disappearing in the event of a successful take down operation. This can be done by scraping an API, but bulk methods are faster and less likely to degrade service for other users.


May be even using something like DHT on top of WebRTC could allow to upload/download those papers easily.


There's a thumping amount of data there. 485 torrents, each torrent containing 100 zips of around 500MB each, each zip containing 1000 papers. Total = 500MB * 100 * 485 ~ 25TB. If your have a 10Mbit/s link into your house, it's 280 days of continuous downloading.

New torrents seem to be appearing at the rate of 14 per month = 700GB/month = 2.7Mbit/s. For the majority of people, I'd say it is beyond any one person being able to mirror the lot.

It seems like an application for a Freenet type system, but one where the files are guaranteed to never be deleted, even if they are rarely accessed.


I would assume that most of that is due to PDFs weigthing a lot more than their content.

If someone wants to donate IT skills and coding time (this is a thing that I've read several times in HN), perhaps it would be great that someone puts together a system that takes a PDF, OCRs it when necessary, detects images and graphs, and uses all of that to create a light version of the document (html/latex/markdown/whatever); and then puts all of those TB through that tool.

The reduction in storage and network costs might be a lot more than a standard donation!


If enough people keep the torrents alive no one person would need to mirror all of it, certainly not all at once.


One aspect of Aaron Swartz's case that I found both interesting and way under-reported, was that he supposedly was going to perform meta-analysis against the collected documents. And that a previous meta-analysis of a similar sort had revealed some surprising and useful results.

With all the pieces locked up, it is difficult if not impossible to do such science and statistical analysis. In other words, it is antithetical to the nature of science. I didn't see/read enough to confirm this, in Schwartz's case. Nonetheless, I think the idea and the opinion are valid.


The Google n-gram project is an example of how one might extract useful information by indexing large numbers of documents.

You might, for example, look at trends in the use of a given scientific instrument, or with a bit of NP, when the field switched from using "computer" to mean a machine instead of a person.

It was an eye-opener to see how gendered the scientific papers were in the 1960s, where the scientist is invariably a "he" and the secretary/typist is a "she". Some simple questions I have are: how have those trends changed over time? Is it different for different subfields?

It's impossible to do that on my own when the papers cost even $1 per copy.


Also interesting, and more concerning, is that such meta-analyses are revealing biases (in the science), systemic deficiencies, and fraud. Very valuable and pertinent information to have.



Tangentially related: is anyone here familiar with automated analysis of research papers? I feel this is a field that would perfectly lend itself to machine learning, or similar approaches.

It would require extraction of meaningful data, be therein lies the rub. There are several large projects looking into collecting/sharing scientific data, mainly focusing on persuading and empowering researchers to share their full data sets.

But what can we do where the raw data is not available? Is anyone working on ways to reliably extract data from the millions of PDFs in research databases?

There are several open-ended questions here. If anyone knows of work in these areas, or is interested in this, I'd be very keen to talk.


Only materials related, but at http://www.citrine.io/ they do something like that. I recently attended a talk given by one of the team members (Bryce) and they seemed to be quite open to discussions.


Andrej Karpathy (OpenAI) does this to an extent with machine learning papers from arXiv: http://www.arxiv-sanity.com/


The field is called text mining or literature data mining.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Text_mining


I'm surprised there aren't more comments here. Maybe it's because most agree, and there really isn't much more to be said?

Anyways, thank you very much for sharing.


Authors/Scientist have little problem with getting their work into out there to as many people as possible. People want the knowledge. So the only ones really objecting to this are the publishers.

As someone who works at the edge of biology, I have noted that the publishing business reviews the papers get knowledgeable peer-reviewers(pressed for time) and then ask difficult questions of the authors. Some papers aren't good enough, they get rejected. This culling has some value, much as it irritates the scientists. Scientists are always trying to get their work published/sited and ranking journals is something that happens with some regularity http://www.citefactor.org/journal-impact-factor-list-2014_0-...

Of course, want to download an article on the first genome assembly of drosophila from 15 years ago... $30. (I can access articles like this though my work in academia, if I go though the library and cross my fingers the moon is in the right phase, the the pdf link might show up).

Holding knowledge and parsing it out for profits is somewhat suspect.

Note that anything US government NIH funded since 2005 is required to have access. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/about/public-access/

for example. This paper, published by a coworker in an official "journal" but still available for free via pubmed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23443684

I get the "joy" of uploading lots of data from screens to the us goverment pubchem website. I'm not sure anyone downloads it, but its there. They have an interesting embargo system which holds the data till publication (I've never used that, some people really care about that stuff)

Researchers in academia also pass around papers. The peer reviewers do to, if they find something interesting. We've gotten requests for data from unpublished papers.


Great to hear.

I've found another way to get access is to simply email the author of a paper. Of course, this mostly only works for those still enrolled at the academic institution where the research took place, but I've had good luck with it.


Yeah currently there are 50 upvotes and 2 comments. You see that kind of ratio when TFA is simply correct.


I am poor, which I use as my primary excuse to pirate software, movies, books, etc.

To those who are not financially struggling: Why do you pirate? What is your moral justification?


Most answers only touch the issue of piracy of scientific articles, but let me answer your more general question.

I believe that copyright is immoral, hence "piracy", for me, requires no further moral justification.

Copyright is a racket, established by rent-seeking, mostly unproductive but powerful individuals/corporations. It's a cartel/monopoly that discourages market competition, one of the most important inventions in history. The only connection between copyright and theft that I see is that by extending copyright retroactively, politicians (and their corporate sponsors) are stealing from the public domain. most importantly, copyright does little-to-nothing to encourage creativity and likely even prevents it. I see it as an obstacle to progress.

I wouldn't necessarily oppose a limited copyright term (14-20 years seems plenty), but I completely oppose the current regime. However, I still often pay for media (after having pirated it and confirmed its value) to support the author(s).


I would let content creator to decide what to do with his creation. I believe the author can do anything with it. For example, burn it, or set a price of $100500 per bit of information, and require customers to crawl on their knees ingratiatingly asking to buy it. Of course, no one would buy it that way, but author has ultimate right on his/her creation.

One of those rights is to sell it to big unproductive but powerful individuals/corporations.

I pirate too, but I respect the ultimate creator's right.


Respectfully disagree.

There is an implicit acceptance of the current copyright system and the laws regarding copyright as it stands, in your comment.

Look at the big picture, we have created a society that thrives on imposing artificial restrictions on everyone and the only people who benefit from it are big corporations.

By giving complete rights over the invention to the inventor or a corporation, we are limiting the potential impact of the invention.

Instead if access to such knowledge is made freely available, the possibilities are endless.

What if Sir Tim Berners-Lee patented the World Wide Web and monetized it?


To answer your last question: Civilization would have progressed faster, people would still be able to think and the economy would produce more things that are actually valuable.


Are you implying that the WWW is something noxious to civilization, thinking and economy and therefore it's failure (caused by being patented and monetized) would have been beneficial. Or are you implying that if patented and monetized, the WWW would have been even more successful than it is and have a beneficial effect on civilization, thinking and economy.

If this isn't sarcasm I think either interpretation can be easily disproved.


"I would let content creator to decide what to do with his creation."

That sounds simple, but it's not.

Imagine this scenario: Disney makes a poster to advertise a Mickey Mouse. They display the poster in public. You (someone with no contractual relationship with Disney) see the poster, and decide to make kids' toys that look like the character in the poster.

How would your principle apply to this situation?


> One of those rights is to sell it to big unproductive but powerful individuals/corporations.

> I pirate too, but I respect the ultimate creator's right.

It may be the creator's right, but it isn't necessarily the creator's will. There are a lot of reasons to publish in particular journals, and restricted access to the published paper isn't necessarily the desired effect, it may just be an unfortunate side effect.


A general discussion about piracy seems very off-topic.

If we're talking just about scientific articles, the need for piracy is obvious; without institutional access to journals, proper research of a subject is ludicrously expensive. In writing a publication, I generally use about 50-100 citations, and yes, you actually have to read them. And for every one that you did use, there are one or two that you didn't. So, simply putting together a manuscript would cost on the order of $5,000-10,000. In actual practice, this is something like a month of searching and reading papers. To sustain that rate is obviously impractical.

This makes those without institutional access completely deprived of useful access to the world's research. It's a terrible, indefensible situation.


We argue about the background color of a linked article with little resistance, so I think a post about general piracy within an article about academic piracy is relatively on-topic (but I know that is subjective).

I agree that the current journal/paper fee is crazy, but to say that piracy is the "obvious" answer is short-sighted, in my opinion. I very much enjoy the conversation though.

My experience with academia is very limited, but I happily used sci-hub & libgen when I was researching the Hierarchical Fair Service Curve paper.


> In writing a publication ...

And then the reviewer says "you should compare this to papers X, Y, and Z", each of which costs $35+ for a non-subscriber to read.


If you aren’t affiliated with a university, scientific papers cost something like $30/each to read.

If papers can be accessed for free, then the only expense required to follow cutting edge science is time, and everyone with an internet connection can join in. At $30/paper, suddenly only the rich (or those with rich patrons, such as tenured professors at rich universities) can afford to play.

Researching a topic, it’s easy to skim 100 papers in a couple days, trying to figure out which ones are relevant and which ones aren’t. Paying $3000 just to sort through and find the 5 out of 100 papers which bear closer scrutiny is very expensive, even for someone who isn’t “financially struggling”. (No, the abstracts alone aren’t sufficient for this.)

And it’s not clear that the money is going anywhere useful. The scientists who wrote the papers never make a profit: all the money goes to a couple of rich corporations, who will use the money to further impede scientific progress.


Researching a topic, it’s easy to skim 100 papers in a couple days

This, a thousand times. Compounded with the problems of research quality and legitimacy that this essay highlights, it's even worse than looking for mere "relevance". Many published papers are outright dross, serving as filler that further increases the power of a $30-$45/paper paywall.


>all the money goes to a couple of rich corporations, who will use the money to further impede scientific progress

More problematic , the three major publishers are in UK, netherlands and US, which means the rest of the world's scientists donate their science to make these publishers richer.


> If you aren’t affiliated with a university, scientific papers cost something like $30/each to read.

It's not quite that dire. DeepDyve [1], which is kind of like Spotify for academic journals, provides online access to 12 million articles from 10000 peer reviewed journals. You can buy access in blocks of 5 articles for $20, or unlimited for $40/month ($30/month if you buy a year at a time). They also have free 5 minute previews so if you are not on one of the unlimited plans you can get some idea if you want to buy a particular article or not.

[1] https://www.deepdyve.com


There is another solution - interlibrary loan. While it takes longer, you can often get papers for free or for a flat nominal cost. The local college ILL service will make a copy of any article in the world for $10 for the general public. The public library where I used to live would make ILL copies for free.

It's not a great solution, but if you have more time than money, it's a possible alternative.


Not sure I understand the reasoning here. It's bad to take things for free from scihub, so instead, take things for free from this other source which is much slower. The end result is the same, except the latter impedes research and involves a bunch of busy work for somebody.


The central reasoning is that the other, slower source is abiding by the law.


> but if you have more time than money, it's a possible alternative

Most people in academia have neither.


I think this is meant for humor, as an expression of feeling overworked.

That's different than "no time."

If someone truly has no time to wait a week or two for an ILL request (I'll assume the local public library offers it as a free service) they they have no time to read the paper, no time to carry out research, and no time to write up the research.

How then do they plan on taking on a new project when they have no time?


arXiv? I mean, you're looking at preprints, and you might have a higher dross-to-gold ratio, but can't you do your research there, without the moral dilemma?


arXiv is great, but represents a very small fraction of the total published work, is extremely field specific, and old papers are still very relevant. I find myself regularly relying upon citations from as early as the 1910's.

It's not even close to an alternative.


For my PhD thesis I used some papers from the 1800s along with many from the 1900s to 1950s because those were when the foundation papers were published in one area I was working in.


What dilemma?

I don't do research, but from my point of view the issue is pretty much settled, there's no reason to doubt. Current publisher are just plain wrong and don't deserve people to feel bad over them.


There are whole fields, some of them rather important, that essentially don't use arXiv.


has almost zero life sciences content


If you are not affiliated with Hollywood studios, movies cost $10/each to watch... and so on.


"I am poor" is a poor moral justification to pirate software, movies & books. Software, movies and books are written and funded by private individuals, and if you are pirating entertainment its wrong. I'm not the moral police, but "I'm poor" isn't a very good excuse.

The stand I take with Scientific Papers is much different - these papers are backed by institutions which are commonly tax-payer funded or non-profits. As a citizen, you have already paid for the funding of this research and not being able to access that data doesn't seem fair.

It's like if you paid, before hand, to see a movie created, but never allowed to watch it.


>As a citizen, you have already paid for the funding of this research...

If you're really poor, then as a citizen, you probably haven't. This is a spot where wealth inequality, copyright and culture collide interestingly.

If you are poor a movie or book costs a much larger percentage of your disposable income than someone who is rich. As a society we kind of do have to answer the question of whether poverty should exclude people from culture (or science in this case). So it does become a moral justification. I support the moral right of the starving to steal from the well fed, and count it a moral failing of the well fed that there are permitted to be starving while they luxuriate in their wealth.


It's not black and white, IMO. Say I write a screenplay that gets turned into a Hollywood blockbuster that makes 9 figures. I'd reasonably want my fair share of that money.

But what would I care if some 13 yo kid in a developing nation watches it on the internet? They will never be able to pay for this movie. There is nothing to be made from this.

And, you know, entertainment has value. Sure, my script could be fluff, but maybe i have a disabled kid in it, and this brings a lot of internal growth and strength to some.

It's a tradeoff, and it isn't clear what the answers are (again, IMO). Rights of the creator to control the destiny of their creation vs the rights of humanity. In the US we have decided that libraries are legal, for example. I can read and consume movies endlessly and never pay a cent, legally. Also, I can open a used book and CD store, and resell products. That hurts the economics of the publisher and producer, but is a net gain to humanity (IMO). Publishers don't get a dime of the money from my used book store, yet it is legal because we have determined that in this case the rights of the consumer trump the rights of the publisher. A different nation, or different time, might lead to different decisions. Let's not get too 'judgey' over people that fall in a different place on that spectrum.

OTOH, if there is no way to get paid at all, movies in their current will essentially disappear - essentially no one is going to do a Hollywood type production as a hobby. So, conundrum.

Personally, I will never judge somebody that thirsts for information, can't pay for it, and downloads it instead. There is no harm to the producer other than "I want to control my creation". I recognize that desire, but I personally think there are bigger things in play here that trump that.


"I paid, before hand, to have a movie created, but was never allowed to watch it (for free)" isn't actually all that great a moral justification for pirating a movie, either. But in the case of creating a movie, if I paid to make it happen, first the creators would probably invite me to the first screening, and second, even if they didn't, I could afford to buy a ticket.

Scientific research, on the other hand, is paid for, not by "me", but by "us" - by the pooled tax money of millions of people. I, as an individual, do not have the money to "buy a ticket" to all the research that we, as a group, have paid for.

What really needs to happen is that we, the taxpayers, put pressure on the government to insist that all government-supported research publish the results for free online somewhere.


>taxpayers should insist that government research publish results for free

Publishing in open journals costs significantly more (on the magnitude of thousands per paper) so this plan would likely require significant amounts of additional funding.


That is a significant and incredibly poorly defended assertion that you're making there, sir.

Given that there are dozens if not hundreds (possibly thousands) of open journals, many of which are heavily digitally based, well tied with distributed storage, and willing to work with any significant publication – the claim that "this plan would likely require significant amounts of additional funding" doesn't even pass the first smell test.

You don't just get to assert things without support. That's not only not good science, it's terrible argumentation.


Here's how you do a proper smell test - http://bfy.tw/4SY1

It's pretty obvious that there is a revenue stream that disappears when choosing open access over a paid viewing model.. To cover that - when an author publishes a paper and wants to use the open access model, they pay the journal. The costs come from administering peer review.

The true cost of publication is unknown - "Diane Sullenberger, executive editor for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, says that the journal would need to charge about $3,700 per paper to cover costs if it went open-access. But Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, estimates his journal's internal costs at £20,000–30,000 ($30,000–40,000) per paper. Many publishers say they cannot estimate what their per-paper costs are because article publishing is entangled with other activities" - also from [0].

[0] - http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-scie...

side note: I fully support open access, but using current publication system and open access would either push some costs on the scientists writing the papers which would be covered by taxpayers in the case of gov-funded research.


Another problem with open access journals is that they generally have lower impact factors. The impact factors of the journals you publish in play a big role in tenure and promotion decisions for professors.


Pirating a movie will probably not save someone's life, however access to knowledge by the right scientist can do that.

Do not conflate that with the more general piracy issue. The way these journals work is basically coercion: scientists are kept in a loop where they have to publish in the traditional journals because that's what gets the funding, and the funding sources use the same system because they (haven't bothered to create another|are afraid to|are lazy). To top it all, university libraries are forced to pay exorbitant annual fees to access the articles that their own staff wrote, corrected and reviewed for free (they even do the pictures for them). And all this is running on taxpayer money, yet the journals don't report to anyone. It's a mad system if you think about it.


So, any knowledge that could save a life should be freely available? I like the idea, but I think the situation is not that simple.

Although you make a good point that piracy of one thing may be dissimilar to piracy of another thing, both acts are still considered piracy. That is why I asked a question about generic piracy.


> So, any knowledge that could save a life should be freely available?

its not free. taxpayers have paid for it (and are not getting it for aforementioned reasons)


It may be worth delineating "how much" taxpayers have paid for it. For example, many H-wood productions leverage huge tax benefits in their budgets, to the extent of pitting states against each other for better discounts or outright 'grants'.

So arguably to some measure, taxpayers pay for H-wood productions too... (or for that matter, the products of any corporation which leverages tax giveaways, trade tariffs, or any other government - provided handout). Government $ is taxpayer $.


Some papers were written by self-employed people or by corporate employees. Is it okay for these papers to be restricted?


Did elsevier/springer pay for the research? if no then the answer is no they shouldn't be restricted.


Why not?

If I fund my own research, and ask Springer to publish it for me, then why are we forced to make it unrestricted?

Does this rule only apply to journal articles, or does it also apply to books on a research topic?


Then give me your credit card information, because I have no health insurance and it has been 5 years since my last checkup.

Edit: The parent's reply was "yes" when I replied.

Edit2: I am unsure which "free" you are referring to. Maybe all knowledge should be "libre", but I hesitate to say all knowledge should be "gratis".


Poor is not a 'moral justification' for anything. I believe in open access, but I heed the if 'I can justify a lie, I can justify murder', the proverbial 'slippery slope' of ethics. I grew up poor, and I did not use it as a justification to breech any of my moral principles. While I agree the exorbitant pricing, and pay walling do not benefit the world, do not develop newer business models as technology progresses, I also recognize that even running a server out of my closet costs money - the server, electricity, etc... I always wonder how the information for free model works? Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity; it's not just a few bits on an energy-free system. Who ultimately hosts OA materials, and pays the ongoing costs, donations?


> Poor is not a 'moral justification' for anything.

I believe it actually is, morally speaking, but it's just not a very good one in this example.


The article addresses this quite well...

"In the face of multinational, highly profitable corporations citing mere copyright when human rights (“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”) are at stake, civil disobedience of the kind Sci-Hub is a great example of, becomes a societal imperative."


The article addresses a certain (popular) perspective, not the only perspective.

I agree, papers should be cheaper, but should they be universally free via sci-hub... I dunno.


If tax payers fund its construction, it's a bit ludicrous to suggest that they should be unable to reap any benefit from it, especially when the purpose of much research is for the public good.


So, only the citizens who fund the research should have access? That, just like the current high-prices, excludes poor countries/people from access.


It doesn't necessarily imply that.

Suppose something is funded by US taxes. It could be harder to restrict access to only citizens than to make it available to the world. For example, should a US citizen who is overseas (eg, on a 6 month sabbatical) be able to access the system?

Or it could be that only downloads from the geographic US are allowed, but further distribution is not prohibited.

Consider an existing journal article written by a US government employees. That work is in the public domain. It is not possible to infringe on the copyright ("pirate") the paper because there is no copyright protection, and in the US there is no "sweat-of-the-brow" protection for non-creative additions like OCR'ed text added to the PDF.

I think it would be an excellent test case to take all of the papers from sci-hub, extract those where the author is a government employee, and have a "public domain sci-hub" version containing only public domain articles.

The lawyer bill would be rather high, so I'm not going to do it. You would likely also have to show that you were actively filtering out papers which weren't in the public domain, and of course reply to DMCA. I can't figure out a business model which would support that. Still, I think YouTube and similar sites show that such a site is not fundamentally illegal.


The issues surrounding scientific publication are much more nuanced than that.

Did you read the article?


I did, but with so few comments I thought I would pose a question directly related to piracy, rather than the precise topic in the article.


Torrenting movie is piracy, this is making something accessible to the public that has been paid for by said public to begin with.

Publishers are the ones doing the stealing (yes stealing not piracy, because piracy at least leaves the original accessible).


For stuff like games and shows I generally pay, but these scientific articles are not like entertainment media. I would argue that it is the journals who are the pirates, and not the people downloading the articles. The scientists who do the research do not get paid for these articles. The peer reviewers also do not get paid, they work for free. The journals are 100% rent seeking. Much of this research was paid for by taxes too, which makes it even more insidious.


Fundamentally, I take an economic perspective: the supply of any piece information is now effectively unbounded, so the price trend sharply to zero. That it hasn't is due to artificial market manipulations, which don't concern me.


There's no reason to assume a priori that an act is immoral. The primary criterion for an act to be immoral tends to be that it makes someone else's life worse.

There is no direct effect of piracy on the author of a work. There is no physical carrier particle for piracy, and no sense organ for "being pirated"; pain receptors do not immediately fire. The indirect effects may include decreased numbers of purchases of copies of that work, unauthorized derivative works being created, people experiencing the work that would not have been able to otherwise, and so on. It is not obvious to me that the net sum of these is negative (or positive, for that matter), so the question becomes: why do I think it's permissible to expose the author of a work to these indirect effects?

We need a moral understanding of the world to answer this question. Traditionally we start with notions like property and autonomy: you can't take someone's stuff, and you can't force someone to do something, or manipulate their body without their consent. However, a piece of data is not property; it's an idea. This is evident when we look at simple data, such as the numbers 0, 1, or 2. They're mathematical concepts. Then we can look at bigger numbers, such as the AACS key, 13,256,278,887,989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640. Any cutoff at which we might decide numbers stop being ideas and start being something else (such as property) would be utterly arbitrary, and the goal of our morality is to be just, not arbitrary. Thus, if we want to make it impermissible to pirate files, we have to make it permissibile to censor ideas. Western society generally has come to consensus that censorship is impermissible except, some hold, in cases involving deep physical or emotional harm or suffering, such as child abuse. It seems clear that the indirect effects of piracy do not fall into this category, so these objectors need not be concerned. The real worst-case indirect effect is destitution (starving on the street), and Western morality does not compel one to prevent destitution. You can even look at the notion of "competition" in the market as encouraging one to indirectly work toward the destitution of our competitors, and view piracy as a competitor in the market for copies of the work. Even for those who truly consider it unacceptable to let someone go destitute (who might also argue the immorality of capitalism), it's possible to engage in piracy while working to prevent eventual destitution of creators through other means.

Traditionally in these arguments one then moves the goalposts from moral permissibility to desirability, saying that "although we consider it technically OK to pirate, mustn't we agree that it's not the optimal behavior?".

For one thing, you've already "lost the argument" by moving the goalposts. But if we look at this as an attempt to, rather than pick a winner for an Internet fight, come to a more comprehensive understanding of the world, it is clear why this question immediately comes to mind. People are worried that we'll starve our artists and musicians and authors and programmers, or have to subsist on what little art, literature, and software we can skim off of independently wealthy authors, crowdfunding, and preorders. They see the creative output of the current world and worry we're going to change circumstances in such a way that makes that level and quality of output impossible.

My answer to this concern is that there's a huge amount of creative work being done right now that is illegal, and operates via happily evading enforcement. Even the portion of this that is legal, protected by "fair use" clauses or licensing agreements not converted into machine-readable form, is often deleted by automated systems which cannot process intent; this happens widely on YouTube. There's another large category of creative work that is simply not done out of fear of breaking copyright laws. This is every TV show that ever failed to win licensing rights, and a bajillion pieces of unwritten software; this is unreleased albums rotting in archives because samples couldn't be cleared to release them. It is not justifiable to short these authors and works, who are being censored now, for the sake of those who wield copyright and censorship as silencing weapons. I do not have the hard numbers (and honestly this is not a numerical question) to say the world would be more musical, literarily richer, or have better software without copyright. If this is a question that can be objectively answered, I can't exclude that its answer may be negative. But I do have an argument that says the only ethical option is for us to move toward inhabiting that world.


When the resource being abused by sci-hub (a university's ezproxy server, via a hacked or shared user account) is shut down by publisher locking out a whole university because an account downloaded 10000 papers over a week-end, there is a real loss. It is not a theoretical moral quandary.

Obviously, the loss is kind of abstract for the publisher but it isn't for the small college that spends half or more of its annual acquisition budget on journal subscriptions and is then locked out of what it spent tens or hundreds of thousands on (depending strictly on which publisher locked them out until they can demonstrate that abuse as been shut down.)

Sure, if you're Hardvard or Stanford library, you can play hardball with the publisher and get your access restored immediately but if you're a small institution, someone's week in the library just got ruined to satisfy the platform owner that abuse has been shut down... For now. It really hurts the small institutions who can least afford it.


Why ruined? Can't they just use sci-hub to do their research? ;)


That doesn't help the poor librarian that will now spend 3 days going back and forth with the platform while the front desk has to explain to the various users why they cannot get their articles from Journals for which the library already has a subscription.


When I did it on a regular basis? "I want it, and I know how to get it without negative consequences.". It's no moral justification, but neither is "I'm poor".


I agree, but I think "I'm poor" is better than "I want". Neither completely justifies.


"I'm poor" is only better if you intend to go back and pay for it when you can afford to.


That is illogical.

Your comparison implies that the "rich" pirate eventually pays.


Morally, societies are much better when they are equal.


Here's some:

1. Paying for information is immoral. You don't want to make withholding information from you profitable for people. You don't want to encourage this kind of behavior.

2. When I wan't to play a game or watch a movie I want to do just that. I don't want to play "decide if the thing's worth the price". It's tiresome and unnecessary.

3. In most cases I wouldn't want to consume the information I'm pirating if my information environment haven't been polluted by advertisement to make me want the thing. You pushed some information on me that I haven't sought without paying me for the use of my brain so I won't pay you for the information you are trying to sell.

4. Some software is priced at levels directed at corporations. Entities whose income levels vastly exceed their sanity. I'm individual. I can't afford that even if I'm rich for an individual. I still want to check out your software and maybe even use 5% of it's capabilities. I won't restrict myself just because you haven't thought how to satisfy me, neither I'll require that you think about me.

5. I'm a student. You'll get your money from the corporations that will hire me after I learn your software. Isn't that why you push your software in my school?

6. No. I won't play "pick the correct version/licence" so I can get the software as individual, student, scientist, whomever... I won't fill registration form. I'll just pirate the full version. It's easier and I don't want to stumble at artificial barriers.

7. Sharing is caring. I won't withhold the information I have from my friends especially if it effortless to share. I'll happily use information shared by my friends.

8. Business is trying to manufacture morality around copyright. "you wouldn't steal a bear.." and such. Listerine made you think your breath stinks. Flushable wipes people told you flushable wipes are necessary for you and flushable... Enough is enough. They can't be allowed to tamper with definition of theft.

9. Copyright makes lawyers flock to software. Lawyers tax everything they flock to. You should do anything you can to make lawyers move somewhere else or better yet stop being lawyers.

10. Copyright makes creativity very hard. You can't remix things without thinking "Do I have right to do that?" Not many people object to giving credit where credit is due. Many are prevented from acting by unknown, potentially exorbitant price they could pay for creating something that uses thing they took from internet. This kind of poisons creativity for a lot of people.

... I guess I'm out.

Any other creative moral justifications?

Or what are the moral justifications of not pirating software (beyond the obvious, creatives should be rewarded for they creation, and bit more sketchy, investors should get return on their investment)?


Who's not poor here? I have many material goods and earn a lot of money, but I have thousands of debt. I am poor by a lot of criteria. You're not, because you have everything you want by stealing it, you self-declared pirate.


I was assuming that "poor" was defined as approximately equal to or below the USA's poverty line. https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/federal-poverty-level-FP...

What criteria do you default to when defining the "poor" class?


You assume too much.

Remember that you assume that being poor allows you to break any moral principle.


I surely assume too much.

Your assumption that I am morally unimpeded because I am poor is wrong though. By assuming too much about me I am glad to see that you understand irony.


This whole story and the narrative of "civil activist Alexandra Elbakyan" sickens me to no end.

In reality, Alexandra is an avid supporter of Putin's regime and a borderline fascist (in the original sense of cooperative state). Last year, when Dynasty non-profit fund (which sponsored thousands of Russian researchers, mostly in natural sciences) got expelled from Russia because of political reasons, she welcomed it because "they were against Putin". Here is my translation of her words [1][2]:

> [Dynasty] fund is one of the main supporters of "Liberal mission" fund. It supports, develops and advocates "liberal" ideas. In Russian realities it means support of Maidan [Ukrainian revolution], Bolotnaya [location of major protests in Russia in 2012], propaganda against Putin and Russian government.

She hates liberalism and the West in general. To add to the picture, here is what she really thinks about Sci-Hub (context: someone questioned her moral authority) [3][4]:

> We will fight you not only with bans [5], I warn you [6]. … I understand why you are so against Sci-Hub - it's one of the projects that Russia can be proud of and this doesn't fit into your narrative of "everything is bad in Russia". And given that I support the government - it turns into a nightmare for people like you.

So yeah, when I see comparisons like

>Actions of civil disobedience like those of Aaron Swartz and Alexandra Elbakyan

it's very hard not to throw up. No, it isn't "civil disobedience"; she is a complete, utter opposite to civil activists like Aaron Swartz. Sci-Hub is born out of indifference to intellectual property, total invulnerability to lawsuits (Alexandra lives in Russia and Kazakhstan, which aren't aren't very fond of cooperating with US institutions) and poverty of Russian scientists. Yet she manages to see it as a "thing Russia can be proud of".

It is very sad that media picks up the accustomed narrative of activist underdog and completely misses the context of her true views. Doing this, journalists both distort reality and miss a very interesting and provocative story of a statist (and probably somewhat mad) woman which found herself in a right position in a right time to get Western media attention.

[1]: http://vk.com/wall-36928352_2614

[2]: «Так, например, фонд Зимина являлся одним из основных спонсоров фонда «Либеральная миссия». Этот фонд поддерживает, развивает и пропагандирует «либеральную» идею. В Российских реалиях это означает поддержку Майдана, Болотной, пропаганду против Путина и Российской власти.»

[3]: https://vk.com/wall1396880_8792?reply=8796

[4]: «Если потребуется — и не только с помощью банов с вами воевать будем, имейте это ввиду. … Я понимаю, почему вы так против Sci-Hub — ведь это один из проектов, которым может гордиться Россия, и это очень не вписывается в вашу пропаганду о том, как всё в России плохо. А на фоне того, что создатель проекта поддерживает государство — это вообще оборачивается кошмаром для таких, как вы.»

[5]: She bans everyone who even remotely don't support her views in VKontakte Sci-Hub group.

[6]: Yep, it seems like a physical threat in the context. Sorry if I wasn't able to convey it in the translation.

EDIT: formatting, typos


So maybe this shows that people don't fit neatly into categories like "good" and "bad", they can do both, and shades of grey in-between.


Or maybe this shows that bad people sometimes do good things out of serendipity; sometimes they even get credit and manage to hide their evilness. It doesn't make them in any way similar to Aaron Swartz, though.


"evil" people are pretty rare, most people believe they're doing the good thing. Sometimes they're correct.


Can anyone explain why it is not possible to publish your work as a PDF or to a free/open platform at the same time you submit it to the journal? It this somehow prevented legally in the terms of the journals?


Yes, it is prevented legally. When a journal agrees to publish your work they require you to sign over copyright to them.

The terms may vary on the transfer of copyright, but in general you are not authorized to self-host a free version of your article. You can sometimes pay the journal a significant amount of money to make it open access to the public.

Some authors, myself included, ignore the agreement and still host free copies.


I'd also be interested in this answer. What I have done is email researchers directly asking for a PDF and they have been happy to give me one. Often some of the authors have their own site where they add links to their own papers.

Now, is this because these authors are exercising their own right to distribute their work, and many other authors don't want to expend that effort? The copyrights don't change after all, so collating these and redistributing could also be the same as sci hub.


It all depends on the terms of the copyright transfer, which is based on the historic relationship between author and publisher.

It used to be that when you published a paper and transferred copyright, you received a number of copies of the publication for yourself. You could send these out to others who wanted a copy. This was especially important before xerography machines were common, as it was difficult to make your own copies.

Even in the 1990s, an academic researcher might get a postcard asking for a reprint to be sent in the mail.

So research publishing has long had a tradition where the author has a limited right to redistribute copies directly. (To be certain, the publisher made the reprints so this wasn't part of copyright but rather a codified expectation of the author/publisher relationship.)

This tradition was carried over into electronic publication Why? Consider the 1990s and early 2000s when the transition to electronic journals took place, and imagine the authors up in arms for having that distribution ability taken away.

This is why you can get a copy from the author. It's sometimes also formally specified that author may also distribute a copy on a personal or research web page. Sometimes this permission is for the author's final draft version, and not the proof copy used for the publication.

But there wasn't a tradition of sending the paper to a tertiary reprint service.


Does anybody know how to find the corresponding torrents for the papers that sci-hub has fetched? Is there some sort of prefix I can punch into torrentz.eu?


There's some torrent files right here[1]. They're nearing the 50mil landmark, as hou can see.

[1]: http://libgen.io/scimag/repository_torrent_notforall/


Brilliant, thanks!

(Feel free to post other sources if you know of them ;) )


i think scihub uses various proxies in multiple universities to fetch the articles.


I think the question was whether we can easily mass-download the papers from Scihub.


They also back up every paper on bittorrent! :)


Scientists do research paid for by institutions, universities, large charities and other scientific institutions. They write research papers and they have it published and those same institutions pay to get that information back. I can't think of any other area where such a crappy business model prevails.

The scientific community should reclaim their intellectual capital.


as i understand it the argument for pay walling is the costs of peer review?

so how about a service where you publish the paper, but pay for the peer review that grants your paper an accreditation of significance or legitimacy

this current system of peer review to enter our journal to determine legitimacy is prone to too many errors: corporate buy outs, poor standards, peer review is only done once prepublication; and needs a revisit

i'd love an arxiv`like to have for hire peer reviewers with associated reputation, question the significance of a paper that is peer reviewed? Hire your favourite reviewer to take a second look

that said, i think all papers should be open for reading regardless of peer review, the indicator of research should be on review stead access


Peer review is done for free by the reviewers.


my understanding is: unpaid work is the model but the current appointment of that model makes liberal use of the term honorarium(o)

(o) https://www.google.com/search?q=honorarium


A simple fair circumvent: Any freely published article should not be allowed to be cited by a non-free one.

This puts the power into the hands of the author, who could decide if they want this as part of the open license. Rather than the current robinhood type system.

Does this already exist, anyone seen anything similar?

(edited, typo)


This is as absurd as prohibiting hyperlinks because the site being pointed to might have copyright violations

Not to mention completely non-enforceable. You're forbidding people to say "David et al. [3] did a work in this area"


Ok, that makes sense. But is it an absurd proposition to say that people who release non-open articles should not be allowed to directly build on the work of those who did it for free?

So how about if part of the agreement of accessing an open article was that any published work citing it would have to be open too. is that absurd in principle? and is it really non-enforceable?

An offshoot of this would be that anyone who goes on to cite something in a non-open article, could academically be accused of not reading the article their citing, and therefor mis-attributing information. This could lessen there creditability or even be grounds for a specific type of plagiarism.


There's no law which would allow somebody to enforce such a thing. Citing somebody's work doesn't have a copyright effect.


Couldn't it form part of the access agreement to the free article?




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