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Sci-Hub is fundraising (sci-hub.do)
518 points by NmAmDa 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 122 comments

I used to donate to a lot of "tech/free/open-source" related and free speech non-profits to the amount of about $5,000 per year but this past year I ended up paring down my choices and only donating to Archive.org, Archive.is, FSF and Sci-Hub. I still feel like Sci-Hub is the least robust of the orgs and I feel like they need most of the help. I also use it at least once a day.

My only child, a 5 year old girl, has a fairly rare degenerative disease and I've been reading the latest research on it and have been using this knowledge to inform her physician about possible treatments. She ended up in a promising drug study because I kept on top of this field and ended up talking to researchers about it. In a large part, this is thanks to Sci-Hub.

Nothing in this world is free. If you depend on some "free" or non-profit service that you use often, consider donating to them. You'd be amazed how far even $10 goes when put in good hands.

> Nothing in this world is free.

Apparently academic peer review is. I've been told they can't be paid for that work because of conflict of interest concerns.

The whole point of journals is peer review. That's what distinguishes them from random blog posts. So why can't reviewers just start working independently? Just boycott these copyright monopolists and it will be the end of them. There's really no reason for these paid journals to even exist anymore.

You mean you want journals to exist only for peer review, but that's not their actual function today. They actually exist today to prop up an academic research industry driven by cash and reputation. If they disappeared tomorrow, there would be a breakdown in institutional funding, there would be chaos in editing, publishing, discovering and vetting information, and it would actually be harder to access information.

Sci-Hub distributes information that paid journals have already done the work to curate. Once paid journals go away, Sci-Hub will end up like GitHub: a million random repositories maintained by random people with no index. Only there's a whole host of new problems that scientific research needs to solve that is more complicated than some poorly written lines of code. The stakes are different; the errors lead to worse outcomes, rigor is much more important, and finding relevant information in the vast array of available research is much more important.

I'm not saying publishing today is great. It very much isn't. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't a better solution. It's like saying, this government is corrupt, let's throw out the government! Look how well that works for countries that don't have a new government prepared to replace the old one.

> They actually exist today to prop up an academic research industry driven by cash and reputation.

Just yet another problem with academia that needs to be solved. This system leads to all sorts of academic dishonesty such as reviewing rings. It's at least partially responsible for the sheer number of bad papers being published today. Disrupting it is a good thing.

> If they disappeared tomorrow, there would be a breakdown in institutional funding, there would be chaos in editing, publishing, discovering and vetting information, and it would actually be harder to access information.

It's okay. Just let the whole thing break down. Eventually it'll sort itself out.

> Sci-Hub distributes information that paid journals have already done the work to curate.

This curation is just gatekeeping done by peer reviewers. All they need to do is set up a blog and start gatekeeping it. Good papers get posted there, bad papers don't.

I really don't see why it has to be any more complicated than that.

> But throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't a better solution.

It's certainly better than sitting around waiting for a multi-billion dollar industry of copyright monopolists to get even richer and powerful.

> It's okay. Just let the whole thing break down. Eventually it'll sort itself out.

This seems like one of the worst ideas ever

Can't be worse than allowing this archaic copyright industry to go on.

It could be much worse. Much much much much much much worse.

Some things are incredibly complicated and messy. And not just with the current publishing issues–even getting them to the imperfect stages they reside in now was game changing on an absolutely massive worldwide scale.

With some things, expecting perfection is not only ridiculous, but it leads to thinking such as “it can’t get worse…” and that’s the point at which the _thing_ says “oh yeah? can’t get worse? hold my beer.”

In my experience, when discussing things which are this complicated, on this level, anyone who doesn’t already know a dozen ways things can actually get much worse I immediately recommend they take some time to understand the actual subject better, because this means they have little actual understanding of the topic. I’m not saying this to shame you, I promise, I’m really really not. But if this is something you’re passionate about, then you owe it to yourself to have a better grasp on what the terrifying outcomes look like.

Does any of the above mean things can’t be improved? Of Course Not. There are serious problems with many things, but serious problems means it can have very serious outcomes. We should always look for ways to improve. But only with an accurate understanding.

And to be very clear, there are very serious problems in the academic publishing world, no question.

“It’s too complicated to fix it” is a near cousin of “it’s too complicated for you to understand”, sometimes this assertions are true, but some other times are just driven by the person fear of change. In a chess move, when it has not a very obvious outcome, the ramifications are so numerous that only the keen eye of an expert with thousands of games on their back can predict how it is going to affect the game and ending. In fixing the academia publishing industry there currently exists 0 experts that can predict that so any random guy’s guess is as good as anyones

I’m not sure where or how you inferred something akin to “No one should do anything.” from my comment, but it is absolutely not what I said and absolutely not what I implied.

As botverse pointed out, you offer numerous apologies for the current state of affairs while issuing dire and vague warnings against modifying it.

The approach taken by the machine learning community succeeded and incurred absolutely none of sky-is-falling shyte you moan about.

I think your reading of what I posted is both pulling things out of the context of what I actually said and a bad faith reading. Please dont pull things out of context when you’re trying to have a discussion, when you do this, it implies you’re not getting full comprehension of what was actually said. It’s not a herculean task to keep all points from a couple paragraphs in context. It’s not difficult.

I make it very clear that academic publishing has issues. I state it plain as day, I even literally finish my comment with “And to be very clear…:

> And to be very clear, there are very serious problems in the academic publishing world, no question.

However, changing something without even an understanding of what could go wrong is a very serious mistake. As I said in my comment, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to change and improve things. But if one can’t even imagine what could go wrong, than this person either hasn’t though much about it, or they clearly do not understand the subject very well.

If something needs to be fixed, don’t fall into amature hour. Take the time to actually understand the subject first. Then start fixing.

Now don’t pull bits and pieces of what I said and separate them, please. It’s only a couple paragraphs, It’s not difficult to hold onto the entire context of a couple of small comment paragraphs.

>In fixing the academia publishing industry there currently exists 0 experts that can predict that so any random guy’s guess is as good as anyones

I'm not sure how you can look at political discourse in the United States today and say "yep, let's just blow up academic gatekeepers". Just one anti-vaccine paper from almost 30 years ago (that wasn't even accepted into any publications) and fueled an entire generation of luddites.

The value of academic journals today is trust and the internet has not solved that. Pretend if GP had been searching Google, rather than SciHub. There are millions in the US who have used Google to deduce that placing rocks around your house can cure your migraines all because an enterprising individual had gamed SEO.

"It’s too complicated to fix it" is not what the parent poster was implying. If you take a second to breakdown the actual value that journals provide then one clear way it can become much worse is a model similar to the open web where anyone can publish anything with very loose standards for reproducibility or rigor.

> Just one anti-vaccine paper from almost 30 years ago (that wasn't even accepted into any publications) and fueled an entire generation of luddites.

Ok, so you admit that the journals aren’t even able to accomplish what they purport to. So if this is already a problem, yet good research is inaccessible, what again is the point of the paywalled journals?

No? The journals did their job - the paper wasn't published. The broader internet (and largely a single celebrity) then became vector for a con-man to amplify his misinformation for profit.

I'm using that as an example of something that could become commonplace if you blow up the journal system. Then every paper becomes "I feel this is right because blog-A which aligns to my beliefs says so". Institutional legitimacy is not something that is built overnight.

Sticking with a blatant bad system due to fear of uncertain and analysis paralysis. Let us not leave our caves because the light can burn us!

There's nothing wrong with staying with the status quo if the only alternative proposed is to burn it all down because it'll figure itself out.

I didn’t say or imply any of that. I’m beginning to question if any of you responding even read my comment.

So if Journals don't pay the reviewers and the reviewers are what filters out the garbage, then what necessary function are the journals filling? Do they vet the reviewers? Index the studies?

I've never had much trouble finding what I need on GitHub or scihub. Seems to be indexed pretty well.

And if there is a conflict of interest for reviewers to be paid, then isn't their a conflict of interest for those selecting and vetting the reviewers?

A couple things:

1) They do indeed vet reviewers, both their reviewers and also who ends up on their editorial boards, which for most people on them is just "Yeah, you're going to get more review requests." Editors should - but often don't - also evaluate the quality of the reviews themselves.

2) Some journals do copyediting and layout. Several times this has markedly improved the paper, including one that remade a figure.

3)They also handle some backend stuff. For example, for most medical journals, you just have to check a box saying "This was funded by the NIH" and they'll handle putting it in the appropriate repositories, etc.

Actually, an editor once told me that a lot of papers (50%) are rejected without consulting reviewers. So the garbage is already filtered by the journals. Reviewers can often disagree with each other as well, so a judgement call is needed in those cases.

I agree with your point that payment does not necessarily mean conflict of interest.

The baby is dead. It's time to bury it and mourn its passing.

There are better tools and technology to "curate" science - the only reason for these journals is rent extraction and gatekeeping.

You're right that journals have many important functions beyond peer review, but you're wrong that this has anything to do with their closed-access paid nature. Fields such as computational linguistics have a healthy ecosystem of journals and conference proceedings, all free and open access.

What ways are better?

> Once paid journals go away, Sci-Hub will end up like GitHub

more like we get arxiv.org?

Preprints and blogs should be the default. Instead of peer review, which sometimes (often?) turns into gatekeeping or dismissing new ideas, we’ll judge research on reproducibility. The github model for science sounds better than what we have now. Journals to curate research is pre-internet tech, it’s outdated.

> But throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't a better solution.

It is not a baby, it's a teratoma eating scientific world and society from inside, the time to cut it out is now!

> The whole point of journals is peer review. That's what distinguishes them from random blog posts. So why can't reviewers just start working independently?

It's happening slowly in some fields. Well, not quite independently, but in loose professional associations. It requires pretty coordinated action and still has a chance of failing though. One early successful case is that almost the entire editorial board of the Springer journal Machine Learning resigned in 2001, and threw their weight behind a community-run, non-profit, open-access alternative, the Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR), which is now considered by most people to be at least as prestigious as the Springer journal.

Open letter with their rationale from the time: http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/jmlr/statement.html

Yup. They shouldn't exist. It's an outrage that they do.

They don't pay the reviewers. They charge the authors (who pay the ransom typically from taxpayer funded research grants), and they charge the readers, who are either the public or said academics again.

But the reason they do exist is that they have the monopoly on issuing the only acceptable currency that dictates the life and career of academics: publishing their work in "high impact" publications.

Not all journals charge the authors. Indeed, one of my annoyances is that the open access movement has moved the burden of paying for journals from institutions to individual PIs, which hurts new PIs worse.

Because reviewing is difficult, time consuming and, if you want anonimity of the reviewer, needs a third party to select the reviewer and coordinate the operation. I am not sure if most people are aware but peer reviewing is not paid. The journals that charge for access to the papers only do coordination and publishing (which is vanishngly cheap these days). All the work is done by the authors and the reviewers and they get nil from that pile of money.

Peer review worked (mostly) when most researchers had tenure in an university or research institution and volume was low. They were able to manage their time and allocate the necessary to that function. The situation now is that journals spray and pray review requests' emails to anyone who has ever published a paper regardless of their position or even if their work is related. This is a consequence of the volume and the mess that research positions are where the focus is on grants, money and power with science a distant fourth.

> anonymity of the reviewer

I review my colleague's code every week. Yet it seems they are not out to get me and actually thank me for the feedback.

Why doesn't the same apply to scientific research? Why do reviewers want to be anonymous?

Different incentives, I assume? Otherwise, it would be easier to form insular groups promoting questionable science, especially in the softer sciences. Tit-for-tat reviewing, promotion through citations, etc. While programmers (in companies with well-run engineering environments) are incentivized and rewarded for reviewing code, a group of them can't just form a cabal that mindlessly "approves" of each other's shitcode for long without someone finding out none of it actually works. The same is not true of a lot of science. See; 5-HTTLPR [0]

Just a guess; I'm not plugged into the environment.

[0]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/05/07/5-httlpr-a-pointed-rev... is a good run-down of the controversy. TL;DR, a seratonin transporter gene was suspected to be involved in basically every mental issue and hundreds of papers were published in agreement. All of them are basically bullshit.

Not exactly. A good journal needs a good editor. The role that the editors play (while putting their reputation on the line) is really poorly understood and under-appreciated by most within and outside academia.

Can you elaborate on this role and why it's important for some research on a rare degenerative illness to be known by people who are suffering said disease? (Genuine question, I don't know editor's role in academia at all)

Editors basically make sure that the good research get published and the bad ones are thrown out. They invite submissions, do basic QA, find potential reviewers and send the submissions out for review, make final accept/reject or revision decision. Only after that the publishers do the actual work, e.g. copy-editing, proofing, printing and distribution of the research.

Top journals usually have distinguished professors from reputed institutions in the editorial panel. That's why we can rely (somewhat) on peer-reviewed articles in those journals instead of random blog posts or arXiv submissions.

> why it's important for some research on a rare degenerative illness to be known by people who are suffering said disease?

Well I can only imagine the pain and suffering such person and their loved ones would go through, but I guess it will give them some glimmer of hope and respite. Most people lack the expertise to understand and follow cutting edge research, so someone in a position to understand the research and simultaneously benefit from it personally should have access to the said research by all means.

A good editor can make or break a journal. Some of the ones who are the best at what they do are amazing.

Many (most?) academic journals don't do a significant amount of editing. They leave that to the author and reviewers.

Article selection itself is editing, as is setting up the processes for review and acceptance.

That said, I think academic publishing is a criminal industry and Alexandra Elbakyan a modern day superhero.

Fully agree. We were having a heated discussion last night about this in my grad student circle. In the end we felt pressure must be put on the big players in the industry, such as Elsevier, to move away from the profit maximization model. It will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice from many in the academia to do so, not just because Elsevier is so big and influential, but also the fact that the stakeholders like the researchers- professors, post-docs and grad students are such a diverse community with very wide range of purpose and motivations. One avenue could be through the authorities in Netherlands and EU where they are based. The other solution would be to remove some anonymity from the peer review process- make the reviewer comments public at the least, to somewhat improve the quality of science that is being generated these days.

If you focus solely on the publishers, your impact will be minimal; they can ignore you. But publishers get all their money from institutions. So you could focus your energy on forcing institutions to stop using the publishers. But you will find that institutions don't want the model to change. They want to pay less money for publishing, but they don't actually want to lose the paid journals, because their whole research funding model would collapse, as it's built entirely around the reputation of the journal. Either institutions have to completely re-invent how they fund and organize research, or someone has to get paid to do the actual work of maintaining journals.

The publishers' profit margins are one thing; anyone could start a competing publisher tomorrow and take a fraction of the profit. But people are not asking for reduced profit, they're asking for abolishment of paid publishing, which is like saying, let's abolish the entire system of scientific research.


Journals are gatekeepers to funding, prestige, academic disciplines, careers, advancement, etc., etc.

I know editors of journals and they all get paid. However it is recognized that it is low and not expected to seriously complement their income. Think in the order of $2-5K p.a. All of whom I know have permanent university roles.

It is considered prestigious for the editor/reviewer in the sense of service to their intellectual community, and to their resume; and their university to have their brand in positions of influence. Most tend to leave after only a few years and this is considered normal. The role of reviewer/editor is not significant enough to earn promotions - this must come from their research & teaching.

They are required to declare any conflicts of interest for any papers under their review and they are simply passed to another editor. While the person who reviews your paper is usually unknown (through the review software/pool of reviewers) there's really little incentive to cheat on this as there exists sufficient high quality readers who can call out obvious bias/unusually low quality publications for the tier of journal.

The most burdensome class of problem is the mass of papers submitted of insufficient quality for publication in the journal. These are quickly rejected but the volume is so high, and rejected authors often attempt to challenge. Sometimes they are rude. (I can't estimate the size of this from memory, sorry.) The upside is fortunately these don't require deep/secondary review.

>So why can't reviewers just start working independently?

because trust and reputation in institutions is stronger than trust in individuals (which is ephemeral) and fields like scientific research consist of communities who only really can function under high levels of trust.

Journals, just like physical universities exist because they can accumulate that degree of trust and it's why top researchers go to Oxford and not to Khan Academy. It's also why corporations exist and we're not all freelancers on the internet.

Jerry, I am so very sorry to hear about your daughter. My toddler son is affected by a very rare cancer, and while I can't put myself in your shoes, I know that feeling, that it's upon you to go through all the biomedical knowledge to figure it out.

The company I co-founded, Epistemic AI [0], was built to accelerate biomedical research especially in rare diseases and cancers. I would love to connect and give you free access to our platform, and to extend it to any researcher working on your daughter's condition.

Feel free to shoot me an email at info at epistemic.ai should you find that useful.

In the meantime, best of luck to you and your family.

[0] https://www.epistemic.ai

Hi Jerry -- thank you for sharing your story, and for your note about donating to those organizations; they are all doing incredibly important work.

I know it isn't fun being advertised to, but I really believe that what we're building at scite.ai will be directly useful for you in staying on top of the research in that field.

I wasn't sure how best to reach you, but if you drop me a note at the email in my profile, I would be happy to give you access to our platform (and run through how you can use it to stay up to date).


Have you had any troubles donating to scihub ? (From bank refusing wiring to warnings from officials)

Best of luck with your child.

Donate with bitcoin so that your payments can't be interfered with.

a nice use of btc

If there were a legal subscription service with the convenience and breadth of Sci-Hub I’d pay for it. It’s an incredibly useful tool when researching a topic whose articles are published across a multitude of paywalled journals that aren’t accessible on JSTOR (using its 100 free articles).

Through my employer, I have access to practically all papers I need to download. But doing so is much more inconvenient than using sci-hub than I still prefer the latter.

And of course, don't get me started in the usual ramble about us writing papers, typesetting papers, refereeing papers, etc. etc. for free while Elsev** and friends get $bns every year.

You author your papers for free?

In the grand scheme of things, the academia complex is funded by taxpayers to produce academic work. It used to be that journals would at least do good editorial work, help with editing, formatting, and perhaps even graphics. All of this work is now on the author, so the question increasingly becomes, why does a taxpayer not only pay for the lab to produce research, but also the $3,000 to 5,000 or more fee to have something published, depending on the journal. Furthermore, once the research was paid for by the taxpayer, the scientist's time wasted to format the research, and the journal paid for the privilege to publish the paper- these institutions have to pay once again for access to these papers once published. In a way, journals in the 21st century are double or triple dipping on citizens, all so we can share our work.

There’s a book from 1970 by Paul Goodman called New Reformation that I recently started reading that’s all about the issues surrounding government funding of science. It’s pretty interesting. Apparently there were walkouts at institutions like MIT, CalTech etc in the 60s protesting government intrusion into the sciences, but it seems to have had little effect: government funds science to get the research it thinks is important, and as you write, taxpayers pay for it many times over.

> government funds science to get the research it thinks is important

How is this anything special about funding from governments specifically? This is part of "funding", period. Unless you setup an open bank account for free withdrawals from anyone who wants to do some science, no questions asked. Somebody decides what gets funded, unless those doing the research use their own money.

The somebody matters though, what a ridiculous statement. In the UK most funding is protected via funding councils and royal charters so that it's never directly the incumbent government deciding what is and is not researched. There are still things like ministry of defence funding though, especially in areas like engineering. I was always quite uncomfortable when the MoD guy would visit the robotics lab and decide what could and could not be useful for military purpose. In part because he lacked the imagination to realise all of it could.

> what a ridiculous statement

Oh a personal attack, thank you!

I on the other hand find your statement to be the ridiculous one. You fail to add any followable logic (not even an attempt) why someone working for the government makes worse suggestions for research than someone else.

Government sponsored research won WWII and laid the foundation for Silicon Valley (https://youtu.be/ZTC_RxWN_xo). Government sponsored research goes back for far longer and was the basis for much of what we have now, just thinking of all the things e.g. the UK government sponsored to get ahead on the seas (navigation, ship types, etc.).

"It used to be that journals would at least do good editorial work, help with editing, formatting, and perhaps even graphics. All of this work is now on the author"

Not universally.

All academics do. You don't actually get directly paid for publishing journal articles. You get zero cut of the sales. Books are a different story, although most academic books don't actually make a profit.

As an academic, you get paid for teaching and to carry out research grants to support a particular project. The teaching and grants pay for your salary and expenses through the university. You do need to keep publishing at the end if you ever want to get a grant again. But when you publish in a traditional journal article, you have to hand over the copyright to the publisher that owns the brand and trademark to "Nature" or "Science" or "The New England Journal of Medicine" for free. You don't get a cut of the profits, you get the prestige of the privately-owned systems, which matters to your employer and grant funding agencies.

In fact, now you actually have to pay to publish if you want anyone on the internet to be able to read it for free. For Nature, the open access "article processing charge" is $11,390. It has become the norm to now budget in these fees in your research grants, which makes it more difficult for those who don't get big grants to publish.

Yes it is bullshit. That is why so many academics support sci-hub.

You do not, in fact, need to hand over copyright to Nature, NEJM, etc.

They do their best to make it look like you do, but you can go all the way through the approval process without committing. At the end, all they need is license from you to publish.

Never sign over copyright to a journal. It is never necessary, it is never sensible, it is never wise.

You're paid a salary to do experiments and publish, no? I'm not saying the other issues aren't serious problems.

Your original argument doesn't make sense though. The point is that at the time of publication the papers have already been paid for (and yes, this includes the salaries of the researchers/authors). Researchers/authors don't actually need to make any money off of the papers. And even when Elsevier does sell a paper, the author does not receive a royalty [1].

[1] https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/109003/why-are-...

From a business point of view, this seems like a fine, philosophical, argumentative distinction: If we say part of the process of research is preparing the paper, then the researcher is paid for preparing it. (And that seems like a strong argument - unpublished research has little value, like unpublished software.)

If we say the process of research doesn't include preparing the paper, going to the bathroom, going to a conference, watering the plants in the break room, etc. - the researcher is unpaid.

The real question is, should researchers have the resources to delegate such non-specialized work, and the answer is yes. Serious question: Isn't this a good job for noob research assistants? They'll learn about the topic, learn the tools and ways of the industry and lab, and you weed out those who lack commitment, motivation, attention to detail.

In exchange, he get a different piece of paper, possibly framed and maybe a pat on the back for a job well done. Sounds fair to me.

You don't?

Is that a bad thing?

Sci-hub is doing what google once promised: making the world's information accessible to everyone.

To "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" sounds like a great mission to me.

Unfortunately the "universally accessible" part seems to be incompatible with current copyright law, so amazing resources like the Google Library Project are reduced to a glorified card catalog/search index rather than an actual online library.

Unlike Google, Sci-hub has so far managed to evade copyright law, so it can fulfill more of the "universal access" part.

Google's been stymied by copyright.

The Internet Archive and Open Library ... to a much greater degree ... have not. And much of the material there is the result of Google scans.

I still prefer unencumbered sources (LibGen, ZLibrary, Sci-Hub), but at least having the option of access through the Archive is helpful.

Reading books on my own device with local optimsed software remains superior to Archive.org's Bookreader, though the latter is pretty darned good.

I agree, but would add -- five years ago "Google has been stymied by copyright" was most of the story for them, but today "Google is subject to political pressure to exercise editorial control" (to put it charitably) is as important.

Not to diminish the disappointment over Google Books being curtailed (Google actually went to court for it!), or DMCA takedowns on Youtube or Google Search results. But we also have to admit that today Youtube is exercising editorial control to ban opinions they don't like, and that Google Cloud is as quick to drop "the wrong kinds of customers" as the payment processors everyone was complaining about ten years ago.

Maybe "getting ahead of the censors" minimises the damage, maybe it encourages the censors. I don't know. I guess the company is run by smart people who want to make as much money as possible in the long term, so it's likely good for consumers on net. That said, it's a shame we don't see them fighting for those principles today.

> Internet Archive and Open Library ... to a much greater degree ... have not. And much of the material there is the result of Google scans

Are Google scans really in the Open Library? If so, that's very interesting.

The Open Library does seem to be operating under the shadow of copyright law, since it deployed DRM that attempts to eliminate some of the innate properties (unlimited readers, instant free copying and distribution, etc.) of ebooks, presumably to avoid copyright claims - and then got in trouble for reducing those restrictions briefly during a global pandemic.

Google was more aligned to making human communication searchable. Now it’s about assimilating that information and actually making it available (to the chagrin of the content creator)

In my view Google does a lot of analogous "rehostings" -- they just have a lot more lawyers and lobbyists to get away with it. Consider some of the places they tried and failed at this: the Google Images/Getty settlement; the YouTube/RIAA settlement; the fines and shutdowns of Google News snippets in multiple countries. Any one of these failures could plausibly destroy a smaller startup, or even send a person to prison. (I mean, Google News snippets -- isn't that just "deliberate copyright infringement on a massive scale", if you squint?)

They're qualitatively not all that different from SciHub.

> Google News snippets -- isn't that just "deliberate copyright infringement on a massive scale", if you squint

News snippets seem analogous to thumbnails in image search.

I imagine a fair use defense might be affected by 1) how much of the content is used (e.g. small abstracts vs. full articles) 2) whether the use is transformative (e.g. for an internet search index vs. in a virtual newspaper), and 3) whether the use is commercial (e.g. whether it's by Google or archive.org, and whether there are advertisements shown next to the snippets.)

Well, sure! This boundary between what is and isn't legitimate in copyright law is a nebulous, culturally relative thing. That's the point I tried to make, by analogizing Google's legal problems with SciHub's.

I agree that Google News snippet things are exactly what US "fair use" exemptions were written for, and are clearly a net public benefit. Some people don't; French law for instance definitively falls on the "deliberate infringement on a massive scale" side,

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27818667 ("France fines Google €500M over copyright row")

Thesis: mainstream thinking overstates the moral difference between these two -- and understates the morality-distorting effect of money, lawyers, and lobbying.

> Now it’s about assimilating that information and actually making it available (to the chagrin of the content creator)

Academics generally value their work being made accessible.

Paywalls that obstruct human progress are contemptible, and I suspect that most academics at least dislike them.

> Now it’s about assimilating that information and actually making it available (to the chagrin of the content creator)

That's one of the few good things you can say about Google today.

To me, the whole point of contention here is just an artifact of a serious problem with the web as a whole, a problem to which Google contributed thanks to their role in Internet advertising. The problem is: "content creators" have too much control over the form of what they put out there. That Google is taking some of that control, by republishing the data in a different form, is just a different flavor of the issue; whether it's the "content creators" or Google that control the form, it's not the end users.

Right now, the fight is mostly between people peddling ad-infused, SEO-ridden garbage sites and Google rehosting the little real content their have in a half-assed, often wrong or improperly attributed, box on the results page. Both sides have strong, user-hostile reasons to be in this fight. Neither has "making knowledge accessible" in mind.

To truly make knowledge accessible, it needs to be published in a machine-readable format and accessible as if through a database. Just like when building a database-backed system, you don't put React components into your database rows, and you don't render your frontend from stored procedures, accessing the "information superhighway" shouldn't involve navigating countless of web pages that wrap the information you need in tons of garbage (nor it should involve hoping that the magic Google box will pick up the correct bit to show you). You should be able to make queries, get the data without all the formatting fluff, and browse it through whatever client software you want - and then issue further queries.

I mean, note how many successful startups out there exist only because publicly available information is not machine-readable, and all they do is scrapping, mixing, and republishing the data. E.g., in my country, there's a popular tool that tells you how to get from point A to point B using public transportation - but it only exists because the official time tables are published as web pages. It would not need to exist if you could just do an equivalent of arbitrary SQL query on the official data. But you can't, so you have to use that other tool whose vendor did the necessary scrapping work - and you can't get at the data itself in that tool either, because they have to lock it down to justify their existence.

Sorry for the rant. I could go on and on. I might write a long blog post about it eventually. But in this context the point is that both "content creators" and Google know they're not acting in the best interest of the people. They're just fighting over the money printing machine.

Semantic Web and SPARQL were developed to solve this problem of open data. However no one uses it. Outside academic circles of Europe most people have never even heard of these two.

Why didn't it catch on?

There are I reckon two main causes: 1. No one cares. 2. Data has value only when kept behind a paywall. Data is not the new oil as oil is naturally scarce. Data is infinitely copyable.

1. Majority of people are just ignorant. They get their data magically and pay for it with watching ads. The information world starts and ends there for 99% of the populace.

2. The other 1% know very well the value of data, but only when it is kept hidden. If all data were openly available, just a federated SPARQL query away, there would be zero economic sense in founding almost any modern IT company as no profit can be made from data.

There is no way to make non-copyable data. Sure one can encrypt and provide decryption keys for access. And then the receiver has the data and open sources it in semantic web and the seller can't make any more profit from the data. Law and IP rights are the only deterrent here. They don't apply globally. Even locally one needs $$$ to pay lawyers and enforce the IP.

Issue number 1 is solvable with more education of the masses, so that they care. Masses later yield government officials and good stuff happens.

Issue number 2 is much more nuanced. Economic incentives must be placed very carefully so as not to lead to societal collapse. I am not sure what the best way to go is but for starting out we, the people, should pressure the government (see issue 1) so that they enforce that all publicly available data, like the timetables example or all academic work funded by taxpayers, is also available behind a SPARQL endpoint. 99% won't care, some will and have for example Ubuntu Touch timetable app without HTML scrapping.

For other data the question remains if open access is a good idea. I dislike all data mining by Google and Facebook but would the current Silicon Valley and USA wealth be possible if Google/Facebook open sourced their data, even if getting paid money to do so? Would a resell market form even tho it is freely available to anyone knowing SPARQL? What about private data protected by GDPR?

There is also the interesting discussion about technical feasibility of SPARQL endpoints everywhere. Anyone being able to run queries everywhere is a serious security nightmare and potentially waste of compute resources. Among other things.

I would argue that google did a pretty good job of that for information on websites. Sci-hub is specifically focused on academic papers.

I'm a fan of Sci-Hub, but given multiple "clones" and the ever changing DNS names how does one verify this is the legitimate organization? It gives off a legitimate feel as most frauds don't tend to make new things.

The BTC addresses I've seen on HN are different than the one on the page. Does Alexandra have a public key that could be used to provide a sig-validation? P.S. the main sci-hub.do page gives the same BTC as previous commentators list as valid.

The BTC address on the /donate page appears to be semi-random.

This is the address I see on the main page of the .do and .st domains: 12PCbUDS4ho7vgSccmixKTHmq9qL2mdSns

It is most likely Hierarchical Deterministic Wallet, where the web server holds only public key and derivation seed. This way the private key doesn't have to reside online and you can generate as many addresses as you want.

There's a single address in there, why would it have been generated by a web server?

While browser extensions are a security risk (especially auto-updating), you might want to check out https://github.com/aaronjanse/dns-over-wikipedia

I wonder what do you mean by sci-hub.do pag3 because the link in this post is referring to https://sci-hub.do/donate page.

The https://sci-hub.do/ main page lists a BTC that matches what previous HN commentators have posted as a valid BTC address. The new "/donate" page has a new BTC which gave me pause. But my original question stands. It appears sci-hub has made a NFT based nft address? https://twitter.com/NamebaseHQ/status/1348707701744922625

I find that the wikipedia page generally has accurate information on the legitimate link

Very happy to see Alexandra's future plans, strongly encourage support.

For anyone still unclear of the benefit and value of Sci-Hub and similar literature distribution services:

What the academic publishing industry calls "theft" the world calls "research": Why Sci-Hub is so popular


But people on Hacker News keep telling me Bitcoin has no genuine use cases? I'm confused.


To give an alternative viewpoint, imagine an open-source project like React being built in GitHub. The code is built, reviewed and maintained by developers for free. When the project is out of beta, if suddenly GitHub says it needs to be paid for anyone to access it and says the new license also prohibits anyone from sharing it. That's the kind of behaviour that we are tolerating with academic publishers.

Is there an alternative way of donation? I want to donate to sci-hub, but DONT want to pay for cryptocurrency miners.

No, cryptocurrency payments are the only effectively uncensorable payment system in widespread use today.

Perhaps cryptocurrency mining has more value than you thought.

Start buying ETH and donate it once the beacon chain merges with ETH1. Transaction fees will go to validators instead of miners.

What I seem to be missing from that page is their “future plans” for when/if current (2021) papers will be available through Sci-Hub. In its current state, the site is essentially defunct.

Most papers are from before 02021, and in particular most papers that are old enough to be widely cited. A lot of new papers are open access; sci-hub is most crucial for access to research from 15 or more years ago, and its coverage of that research is still fairly comprehensive.

So "essentially defunct" is far from the truth from my point of view.

How to verify that this site is the actual sci-hub site, and not a mirror/clone that has replaced the Bitcoin address?

(FWIW, I see the same Bitcoin address on sci-hub.do/donate and sci-hub.se/donate, so I assume it's legit - the SE domain is listed on Wikipedia and seems to have been for a long time).

> legal status

> Access to information and knowledge is a basic human right. Sci-Hub will fight those laws that make free exchange of infomation impossible. The project will eventually be recognized as legal

I keep thinking about sensible ways of copyright reform. Ones that allow a balance between rewarding creators fairly and allowing use independent of quantity or subject area.

The latest iteration I've arrived on in my head is a land tax at one end and at the other an Elo-like rating system that all the population participates in (but rate limited to some quantity x per year) to determine which works get how much funding, with participation rewarded with a fixed amount from the same pool (and the choices being randomly chosen, possibly with a bias towards interest areas though).

This should make things independent of the wealth of the creator, that of the user, spamming works, encourage shipping, built-in review, minimise externalities, tax undesirable behaviour, make it independent of the government, be something that's implementable incrementally (opt-in at first), encourage broad participation in the creative process, have reliable and predictable funding mechanisms for new interesting science, be a simpler system than the current mess, remove how consuming more creative works is more expensive (which I think is a bad thing because it's regressive, and there's no incremental cost to producing copies of creative works these days, but creators need to be rewarded), etc., etc.

And this would be applicable to all creative works, including open-source projects.

At least in the context of academic and scientific research, copyright is nonsense. Especially given that the ones that hold copyright (journal/conference publishers) do ~0 of the actual work behind the research.

Those of you on this site who hate on crypto to an emotionally charged, dismissively reactionary degree, take note: How secure do you think SciHub's donations system would be if it depended on Paypal, credit card processing, Venmo or Stripe?

You see? Crypto fanboy "to the moon" fanaticism and the criminal activities that bitcoin et al get used for aside, there are positive, defense-worthy use cases for blockchain currencies.

Wish they had an ALGO donation option.

How come the page is only in Russian?

If sci-hub had popped up within reach of the United States, Alexandra Elbakyan would have already been "taken care of" like Aaron Swartz was.

(On a more practical level, though: it's in English for me.)

Exactly right, and that's why this innovation popped up in Kazakhstan and not Cambridge, Massachusetts. There was a person who could have easily created SciHub in Boston and because of US judicial philosophies he is dead.

I think this is going to become a trend going forwards -- IP (broadly interpreted) is a crippling disadvantage, and it's an asymmetric disadvantage some countries levy on themselves, and some don't. I predict that we're going to be continuously blindsinded by this -- by crazy-useful tech inventions thought up by clever people, not in the USA but in the developing world, in part because of the stifling effects of IP (and in part because genius doesn't follow national borders, and software needs no industrial base).

Yep. Licenses, too. Being able to just pirate tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars (per seat, per year!) in ECAD, MCAD, cutting edge design and simulation software, and being able to do it in the open, sharing tips and tricks... being effectively exempt from US IP & copyright is a big advantage for small companies in the hardware space. I, too predict a wave of innovation that happens outside the US sphere of influence on account of shooting ourselves in the foot like this.

One thing about the rejection of IP that I don’t think they have taken far enough is IP theft. Sure some places have cleaned up their act relative to when China was able to steal so much IP but based on the places that have been victims of ransomware, IP theft seems like it still is relatively easy.

Especially with the current heat on the ransomware groups, it seems a great time for them to be taken under the wing of the various countries they operate under and used for more economically useful tasks.

> because of US judicial philosophies he is dead.

That person is dead because he killed himself. We do not know why he decided to kill himself, he did not leave a suicide note (this time around)

> (On a more practical level, though: it's in English for me.)

Weird, the page only loads in Russian for me and doesn’t seem to offer any way to change the language.

I have an English locale and it's in English for me.

It shows in English for me. Do you have a VPN?

No VPN, English locale.

I read Russian and my phone has a secondary Russian keyboard layout, but as far as I can tell my browser isn’t leaking this.

navigator.language returns en-GB and Accept-Language header seems to be set to en-US

if they are going to ask for donations like this should at least detail out how much their expenses are. how much space does a clone of the content consume? what's the hosting situation look like? giving them crypto is pointless if they waste it.

To play the devil's advocate: you can find many articles as pre-prints, for example on biorxiv. And it stays there for free even after the article has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. So you CAN access the article without paying to the publisher.

There hasn’t been a single paper I’ve looked for that wasn’t available on Scihub, even old ones.

It’s like how every movie, even the rare no longer distributed ones are available on Torrent sites but you can’t find them even if you have access to a good online commercial libraries.

"There hasn’t been a single paper I’ve looked for that wasn’t available on Scihub, even old ones."

Let's not exaggerate here. I hit gaps in SH all the time. And I have to wonder how you haven't noticed that SH halted its 2021 paper uploads entirely because of the Indian court case. That's quite a gap.

(Sadly there are a bunch from major film festivals that never are screened again, I wish I could torrent some)

Careful, preprints are not peer reviewed. I had to change significant parts of papers in the peer reviewing process in almost all my papers, and also required changes when I'm reviewing.

More often than not, the reviewer requires additional checks and tone down some claims, so a paper preprinted as "we ended world famines" ends up as "our soy requires 5% less water than the second best".

What is infuriating is that Biorxiv is free and stores forever, but the final publisher gets more than $1,500 for the same service. And we have to do 98% of the edition (I've been required to change the font of a graph) so they can just feed your .docx into a program and it spits the Pdf ready.

It's not fair unless researchers in every country can access every paper. Not a subset, but every single one. Why should rich countries or rich institutions be granted the exclusive right to do research? It can do nothing but harm.

100% true for some fields.

100% false for other fields.

This. The medical field is still struggling to fully adopt pre-prints.

I think in the past journals prohibiting the use of preprint archives was more common.

Not all articles are available this way, even in fields like cryptography, which have a decades-long tradition of using preprint servers.

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