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.
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.
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.
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.
This seems like one of the worst ideas ever
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.
The approach taken by the machine learning community succeeded and incurred absolutely none of sky-is-falling shyte you moan about.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
I agree with your point that payment does not necessarily mean conflict of interest.
There are better tools and technology to "curate" science - the only reason for these journals is rent extraction and gatekeeping.
more like we get arxiv.org?
It is not a baby, it's a teratoma eating scientific world and society from inside, the time to cut it out is now!
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
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.
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.
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?
Just a guess; I'm not plugged into the environment.
: 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.
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.
That said, I think academic publishing is a criminal industry and Alexandra Elbakyan a modern day superhero.
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.
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.
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.
The company I co-founded, Epistemic AI , 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.
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).
Best of luck with your child.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They're qualitatively not all that different from SciHub.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the address I see on the main page of the .do and .st domains: 12PCbUDS4ho7vgSccmixKTHmq9qL2mdSns
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
Perhaps cryptocurrency mining has more value than you thought.
So "essentially defunct" is far from the truth from my point of view.
(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).
> 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.
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.
(On a more practical level, though: it's in English for me.)
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).
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.
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)
Weird, the page only loads in Russian for me and doesn’t seem to offer any way to change the language.
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
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.
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.
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.
100% false for other fields.