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A World Without Sci-Hub (palladiummag.com)
332 points by sixtyfourbits 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 200 comments

The real way to change anything (imo) is to get the tax payers more angry at the status quo and out-inovate the current journals.

Right now, I'm pretty sure most people don't care about academic publishing or even know what is going on. The scandal in my opinion is that a professor or phd candidate is paid by the state to do research and then the state has to pay again to license the contributions their employees made. Meanwhile the taxpayer who already paid for the research cannot access that research for free.

The main problem is that the academic system is a dog eat dog world with people clinging to their positions or fighting with all dirty tricks in the book to get tenure, reputation or funding. I'm not sure how to fix it.

The way to get to a better world probably leads through blood sweat and motivation by small groups. Run an open access journal, make it the best or highly regarded in your small niche. The more of these exist, the better.

Maybe that's an interesting area for an accelerator to pump some non-profit money into. Hire some people as editors, make the content available for free. Use startup strategies to turn it into a very feisty publisher where academics want to publish. Make sure the stuff in the journal is easy to cite and becomes cited often etc. Use a bowling pin strategy to start with one topic (probably something computer science related) and once that is excellent, branch out.

Since corporations have captured government, the solution is as you say, to "burn down" the old journals and rebuild them on top of arxiv, dblp, semantic scholar, git, etc. The ACM is slowly starting to open up, but it really needs to go all in and just be free for everyone and get a lower amount of of funding from way more sources.

You can run a better journal for free than what you can get from Elsevier. Throw in forums, video conferencing and shared docs and you can build entire academic structures in the cloud. Run a journal on a subreddit, papers on arxiv, video on meet (recordings posted to youtube), code in github, computation on colab notebooks. WeWork should offer wetlab space. ;)

Ideally we would have a storage commons where data that doesn't fit into the arxiv model of papers. Something like object storage but with some built in structure.

> You can run a better journal for free than what you can get from Elsevier.

If you staff and pay for it.

You're also forgetting that the entire point of Journals is so that research institutions don't have to think about how to dole out the grant money. In addition to actually creating an entire new journal, you also have to make sure its "reputation" is better than the existing journals, or nobody will use it.

The problem is that this assumes academics want to change and use new methods to distribute their work. The primary goal of all academics is to secure more grants - what happens afterwards is an afterthought.

I've said it before and a bunch of people objected to calling out Reed-Elsevier specifically. You know what? Too bad.

Reed-Elsevier. Reed-Elsevier. Reed-Elsevier.

Here's the summary of that article: "For the academic publishers, it is about extracting rents"

They don't want to sell Cokes at the beach; they want the official government monopoly on selling Cokes at the beach.

> The scandal in my opinion is that a professor or phd candidate is paid by the state to do research and then the state has to pay again to license the contributions their employees made. Meanwhile the taxpayer who already paid for the research cannot access that research for free.

Ignoring the fact that you can indeed get the research for free if you e-mail the researchers... Who is going to pay for unlimited online access?

Somebody has to pay for it. It is not free to publish journals, or keep tens of thousands of them, with millions of articles, around indefinitely, for instant access by anyone on the web.

The only thing you can change is who is paying whom. Either you pay a publisher so that they maintain access. Or the people actually publishing an article pays the publisher (Open Access), in which case it's taxpayer money from the researchers' budget paying for it. Or you have lawmakers create some government subsidy for them to maintain access, or you have lawmakers create some government agency to maintain access. Other ways to pay include big private donors, universities, libraries, museums, endowments, foundations, societies, etc.

In all of those cases, someone will be paying. The question is, who, and how much? So far, nobody has offered to cough up all the dough. Maybe you can get Bezos, Bill and Buffet to chip in.

you're phrasing it like web hosting is some gargantuan unheard of task.

> It is not free to publish journals, or keep tens of thousands of them, with millions of articles, around indefinitely, for instant access by anyone on the web.

it's not free but it's pretty cheap. you can pay a tiny fraction of what the public universities are currently paying for access to these journals to maintain a repository of scientific papers.

look at scihub, is it being funded by Bezos, Bill or Buffet? no. if a single person can host all those papers herself backed by only random donations, I don't think any government or hell, any university would have any trouble doing the same thing with marginal amount of support.

If you do some research and then want to publish it in a journal, there is a large scope of work on the publishing side which includes hosting. Scihub just redistributes what journals have already spent the money to vet, edit, proof and publish. The "cost of access" is paying for all of the aforementioned work. So there is a lot more to do, and pay for, that is not being captured by people looking from the sidelines going "why is nobody giving me free cake?"

If all you want to do is say "we have pre-pubs on a free FTP server", sure, that's cheap as hell. But it doesn't replace the journals, it doesn't address research funding models, it doesn't move scientific progress forward.

The money needed for the “unlimited online access” is a tiny fraction of what the publishing industry currently devours. Arxiv and its clones already now serve a large portion of the whole scientific output at a fraction of the cost compared to the journal publishers. So that’s not a problem.

Every time this comes up, I ask if the “academic publishing industry” provides any service where I, as an individual, can subscribe for one reasonable subscription fee, to one single site, with all the research.

It seems no.

- No one service or site or subscription or pass

- No reasonable fee

- No aggregation of all the research

They’ve externalized the useful work back onto the user. Sci-hub does that work for me.

If I could pay $100/month* for sci-hub, I would.

* Footnote: Arbitrarily rating it as 3x more value than, say, Bloomberg. And while I think it should be a public service rather than a fee, if there is a fee, it likely should be geo-adjusted by global income bands: https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/4085814679889422...

It's worse I think than is generally realised. Back about 8 years ago I looked into getting some kind of university level library access for independent research - was quite happy to pay a fairly significant amount. I tracked down one of the London Universities who offered this if you paid to join their library (it was a couple of hundred pounds then), turned up in person to do so, and was politely told this had just been shut down due to problems with the publishers. Looking back, because that had been the last of several options that had been recently shutdown, I have to think this was deliberate policy by the publishers.

Write to the author as a last alternative, they're usually more than happy to send you a copy, I've had a couple of instances where a paper copy of the requested work turned up in the mail.

Hard to believe this is the 21st century. :-(

Yes, this is a problem (or the problem). If you attend or work at a University, you probably have good access. Working at Google also provided me with pretty good journal access -- I don't think the same is true for other employers though.

Now that I'm independent, it's searching the web, e-mailing the authors of the paper, and SciHub. This system would be a lot worse without SciHub. (And yes I donated; in fact I used cryptocurrency for the first time to donate)

What about Deepdyve?

Good question. They don’t make this obvious, but:

- you don’t get the article, you get a browser window

- they only have about 1/2 of the articles (!)

Quoting from their FAQ:

Q. What does "renting" mean?

Renting articles is the simple and affordable way to get the high quality articles that you want, with the same layout and formatting as the printed or PDF versions.

"Rented" articles are available through DeepDyve's cloud-based service and can be viewed through your browser from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Read full text articles as often as you want during the rental period, and depending on your plan, you may print a limited number of pages per month. However, rented articles cannot be downloaded or shared.

Q. Why can't I rent, download, or print some articles?

DeepDyve works with many publishers but unfortunately not all of them have given us permission to let our users rent, download, or print some/all of their articles.

If an article is marked as "Preview" it means we only have permission to display the abstract but nothing else. As for downloading PDF’s, approximately half of the articles in our collection can be purchased and downloaded directly from DeepDyve. For the remaining half, DeepDyve provides a link that takes you to the publisher site where you can purchase the PDF directly from them.

True, but you can store articles in folders online and bookmark them. You can print a certain number of pages per month - 25, I think, and that adds up. Is it really necessary or even useful to print out or store locally?

It seems like their viewable content is 20% of the available literature, and the coverage is increasing. They appear to have recently added APS journals current up to five years ago. Adding arxiv to that, the physics coverage is pretty good, especially for historical research. (You also can access APS journals via your local public library.)

Is there a list of journals or publishers that are on Deepdyve? Seems to me that the only way to know if an article is on there is to sign up.

Yes, look at https://www.deepdyve.com/browse/

As an example of a topical search with no login:


Another search:


And a page from that search:


You get only one page when not logged in, but Deepdyve has all of American Journal of Physics, which is really nice.

Deepdyve has been submitted several times to HN over the past decade, but it never generates any interest. That's surprising, considering the interest in SciHub.

You can't read the full text w/o signing up for the free trial. Without registering, you can't bookmark articles or add them to folders, either.

Depends on the field. For example, none of the IEEE or AIAA journals are available there.

Yeah, IEEE is always a problem. Even IEEE members have to subscribe to individual journals, and there are a lot of them.

While I'm not aware of anything quite like what you've described, some possibilities for accessing the scientific literature as an individual are discussed here: https://onscienceandacademia.org/t/how-do-you-access-recent-...

I’ve collected a few ways to get papers at https://lee-phillips.org/articleAccess/

Does the "social media industry" provide a service where you, an individual, can sign up to one single site, and access every social media post that exists?

No. Because they're different social media sites. They do not work together. They compete.

Side note that might interest some people: we started a Sci-Hub meetup in London with (among other goals) to try and find ways to help Sci-Hub and contribute to the Open Access movement.


Before Sci-Hub, I had to find those among my friends with the right access credentials to the right publishers and ask them to get the articles on my behalf, often in batches to not make too much an annoyance of myself.

Needless to say Sci-Hub has been a massive improvement to my quality of life, insofar as satiating my intellectual curiosity is needed. And I'm not even a researcher.

I am a researcher, and despite having institutional access to most papers I want, I still rely heavily on Sci-Hub as do my colleagues. It has been such an incredibly valuable resource and I'm constantly surprised by how complete it is -- I very rarely come across a paper I need access to that it doesn't have.

I do wonder sometimes if it almost makes it too easy, in a way that ends up propping up the status quo of closed publishing and takes away the incentive of publishing in open access sources. Early in my career I remember discussions about publishing in closed journals, concerns that papers will be less read because people may not have access to them. In the last few years, I feel like this has gone away because it seems like everyone (among researchers at least) knows about Sci-Hub.

I mean, I still think that on the whole, Sci-Hub is a good thing for the research community and the state of the publishing industry -- it gives people access to the research and ultimately does take some money out of the publishers' pockets. But it does also make a broken system feel less broken, and thus people are less willing to actively push for change.

I think there is some nuance even for those with institutional access (e.g. field, institution, etc). I am also a researcher (though I hesitate to call myself that), and I read (or skim) through quite a few papers every week, and I very rarely run into a situation where I do not have access through the publisher. It's so uncommon that I very rarely think about (my own) access at all...

I only say this to provide my day-to-day experience, I do think Sci-Hub is a net positive, and I'm certainly in favor of seeing the status quo change.

You might know this already, but you can also just ask the authors, and they'll often send it to you. Definitely not as convenient as Sci-Hub, however.

I'd definitely think about doing exactly that if I were after a new paper but most of the stuff I'm interested in is in history, law history, linguistics and diplomatic. Those papers often precede the Internet, not even mentioning dead authors.

Two great uses of sci-hub are for historic papers when walking the reference chain backwards in time and anything IEEE.

I really wish IEEE and ACM would open their entire catalog of knowledge over a certain age, I don't really care what year they pick.

IEEE journals, and especially their standards, do actually provide a value added service that government funding doesn’t cover and they obviously run as part of a non profit so it seems very morally ambiguous. I imagine likewise for ACM.

I think the work of the standards bodies needs to be disambiguated from Open Access journals. In no way am equating IEEE and ACM with Springer and Elsevier. For the longest time, I think they have recently relaxed a bit, but IEEE forbid authors from posting a copy of their paper on their academic web page.

The main issue is that currently there's no way around publishing at the established journals and conferences, because of the reputation they've built up. Funding and career advancement hinge on publications in these venues. If we accept that publishers don't offer much at all in return for the publication fees/library subscription costs (barely any editing, reviewers work pro bono, hosting PDFs is very cheap nowadays), the main issue is one of "reputation transfer".

One way to cut out the middle man would be to convince journal editors to run sibling journals alongside the existing journals, so for each "Transactions on XYZ" there would be an "Open Transactions on XYZ" (as close in title as is legal). Importantly, each sibling journal would be run by the exact same academics (who are doing the real work on tax money anyway), and according to the same process as the original journal, just without involvement from a traditional publisher. PDFs would be hosted on a site like arXiv. The goal would be that submitting to the open "sibling" would be the obvious rational choice (same people, same decision-making, no fees, open access), which in time even the funding agencies and tenure committees would have to acknowledge.

I volunteer for a project [1] where the idea of "cutting out the middle man" is taken even further: removing the journal from the reputation transfer.

So rather than a reviewer lending their reputation to a journal, and that journal then conferring a stamp of trustworthiness onto an academic work, reviewers lend their reputation directly to the works they review. The works themselves can still be shared far and wide, e.g. via ArXiv.

Of course, inertia is still a massive force to work against.

[1] https://plaudit.pub

This is looks like a horrible idea. The system violates anonymous peer reviewing standards. These are sometimes even mandated by law, e.g. our funding institution would not allow us to count such a publication as "peer reviewed." There are many good reasons why peer review needs to be anonymous on both ends (the reviewer is anonymous and the manuscript is anonymized). Many reputable journals have even switched to triple blind peer review, i.e., the editor in chief does not know which two peer reviewers are selected.

The biggest problem I see with the proposed system is that it's unfortunately often easy to recognize who wrote a paper (which is bad for ordinary peer review already) and in a personal endorsement system this would lead to collusion among researchers with low integrity. You wink through my papers, I wink through your papers. Also, imagine you don't endorse the paper of the senior researcher in charge of your postdoc funding...

In practice (as you partly allude to), the problems you speak to already often occur for traditional peer review, except they're less traceable there. Sure, collusion rings and nepotism is (still!) possible, but the data is out there for everyone to see and to call you out on. Now winking through a paper risks your reputation (the very thing that makes your endorsement relevant!), rather than only being potentially noticed by an observant editor.

(Something similar goes for researchers in charge of your postdoc funding: how many co-authorships are earned, and how many are ways to game the current system?)

I'm certainly not saying that a public endorsement system is the end-all-be-all and won't have its own problems. However, I do get frustrated every now and then by the institutional inertia that arises from holding new initiatives to higher standards than existing ones (see also: using the Impact Factor to evaluate academics).

I don't think it's a good idea to explain away valid criticisms as inertia. I also don't buy the implicit claim that giving up the anonymity of the peer reviewers could improve peer reviewing. It seems obvious that giving up anonymous peer review would make things worse and that putting the reviewer's reputation on the line would not improve things. It creates all kinds of conflicts of interests and biases. You also need to understand that the people who game the system have a low reputation anyway. They find a niche, build up their collusion ring with people they meet at conferences, and get a tenure-track position or full tenure because of their high, though low quality publication track record. Moreover, if the peer review is properly anonymous, then reviewers are way more critical than if it's not anonymous. Hence, acceptance rates in top journals in my area are below 5%. If the reviewer is not anonymous, they would be way more permissive, since they don't want to completely shatter their relations with their colleagues. Higher acceptance rates means lower value publications, not higher standards.

There are many things that needs to be addressed to improve science, not just peer review. Hiring policies need to change and indicator counts need to be used more adequately, empirical studies need to be pre-registered and the p-value needs to be 1% or lower. Peer review is just one factor and mostly a monetary issue. If all research institutions would spend enough money to make all commercial journals available for everyone, there would be no particular problem with peer review. The problem of many researchers in poorer countries is that they don't. The problem is not that peer review does not work.

Anonymity removes the difficult aspects of human social interaction and allows everyone to focus on the science.

Peer review itself is wonderful and is what enables science itself to work as well as it does.

Frankly "peer review" is the furthest thing away from wonderful. While the idea is legitimate, it is undermined at every step of the way.

* Reviewers are basically forced to it for free. If you're a researcher you won't have the time to properly fact check a 40 page paper for free, it just isn't going to happen. So they (we) don't. The review process isn't very rigorous.

* Journals are leeching off of the public money by double whammying both the scientists and the institutes while providing minuscule value. Their gains are absolutely disproportionate to what they provide.

* Even the most involved and convoluted peer review processes aren't as anonymous as you think. When there's already a handful of people in your field, you can pretty easily tell someone's identity from their writing style.

I would love to pretend that the system is great and works very well but it just doesn't and this pretense and the phenomenon of holding new systems to a higher standard than the current one is preventing us from actually improving the system.

I don't mean so say that criticisms aren't valid; just that perfect is frustratingly often the enemy of better.

For example, the status quo can be justified by "it seems obvious that" rather than being evidence-based. In practice, single or double blind is very often not actually blind [1], in which case it's hard to argue that it would be any different than transparency. Likewise, a new solution "creates all kinds of conflicts of interests and biases", without even considering whether the existing CoIs and biases are any better. Likewise, if people who game the system today have a low reputation, why would the same not hold true in a new system? Likewise, does anonymous peer review actually improve the quality of the reviews (e.g. [2])?

It's good not to blindly embrace something new, but I think it's important to withold judgement too, and see how it plays out in practice, and to make an effort to compensate for the prejudice people typically have towards the status quo.

And yes, absolutely agreed that much more needs to be addressed to improve science. But I also very much take issue with the idea that peer review is fine as-is.

[1] https://absolutelymaybe.plos.org/2017/10/31/the-fractured-lo...

[2] Heading "quality of feedback": https://plos.org/resource/open-peer-review/

The point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with blind peer review, you're proposing the classical solution to a nonexistent problem. The problem is that too many reputable journals were lured over to big publishing houses and these want to use them as a perpetual money-printing machine. To fix the problem, you create free, voluntary-based reputable open access journals with triple blind peer review that will (slowly) replace the expensive ones. This is happening.

Maybe you should consider that you're the stubborn one who links to blog posts from open access journals with a strong bias to reform the peer review system as evidence. Plos journals have this agenda because they don't have good enough pools of reviewers, which is the problem of all new journals. However, it's not as if scientists all over the world and funding authorities haven't thought about the topic. People should not withold judgement about these issues, that's an odd request and would weaken the position of scientific staff towards political decision makers who certainly won't withold judgement.

To give you an example of what is being done by funding authorities, at our university we are required by law to publish every article in openly accessible format. Otherwise they do not count at all towards our salaries, they will be ignored completely. There are public open repositories for that. The only thing that bothers everyone is that big publishers like Elsevier only allow draft versions in those repositories and there is sometimes a 1 year mandatory delay until they can be put online. That needs to change and EU authorities are working on it.

I'm sure if you applied blockchain and crypto enough times, this could be solved in some byzantine and massively inefficient way.

Don't forget to make scientists constantly mine for cryptocoins on their GPUs if they want to keep their crappy postdoc job, that way it's profit for everyone. :P

Sure there is a way around it.

You publish in an established venue, but also put the paper on a public website. This is possible legally using the "standard trick": https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/119002/7319

... and is in relatively wide practice.

You often don’t need any trick. Major publishers nowadays allow you to put something nearly identical to the published paper online.

See for example https://www.elsevier.com/authors/submit-your-paper/sharing-a...:

You can always post your preprint on a preprint server. Additionally, for ArXiv and RePEC you can also immediately update this version with your accepted manuscript. Please note that Cell Press, The Lancet, and some society-owned titles have different preprint policies. Information on these is available on the journal homepage.


You can post your accepted author manuscript immediately to an institutional repository and make this publicly available after an embargo period has expired. Remember that for gold open access articles, you can post your published journal article and immediately make it publicly available.”

Well, that partial change is the result of people just posting their papers and ignoring more draconian previous copyright transfers. Still, not remotely sufficient. The point is that with this text, you only have the specific rights defined by Elsevier, and those are kind of limited. It's not at all clear what rights people who copy the paper have.

So, for example:

* There's an "embargo period" during which you're censored, you need to shut up, can't post your article. Preposterous.

* In many venues, you need to use custom links to Elsevier's "Science blocked and obfuscated". I mean "ScienceDirect"... yeah, right...

* You seem not to have rights to post new versions, or other derivative works.

* Stuff I haven't thought of because I'm not an IP lawyer.

That's not a way around publishing at the established venues, it's done in addition to it. Everyone still submits to the established journals and conferences because this is what is being evaluated for career advancement and funding.

Is not the chief practical problem that access to knowledge gets barred in a pay-to-read system. The trick is one patch against that chief practical issue, which can be for these purposes separated by the systemic issue.

I agree: it helps a lot with the practical issue of access to knowledge. But from a taxpayer's or academic's perspective it wouldn't hurt to also eliminate the exorbitant publishing/licensing fees.

There are a few cases in which the editorial board of a journal has seen the light, resigned from a traditional publisher, and restarted an essentially equivalent open access journal. It's however hard to see 1) why they would simultaneously continue doing the same job for the for-profit publisher, and 2) why the for-profit publisher would accept it.

1) For the status of being, e.g., editor-in-chief of a well-known journal. 2) I'd expect that they would be opposed, but firing their editors for it would make for interesting headlines.

I thought that the point of journals is review and filtering, their selectively, I thought, is their value proposition over arxiv.org.

Am I mistaken?

What I'm proposing is to convince the same people that currently take care of the reviewing and selection process for an established journal to do the same thing for an open and independent variant of the same journal, which is run alongside the original journal.

Sadly these people are replaceable, and to my understanding the rights to the journals themselves are owned by the academic publishing industry. People don't really care who runs Nature; it is the reputation of the name that counts.

That's a good point, editors and reviewers come and go. Ideally, the newcomers would by default also be attached to "Independent Open Nature", until it becomes irrational to submit to Nature itself.

good idea

Most journals are hybrid now, and offer a choice when publishing- either it's free for the author but kept behind a paywall, or the author pays up front. The article processing charges are really expensive- BMJ is £3,500, Lancet $5000, Cell $5,200 etc, although some major funders have arranged 'site licenses' with publishers so that all their funded research can be published open access without charge to the scientist.

That's true, and I'm not sure how these fees can be justified.

I guess that’s why the journals insist on copyright transfer.

At best you get a ”copy” you can share via email when asked personally; the equivalent of a musician paid a couple drink coupons to share with their friends that came to see the gig…

I'm not suggesting to publish every paper twice. The author submits only to one of the two journals. If it's the original journal, the article appears exactly as is common now, behind a paywall, and that's it. If it's the new sibling journal, the publisher of the original journal has nothing to do with it, no copyright transfer occurs, and the paper appears only on a free and open platform.

>One way to cut out the middle man would be to convince journal editors to run sibling journals alongside the existing journals, [...] , each sibling journal would be run by the exact same academics (who are doing the real work on tax money anyway),

Your proposed solution will not work because the sibling journal doesn't have the same paid support staff to do the unpleasant work that academics do not want to do. The unpleasant work includes administrative, first pass screening, copy-editing, typesetting, etc. I wrote a previous comment about this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16738497

Therefore, the zero cost sibling journal wouldn't even get started by (most) academic editors because it imposes more labor they don't want to do. Yes, publishers like Elsevier and Springer are vilified ... but they also have paid staff and infrastructure to support the papers editors.

Because internet discussions have the constant repetition of "the reviewers are unpaid" (which is true), it creates a distorted mental model that the prestigious journals have "no paid staff" (which is not true). The publishers' paid support employees helps the unpaid reviewers.

An interesting journal that might seem like a counterexample to the support staff labor puzzle above is JMLR. But in an essay that explains how JMLR is able to function (e.g. offload typesetting and out-of-pocket expense of copy-editing to the submitter instead of the publisher) ... that same essay also explains why other journals haven't copied JMLR's model. (Analogous to your "sibling journal" proposal.)

Excerpt from https://blogs.harvard.edu/pamphlet/2012/03/06/an-efficient-j... :

>Does JMLR’s success and efficiency mean that all journals could run this way? Of course not. First, computer science journals are in a particularly good situation for being operated at low cost. Computer scientists possess all of the technological expertise required to efficiently manage and operate an online journal. Journal publishing is an information industry and computer scientists are specialists in information processing. Second, the level of volunteerism that JMLR relies on is atypical for the entire spectrum of journals.

Thus, the academics and editors at non-compsci journals such as Nature and The Lancet do not have comparable culture of information systems platform management, computer software skills of typesetting, volunteerism, etc that JMLR has. And the key is that they have no incentive to do so since the publishers already give them infrastructure support without imposing extra labor on the editors.

True, I guess my perspective is biased towards CS. In that field, what I've seen in terms of editing on the part of a publisher amounted to requests for minor formatting changes (to be done by the authors) and insertion of a copyright notice. I have never heard of any publisher-side "first pass screening" of submissions to conferences I was involved in or journals I know the editors of. There, desk rejects are done by the committee/editors (and personally I would be very nervous having a non-expert do this job). To the best of my knowledge, in CS, there is nothing being done that comes close to justifying, say, the open access publication fees at their current level.

Springer and Elsevier in my experience (CS and Economics) do very little copy editing, and often make the paper worse during their typesetting (introduce typos, bugs, screenshot figures rather than keep the vector graphics). As a reviewer, the antiquated administrative web system they use to make me input reviews is also a net negative contribution.

Incidentally, many researchers still believe that, to publish in (what they think of as) "high-impact" journals, they have to sign over copyright to the journal. The journals make every effort to give this impression, but it is wholly false.

This has been a public service announcement.

Anecdotally, my university has been paying for fewer and fewer journal subscriptions. I was looking through the literature the other day and about half of the articles I needed to access weren't subscribed to by my (large, redbrick) university. I believe this is a shift recognising that academics will just skirt the access via sci-hub as a way for universities to trim their library budgets.

Nah is almost definitely because of lower funding for the library. The budgets globally are so squeezed now that publishers are actually lowering their fees for the first time since the industry started.

And because the publishers are being squeezed from all sides, including from sci-hub and proposed legislation, universities requiring open journals and so on.

Same deal here. Some journals are not available, and the ones I have access to are difficult to search because they're spread among multiple aggregation services.

This in a top 50 university in the US with ~50,000 students.

Everytime scihub is mentioned on HN, multiple comments go on about how it should go "distrubuted" - ipfs, torrents, etc. While the current database of scihub is hugely valuable and must be protected in whatever way we can, the true value of scihub is in the "invisible" network of sources for the papers - how quickly papers find their way into the scihub db once they are published. A non-updating scihub will start to depreciate in utility very quickly. _Thats_ the true value Alexandra E brings to scihub - and not easily replaced if she quits/gets into legal trouble/etc.

If what you said is true, then it seems unreasonable to make the whole thing depends on her. Isn't it? So not only we need distributed storage of the database / files, we also need distributed method to update the database / files.

Sure, but that's hard to do in the face of bad actors (Elsevier etc) who have the law on their side. Making sure that sci-hub changes academic publishing before academic publishing changes sci-hub seems more achievable.

Yes. Unfortunately, not that many free countries are left on earth, where one can download and distribute scientific papers without getting into jail.

Non-cooperation with US authorities is a very different thing from general freedom. I wouldn't conflate the two unless I was intentionally trying to shill for RU or CN. In the case of scientific publishing, the US authorities are in the wrong and I'm glad their reach does not extend everywhere.

> I wouldn't conflate the two unless I was intentionally trying to shill for RU or CN.

This sounds like some "... assuming your not a Red ..." Cold War-era dialogue to me.

Is that really the best way of expressing your point about the differences between personal freedom and non-cooperation with US law.

OP's point was that Russia and China are objectively less free than America, but yet they are the centres for academic copyright infringement.

To suggest that China or Russia were in any way more free than America, would be intellectually dishonest and could only be explained someone acting as a shill.

I'm not from America and I am clear-eyed about its foibles, but being more free than either of the aforementioned countries is a pretty low bar to cross.

Everyone can help preserve Sci-Hub by seeding some of their torrents. See this Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/nc27fv/rescue_...

So really we need to make as many Alexandra Elbakyans as possible. Cloning is probably our only option.

I know where to get all of the research!

> “few public figures, if any, draw the direct connection between the expensive barricades around scientific research and the conspicuous epistemic collapse of significant portions of the American political discourse.”

That’s because it’s a major claim that has to be defended, not simply declared. On its face the claim seems absurd to me.

It could even be argued that the barricade around scientific research is what kept the epistemic "superiority" of academia and academics. Opening up the tools to review the scientific literature gives people the power of "doing their own research" without having the tools and skills to decide whether a paper they have found on whatever topic is good research. It's possible that this democratization process has opened up the scientific knowledge to the masses but it is also possible that access to scientific literature doesn't really help without the training required to make sense of it.

> Opening up the tools to review the scientific literature gives people the power of "doing their own research" without having the tools and skills to decide whether a paper they have found on whatever topic is good research.

I think we'd be better off letting people read the papers themselves, even if they do a poor job of it. Seems very unlikely to be any worse than science journalism as it currently exists.

Scientific papers are incredibly specialized, and no amount of general training makes them easier to read. The best way to get good at reading your topic is to... well, do a lot of reading/corroboration reviewing of said papers. Access to scientific papers is needed, no matter what.

I see this all the time...

I work in medical research (basic science, not clinical), and I see people "cite" papers, based solely on their titles, without understanding, or likely even reading, the nuanced findings of the actual papers.

It's dangerous because it gives people, often with secondary agendas, the illusion of scientific backing when there really isn't any (or when it's far more nuanced).

I'll just note that I am still in favor of open over closed, but I think we're lagging in scientific literacy currently.

No amount of increase of general scientific literacy will allow public in general to read/understand highly specialized fields. And most fields end up being highly specialized. But access to source can allow someone to validate the claims by a journalist or a public officials trying to bend conclusion to support their view. On top of it, it allows wider cross functional view, when someone with a data science background can check statistical reasoning used in, let’s medical research paper, etc.

> No amount of increase of general scientific literacy will allow public in general to read/understand highly specialized fields.

I understand this. There are first year graduate students in my field that have a far deeper understanding on the basic science behind certain papers than the general public, and yet even they struggle to parse those papers' conclusions. I mean this is even true for PhDs working in the same field, given the right paper.

When I say scientific literacy, I mean something far more basic than actually understanding anything to do with any specific field. I mean (among other things) understanding what you just said, that scientific fields are deeply complex, understanding how actual science is done (peer review, incentives and motivations, author bias, etc), and, given the first two points, that one should generally be skeptical when a citation consists of only a paper's title.

> But access to source can allow someone to validate the claims by a journalist or a public officials trying to bend conclusion to support their view.

I'm aware of this, and I said that I was in favor of open access as opposed to a simply closed system (i.e. open is a, potentially quite large, net positive). I'm just pointing out that the potential for misinterpretation/misuse is also present (which is also what the comment I was responding to was pointing out), just as there is potential for validation and combating misinterpretation/misuse. But, as you said, the vast majority will be unable to read/understand specialized fields, which might lead to (potentially more frequent) misinterpretation//misuse (even unintentionally).

Yeah I agree, assuming that everyone thinks the same way as academics is "echo chamber" thinking. "If I had access, I would read the literature, therefore they would also read the literature if they had access". The people who barely passed high school and share "covid hoax" memes don't give a shit about the literature, there are a lot more of them than there are us, and politicians are increasingly willing to humor them.

I don't think that's the point they are trying to make. I think it trickles down from research to journalism to everyday people.

The core issue is that journals offer standard. People don't like to bother with checking every paper's reputability with a magnifying glass, and the reputation of the journal gives a shortcut around that. It's editorial work which gives the competitive edge.

Now, of course scientists could run a reputable journal for free or on donations. However, once you have achieved a reputable status with your journal, it becomes something that can be milked for money. And generally people fail to resist that temptation.

Even if they resisted, they still have the entire academic publishing industry very scared, and as we can see, these are people who aren't afraid to use the dirtiest tactics to protect their position.

Even though the status quo is strong, it can be dismantled.

I think this does more harm than good. If there's anything we should have learned from the replication crisis of 2014, a decent amount of "generated" or "satirical" papers scandals, and an essentially constant stream of retractions, merely being published in a prestigious journal is not a great heuristic for whether a result holds up or the methodology was sound. People who want to seriously assess a paper need to read it, no matter what. Reputation by institution may once have been valuable, but as institutions are corrupted by their incentives and names can be bought and sold as part of the shell game of business, this gets worse and worse as a way of actually assessing information. The benefit you tout is on thin ice if it exists at all, and the harm is enormous, to the point where these institutions have lost the support of the overwhelming majority of people who do the research published in them. In practical terms, most researchers already get most of their papers through sources like Sci-Hub or arXiv, or find out about them through search engines or word of mouth, only dealing with the publisher at the point where they already know what they're looking for. This argument simply has no merit

It's a terrible heuristic, but it's one that is used for a LOT of funding decisions. "You want money? Show me how many papers in Nature you have."

And that's the rub, isn't it? Once a player like Nature or Elsevier can entrench itself in the process by which the other institutions function (Like being gatekeepers on the government's merit metrics for funding), they can route around the fact that nearly every working academic doesn't actually want to support their business model by effective fiat

Personally, I think it's always a mistake to build a business into government policy. It uses the government to protect the business from the free market, and the business to protect the government from public influence or public transparency

To be clear, I'm not arguing that this is a good system. I'm simply stating that it is the way it is right now. And while these counterforces are indeed gaining traction, they are still far away from toppling the status quo.

I believe your argument misses a critical point: The practicing researchers have no difficulty judging the value of articles appearing in a given venue. The whole "fake journal"-thing only really took of after new public management moved the decision power on hiring and grants from scientists to MBA's who could not judge publications on merit.

> Now, of course scientists could run a reputable journal for free or on donations. However, once you have achieved a reputable status with your journal, it becomes something that can be milked for money. And generally people fail to resist that temptation.

That is true across all fields, not just for publishing scientific papers. That's why we need a true cooperative economy, that is an economy of cooperatives which do not compete with one another but promote active cooperation to reduce the overall competition/privatization in society.

Yes and:

The metaphor of "producers and consumers" is inadequate for today's reality.

> ...promote active cooperation to reduce the overall competition/privatization in society.

David Graeber's ideas (memes) have truly infected me.

"The purpose of universities is to produce scholarship."

Facepalm slap. Like "duh", right?

Exposes the folly of higher ed's current focus on credentialing, for profit.


Another meme:

Graeber also points out that in our "service economy", much of the actual work being done, needing to be done, is "caring work" (vs "service work").

A distinct type of labor ignored by our current economic accounting rules.

Much of FOSS is something like "caring work", right?

Sure some people profit from the products and services. Which I have no problem with.

But there's a lot of really important work that just needs to be done. Just one recent example was OpenSSL.

Our Freedom Markets™, those magical invisible hands of the marketplace, haven't figured out how to incentivize and reward and sustain the efforts of maintaining the commons.

but unfortunately, publisher only want money mean they do not concern who can publish article, they do concern their reputation(bring money). I just want to direct that build a new system control people corporate from different science organizations will not resolve problem easily.

> generally people fail to resist ... temptation

And this is why society defines regulations. Society, which has an interest in open access to knowledge.

Journals don't actually sell editorialization though. They sell exclusive access to content. They claim the content is valuable because they curate/editorialize it. But the core offering isn't the curation. It's the exclusive access.

They could offer the curation without the exclusive access and I'm sure many scientists would pay for that curation.

I would pay to hear prominent scientists discuss each other's work. Or have a journal where the content is the meta analysis of the paper which I find the educating part as a non-domain expert in many of the papers I read.

Like the stilted writing in patents, academic writing often has a loud thundering message in the content that is never actually expressed in the writing. If you have the right context it hits you like a red brick, to the lay person is has to be explained.

Some work is like, omg this is going to change the world and another is, showing another construction of an uninteresting thing we already knew. Both are presented in the same manner. Much of this meta analysis happens on twitter and reddit, but is easy to miss. It would be nice if it was contained within the journal structure itself.

> The core issue is that journals offer standard. People don't like to bother with checking every paper's reputability with a magnifying glass, and the reputation of the journal gives a shortcut around that.

I'm not sure why people still believe this. High-impact journals like Nature have the highest rates of retraction. The incentives around scientific publishing are too perverse to make naive claims like that journals enforce some kind of quality standard.

The existence of many high quality open access journals would seem to contradict your theory.

These are in an extreme minority, although this may vary from discipline to discipline. In my area you can count fully open access journals on one hand and they play no notable role yet. All top journals are closed access with expensive "open access" publication fees (ca. 3,000 USD per article). Most of them are Springer and Oxford Journals, others are Elsevier.

Can I guess, your area is experimental science/engineering? I notice that in the more theoretical fields (theoretical physics,math,CS,stats) the open access channels are on par with the paywalled ones. Curious as to why. Perhaps its more expensive to replicate results, perhaps the fees are nothing compared to what you pay for the labour and equipment..

No, it's philosophy. I believe theoretical physics and math are special, as you recognize, because they need a lot of additional vetting. My work is mostly in formal philosophy, which does involve a bit of math, and I'm constantly worried the reviewers might not spot a mistake and send it to colleagues for additional checking. This must be a hundred times more pressing in math and physics, so they developed open archives. As for CS, the reason for more open access archives may be a bit different. My personal impression from reading many CS papers is that 90% of publications are garbage whose only purpose is to satisfy some publication requirements. There is also a lot of repetition by authors. That's in my view understandable since many funding authorities also expect fancy prototype systems and concrete implementations, and computer scientists have only 7 days a week to achieve all this. So in CS hurdles for publication are kept low by having a lot of proceedings and open access journals and archives.

Physics PhD here, I would extend your comment that 90% of CS papers are garbage to include engineering and physics as well. The vast majority of those are what people refer to as "status updates" where long term projects provide minor updates that don't really contribute anything to the general knowledge but exist solely to advertise their work and provide a bullet point in their quarterly report to the funding agency. This is also added to the fact that most PhD programs require a candidate to publish at least 3 articles in peer-reviewed journals, where some programs even discriminate based on the impact factor, further entrenching the paid-for journals as open access are not ranked as highly. I personally really like the IEEE journals as they are cheap ("free" with IEEE membership to a given society) and reasonable high quality (exceptions as always of course). Years ago I looked at trying to get my department a subscription to the major Elsevier journal in our industry and was quoted almost $6,000/yr, mostly for historic papers published back in the 50's, 60's and 70's where authors were long since dead and the utility mostly on filling in gaps in modern theory. While neither bandwidth nor website design infrastructure are free, high access costs are unnecessary and just equate to greed IMHO.

Ah yes! Would you say that in the field of philosophy, practices around publication and exposition are in general more aligned with the humanities than the sciences? Hadn’t even thought in that direction yet, thank you for the heads up!

I think it proves my point. Would you rather see your paper featured in Nature or on any open access journal of your choice? Would you trust more on a random article from Nature or an article from any open access journal?

I would like to have a paper featured in Nature but published in a volunteer-run non-profit open access journal. The papers published in prestigious journals are often not very useful, because they must be written for a rather general audience. When I'm building upon someone else's work, the information I'm interested in tends to be buried in the supplements, because it's too obscure for the audience of the journal.

> of course scientists could run a reputable journal for free or on donations

We can't even get critical infrastructure open source projects funded by donations. What makes you think people will start donating to free research journals?

I think this, like healthcare, is a place where the world needs to reckon with the limits on the usefulness of profit motive. There are a lot of benefits to capitalism, and it has produced both societal wealth and innovation in a lot of contexts. But there are some clear cases where the most profitable way to use a resource is a net harm to humanity, and organizing it in a way that removes that motive is the most parsimonious solution. Nationalizing and then freeing scientific information, as this article proposes, is a solution that has widespread support among the experts generating the actual knowledge that would be shared, has obvious compounding benefits, and only harms a business model. I think so many people have become disillusioned with the promise of capitalism and profit motive precisely because we keep insisting that it needs to be our only tool in every situation, with frequently disastrous consequences.

I agree with your diagnosis, however I would not like the government to appoint editors of research journals: that seems rife with opportunities for abuse. Also, article selection is an editorial process, so I'd expect that government-run journals will quickly be targets of free speech lawsuits.

What are the core functions of a journal?

1. facilitate reviews

2. distribute articles selected through #1

It seems to me that #2 is where the potential for restrictive and exploitative business models really shows up. The curation function #1 should be something that can be accomplished at nominal expense. Universities should be able to fund that collaboratively for very low cost, pro-socially without a need to recuperate those costs. Why don't we see that? I suspect that it's the existing journal industry blocking such a development.

I agree, the process of peer review is something that should probably be done by academic institutions with neither corporate nor governmental oversight, and seems like something they're mostly happy to do, as evidenced by so many journals getting the work of expert scholars as peer-reviewers for free. As someone in a different comment thread pointed out, part of the barrier for such a move is that funding decisions build journals in as a gatekeeper, so effectively funding is locked behind publication. It's possible that simply removing the publishers from the equation would create the result everyone but them seems to want "automagically"

What are pragmatic things that we can do to push for open access for academic papers?

Just encourage people to upload their paper to an open access archive like arXiv first. Very few journals disallow this, it's just that authors are either too lazy or just don't want to make their paper publicly available.

It's also very field-specific. Like in computer science, almost everyone uploads to arXiv.

Yeah same in some fields of Physics, for example all theoretical stuff, along with most optical or optomechanical stuff is always on the arXiv, however for example some obscure paper on seismic noise might only be in some very expensive journal

Mention SciHub in your acknowledgements section.

Sponsor or help to develop SciHub, LibGen, IPFS-based storage, arXiv and Co.

You start with the scientists make it prestigious to publish in an open source journal, make it sexy, make it lucrative.

Forget sexy and lucrative. You make the NSF and NIH et al. require a link to an open website like Arxiv for each paper mentioned in an annual report. Instead of the crazy system that NSF currently has where you have to upload PDFs to their private Department of Energy archival service that taxpayers can’t access.

Well APS opened a new open access journal PRX which is more prestigious even than PRL, so I don't think that's the problem. Also Nature, which is like, the most prestigious, is also open access...

Nature is open access? Like what recently? And I assume they ask for a metric ton in cash to do that?

It surprised me as well. But apparently, it's up to the authors (or their institution) to choose.

> From January 2021, authors submitting primary research articles* to Nature will be able to choose to publish their work using either the traditional publishing route OR Open Access.

> *Non-primary research (e.g. Reviews, Comments, News & Views) is not eligible for Open Access and is only published using the traditional publishing route.


> The APC to publish Open Access in Nature is €9,500


In many countries you could sponsor PhD student for a year on €9,500.

It's just crime in white gloves. Academics are defrauding public money by having anything to do with Nature.

Running Arxiv per paper costs somewhere in the order of 10 dollars.

From the list of latest articles[1], you can see it's indeed not the most popular option. Only one in seven articles from the last few pages is OA.

The other OA journals still cost money that needs to be budgeted, i. e. not something you would pay out of your pocket. For example PLOS One charges you $ 1749. I guess the prices for publishing the articles may actually converge on a fair price for the reputation associated with the journal.

[1]: https://www.nature.com/nature/research-articles

Nevermind it's just Nature communications which is open access, I think the others require a fee

no idea where to start. The entire business model needs to be changed? I feel like its highly intertwined with the entire academia ecosystem, from grants, fundings, universities etc.

But I think there were claims before that these journals were basically using their reputation to make outsized profits? i.e. all they do is receive publications, charge universities outrageous fees to access, and don't even pay reviewers? Thus an increasing number of predatory journals trying to take advantage of this model. If that is proven to be true I guess there is a case for nationalizing research publication work?

Honestly I have no idea though, I don't know enough details about this

Imagine the live map of the money-flow around the research/review/publishing/usage. It could give us some hints.

Pain becomes palpable If one think about it. Maybe some thermodynamically provable illustrations of the energy around the issue would help us illustrate the problem (read: the scale of sickness of the 'intellectual property')

My hunch is that we're at the stage where KWh could - and should be used as the universal money (with all implications and hurdles it may signal)

Like purified BTC.

This is completely incomprehensible

(I think it meant) "If you visualize the monetary flow in the article publishing business, the "sickness" involved («pain») becomes visible: the energy waste becomes so apparent that it suggests replacing money directly with energy".

Concept that its author wanted to stress by crafting an energy consuming post.

(Joeberon, you never had to extensively decrypt the texts of theoretical philosophers of the latest centuries, had you ;) )

I'm a physicist, and personally have very little interest in philosophy. I haven't read really any philosophy at all

EDIT: actually that is false, I have read a lot of eastern philosophy, but that to me is more of a religious thing

i agree with this guy!!

When you quote a paper in your own work, explicitly mention that the resource is captive in a walled garden.

And, in your online PDF, link the citation to the Sci-hub copy.

This can be automated.

Tell authors to publish in open access journals?

Oh right, they don’t want to because they aren’t as prestigious.

We don't want to because publishing in open access costs us $2000.

  We don't want to because publishing in open access costs us $2000.
Out of curiosity, what does publishing in closed-access journals cost?

Closed-access journals charge the paper author thousands of dollars per page.

It varies depending on the subject area and publisher. Some are free to publish, some have a few hundred dollars a page or more for color (as though they actually print them still), where others might charge thousands to balance the operation costs of a printing company along with journal subscribers. Some journals essentially demand a first born.

There's no way to be sure. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.

Or were you just referring to money?

I think the reference would be e.g. to post https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28691445 in this page from stuartbman

(«free for the author but kept behind a paywall, or the author pays up front»)


PSA: The article Title is somewhat confusing. It actually argues for the knowledge-sharing model that Sci-Hub (and its brethren) advocate.

At the end, the article says:

But it is still worth contemplating a world without Sci-Hub—that is to say, a world in which Sci-Hub would be unnecessary. The “effective nationalization” proposed by Wiley and by the academic publishers themselves might just pave the way there.

It is quite frustrating that the Scientific Community producing the Intellectual Property that the "Academic Publishing Industry" makes money out of, is not doing more to bring the "Cartel" down once and for all. Have they become so pusillanimous that they are no longer willing to stand-up against what is clearly unethical and wrong?

It is time to re-read The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_Voluntary_Servitu...) and ACT on it.

> it seems clear that in the absence of the academic publishing industry, scholarship would be more widely available, not less

I am thinking of the newspaper industry. Their paywalls didn't work (most of them). Now, there is a lot more news of worse quality. It gives me pause.

It almost seems like a near perfect state — a world where Sci-Hub exists and the academic publishing industry. It's like having a thriving recording industry and Napster.

A world without an academic publishing industry is not a world without academics who group together and agree to coordinate peer review of new research. The difference between that world and this world is basically you get PDFs that have the default LaTeX template instead of the default Elsevir template. But you still downloaded it from the website of a group who coordinates peer reviews.

The difference between academic publishing and news publishing is that academic funding is separate from academic publishing funding. This means it is quite natural that you should have a website hosing content without ads or personal data sinks, so that the reputable publishers are more attractive than the non-reputable ones. (Funding or promotions are often given to people who have respected publications, but it's a separate process involving peer judgement. Impact is measured not by views, but by references - useless pseudoscientific research that would do well in the advertising market is kept separate.)

Moreover, the audience is completely different. Because they're not selling ad space, it doesn't matter if they get ten readers or ten thousand. Ordinary scientific literature is difficult to read for someone who hasn't been doing it since they were 18. News media is completely different: they are fundamentally funded by advertising (both in the preonline days and now), which means they need to maximise their audience.

In any case, we have the same problem now - so the same risk exist. Right now, it's much cheaper to produce fake scientific research, and if there's any appetite for it, it's now, when there's paywalls and unreasonable fees. If you could make a profit from distributing fake research, you should be doing it right now (and arguing for strong protection of IP), instead of waiting for the day when real research is less hamstrung than fake research in terms of distribution.

The declining quality of journalism comes from cultural tolerance of bad quality - otherwise, they could just have remained unpublished. In some Countries, newspapers receive public funding yet may not reach thresholds of quality for public use (in many top industrialized countries the press has disappointing international official raking).

Similarly, the interest towards openly accessible research results is public.

> In some Countries, newspapers receive public funding yet may not reach thresholds of quality for public use (in many top industrialized countries the press has disappointing international official raking).

I assume "raking" is a typo for "ranking", but I'm still not sure I understand your point.

The only official rankings for newspapers I'm aware of is circulation. Are you saying that a newspaper from say Ireland or Lithuania is of does not reach thresholds of quality for public use because they have a smaller target market than Fox News or Bild? (I doubt that's what you mean, but I can't identify an alternative meaning.)

What actually is a threshold of quality for public use?

No, the size of the target market is certainly not an indicator of quality - on the contrary: an idealized public tends to enhance quality.

Rankings exist; a widespread one is the Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders. If you check the 2021 ratings on the map¹, you will see that excellence is reserved to a few countries only - CostaRica, Portugal and Ireland fare better than the UK, France, Germany, the USA and Australia.

With "receiving public funding yet not reaching thresholds of quality for public use" it was meant that if the news organization receives public funding, its quality should reach some level well above that of an agency financially left to its own devices, and its quality should justify public investment. An entity receiving public funding is supposed to respond about its use - practices, outcomes etc.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Press_freedom_2021.svg


Now: the poster seemed to indicate a relation between "market" (number of buyers) and quality. The idea that information, commentary, analysis and research results and validation can be made akin to a "deregulated and for profit industry" (e.g. the music industry) is perplexing. Bread and water - privatized or not - must be accessible and not toxic, as part of societal organization. Less buyers' funding does not imply quality decrease, and free access to vital parts of knowledge is public concern.

It is some time since you posted, and I suppose this thread will soon be closed, so I apologise for the late reply.

The Press Freedom Index ranks countries media landscapes, not newspapers. Therefore, it cannot be used to allocate funding. We can use it to bring awareness to failings in public policy in particular countries.

I did not indicate a relationship between market and quality; on the contrary, I attempted to repudiate such a notion through a reductio ad absurdam.

How do we measure quality? How can we prevent those who benefit from poor quality media, once in power, from tweaking the measurements to give it to their supporters. That is my question.

It's unfortunate that technical societies such as the ACM and IEEE (for example) seem to view their digital libraries as cash cows to be milked to pay for non-library overhead.

I hope that increasing open access mandates - including distribution rights - for taxpayer-funded research will help to break down the paywalls.

It's encouraging that the University of California has open access requirements - hopefully they will become universal among public and private universities.

Misinformation is free, real research is expensive, even if funded by your tax dollars.

> Few people today are priced out of streaming films or buying MP3s

The article is trying to underscore the expensiveness of scientific literature (undeniable) with the above, but it is true for any reasonable value of "few"?

What is a good way to support sci-hub? Given the nature of illegally share documents and the constantly server hopping, I have always been apprehensive about supporting sci-hub even though I want to.

Let's not forget the names of the prosecutors who literally hounded Aaron Swartz to his death: Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann.

May their names always be associated with this infamy.

>the cause of open access to information enjoys broad support in (...) the machine learning field

Ah yes, as shown by the example of OpenAI.

A name that is ironic in the same way as the "academic publishing industry" (as mentioned in the article)

OpenAI's weird insistence that its "open" research only be accessible to entities it trusts not to do harm with it (like... Microsoft of course!) is indicative of a divide between academic research and corporate research that exists in all fields. While there are serious concerns about AI risk, when I hear it in a corporate context, it always seems to be a thin veneer of affected concern painted over an all-too-familiar drive to keep innovation under lock and key

When talking about ML's preference for open access, the article was probably referring to the fact that ML literature is overwhelmingly published on arXiv or similarly open-access places (even if it's also published elsewhere) compared to most fields. Personally, I think this is strictly because it's a relatively new field without as many entrenched norms

> Whether intended or not, the impossibly high paywalls of academic publishers only serve to keep scientific information out of the population’s hands. What makes this even more discordant is that the people being prevented from accessing the information are often also the taxpayers who helped fund the research in the first place.

> By framing the debate about Sci-Hub as one concerning property rights, both advocates of Elbakyan’s site and its detractors fall afoul of what John Gall called the “operational fallacy.” In his book The Systems Bible, Gall defined the operational fallacy as a situation where “the system itself does not do what it says it is doing.” In other words, what a system calls itself is not always a reliable indicator of its true function. In this case, the name of the “academic publishing industry” implies that it is supposed to be involved in the dissemination of scholarship. But the effective function of the academic publishing industry as it actually exists is to prevent the dissemination of scholarly work.

The author mentions his disproval of Elbakyan and her friends focusing on property rights, yet doesn't actually make a logical or convincing argument against it. Fail.

The reason Elbakyan focuses on property rights is because intellectual property is the most harmful thing blocking science today.

Intellectual property literally commoditizes and monopolizes collective feedback loops/learnings, disinheriting the working class.

Sci-Hub needs to be uncensorable and forked into a separate project, without Alexandra E. at the helm. It needs to be a Tor hidden service with the admin being completely anonymous. There's too much heat around the project currently. Jumping from ccTLD to ccTLD may help a small bit, but a hidden service with an unknown admin (or group of admins!) is exponentially better.

Putting it on the “dark web” is just a different, more effective barrier than the money barrier the industry wants.

> more effective barrier

Tor, or more specifically the Tor Browser Bundle is not some huge hurdle to overcome if you want to browse certain content. I imagine for the audience of Sci-Hub, downloading then using Tor is no biggie.

The only real hurdle may be discovery of the right .ONION but once you search for `The Hidden Wiki` on DuckDuckGo you will be soon in Onionland and there are plenty of search engines and directories on there that could potentially point to the latest Sci-Hub .ONION

I can't think of anybody else that has Tor on their computer, or knows how to get it or whether it's safe, or why they should get it. I have had Tor on my computer for years, and I've never heard of 'The Hidden Wiki'.

On the other hand, I know people who have searched for papers and downloaded them from Scihub.

I don't think you know "the audience" for Sci-Hub. It's meant to make the content public, not free for the right people who already know tons of stuff about the dark web.

There is no innovation when secrecy is involved.

I've heard multiple times, and I don't remember exactly from where, that you can access research papers for free simply by reaching out to the authors and that many if not most of them are willing to provide said papers upon request.

If that is the case, why exactly don't researchers stick their papers literally anywhere on the internet that isn't a paywall? Is there a legal difference between sharing a paper with an individual and uploading it to a public index?

Honestly, with the current psychology of the public, I don't think this would be worse than having journals pick holding research for ransom.

Because the rules allow us to send out copies of the final article in "personal correspondence with other researchers" but limit upload to preprint servers (arxiv) and institutional repositories (our own website) to the last version that we submitted, without the services of the journal, i.e. before language editing and layouting.

>, that you can access research papers for free simply by reaching out to the authors and that many if not most of them are willing to provide said papers upon request.

Yes but in most cases, the authors are only legally allowed to give away the less desirable pre-prints manuscripts that was created for journal submission. The publishers allow them to retain the copyright to their draft work. However, the copyright to the final journal article with all the nice typesetting, pretty graphs, etc is assigned to the publisher. That more desirable finished article is the one behind the paywall.

(That's not to say that some authors "break the rules" and share the final journal article instead of their preprint but that's going to depend on the particular author.)

Many for-profit journals are now giving authors a few freebies of final versions to share with friends as the PDFs have DRM included. Old school researchers back before social media would use new articles they can't access as a reason to introduce themselves and build the professional network, which I sincerely hope is still going on.

is it impossible to access sci-hub without a browser extension?

I hold conflicted views on this issue. I don't want to inhibit authors from publishing, as I love books. But often they are too expensive. So, about 50% of the time I pay for them, and 50% of the time I get them from sci-hub.

And certainly paying for scientific articles is a big rip off. It effectively means that once you are no longer enrolled or working at a university, your access to this paywalled information is gone.

How do you get books from Sci-hub?

> Nobel laureates wrote a separate letter encouraging the Trump administration to go ahead with its plans—which, in any event, never came to fruition.

What's the status with Biden administration?

"Swartz potentially faced more jail time for downloading academic papers than he would have if he had helped Al Qaeda build a nuclear weapon. "

Too much for the American values.

Please don't take HN threads on flamewar tangents. This was a doozy. Such discussions are predictable, tedious, attract the same minority of commenters over and over and bore/drive away everybody else.

If you wouldn't mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and taking the intended spirit of the site more to heart, we'd be grateful.

I am sorry for that. I didn't intend that. Thank you for pointing to the guidelines and I will take this more to heart when commenting.


It's things like this that make me believe that the US isn't a truly free society. It simply pretends it is.

But all nations have their problems. The US simply has more than one might think.

The US has the highest prison population per capita in the world.

Mostly because of an outdated view on justice and crime.

> Mostly because of an outdated view on justice and crime.

Mostly because certain people profit off it. If you have private prisons and lifetime voting bans for someone locked up for a few months you have mega incentives to get a lot of people behind bars.

It's good for violent crimes though.

Whereas in Sweden for example, a violent rapist was awarded ~$84k - https://www.gp.se/ledare/v%C3%A5ldt%C3%A4ktsmannens-skadest%... - after he turned out to be a minor but had been tried as an adult, and in the end spent less than 2 years in prison.

Some of ThePirateBay founders had longer sentences, absolute clown world.

That outdated view in your comment is exactly what I mean.

There might be an argument if the US actually had lower crime or recidivism rates than European countries, but it does not have that.

Yes, it takes some effort to overcome that primal view on justice, but it leads to a more humane society with less crime.

It sounds like that Sweden case is justified. An injustice was done to him, and he got restitution.

That injustice is separate and distinct from the one he committed on a fellow human being, and for that case he spent two years in prison. This sounds unreasonably short, but without further information, who are we to say whether that was acceptable or not? Perhaps two years was enough to help the rapist overcome his violent tendencies.

As scientists, we need to stop citing papers that are behind a paywall. That is the only way this will end without external intervention e.g. actual regulation outlawing certain aspects of the pay-walls.

As a scientist, I am obliged to cite every paper that is relevant to my work and that I refer to in any way, be that by paraphrase, mentioning, or direct quotation. You can't just ignore previous work because you don't like the way it was published.

Annnd that's how we got where we are folks.

I guess it depends how you view your obligations. If you don't want people to be able to read, vet, or reproduce your research because the citations are suspiciously tricky to follow up on, that is of course your prerogative. As a scientist free and fair access to accurate and easily verifiable information should, of course, be in the forefront of what you care about. It is completely doable as well -- I've done it with my research for years. Even when citing books, I always ensure the relevant passages are available in Google Book search or something like SciHub. If not, I won't cite that source, because I wouldn't have been able to access it in the first place anyway.

I don't think it's a good idea to jeopardize scientific integrity in the fight against exorbitant subscription fees, that's going way too far. As convenient as Sci-Hub and Libgen are (everyone uses them because they are convenient), you seem to be blissfully unaware of the public library system and the fact that you can order any book or article from any research library in your country. Maybe it's a generational thing, I still remember going to large research library on a bike, ordering 30 articles and books and spending hours at the copying machine. It is possible to work that way, just less convenient. Anyway, the point is that it should be possible to fight expensive subscription fees and at the same time give credit to where it's due.

My point is if you simply don't consult the paid sources in the first place, you don't have an attribution crisis (and then presumably the world gets better and suddenly we have flying cars because 100% of academic research becomes accessible and checkable by all). If we don't read them, we have no need to cite them. Many fields (especially CS) are at the point where you can 100% avoid a trip to the library (or to JSTOR) because the amount of readily available free sources (free as in free for non academics). Even older papers like those by Turing are all available free online and are thus completely fair game to cite without any guilt, and then literally everything new worth citing these days is in arXiv anyway. At least in computing, I guarantee 99% of the time you can find an alternative (and probably better) free citable source for [insert fact here].

When we cite a paywalled paper, we muddy the integrity of our field by saying "sure, you can check up on this, if you pay that is". The downstream effects of everyone doing this is that there are quite simply more inaccuracies out there in current publications. Replication studies literally become more expensive because to replicate 1000 papers, you have to get by 1000 * x paywalls, so we get less replication studies, so the field suffers. If we want accurate research, everyone needs to be able to access every single citation without issue or highway robbery just in case a janitor without JSTOR access finds a flaw in one of your citations' differential equations.

This also leads to the (damaging) centralization of power -- only large institutions can afford to do things like replication studies, and only academics at large institutions can afford to read paywalled citations. It's like we're living in the dark ages. This made more sense when paper and printing were incredibly expensive, like 300 years ago.

In this way, institutions paying for these subscription memberships actually does damage, since they are keeping this model profitable. They are subsidizing the destruction of integrity in fields they care about.

You can anyway stop publishing in journals that would put your paper behind a paywall. Failing that, require that the journal not put your paper behind a paywall (which you usually can do). Failing that, refuse to sign copyright over to the journal (which you can always do, whatever the journal hints at). And, anyway, post a copy to a free site like Arxiv under the same DOI.

> But it is still worth contemplating a world without Sci-Hub—that is to say, a world in which Sci-Hub would be unnecessary. The “effective nationalization” proposed by Wiley and by the academic publishers themselves might just pave the way there. Imagine it: a 21st-century Library of Alexandria, a truly utopian creation, gifted to the world by Uncle Sam.

Those are fair sentiments but in my experience, replacing one ideological solution (capitalism) with another (socialism) just shifts the pile of money to be made, from one group of people to another.

From my perspective, I'm not sure there really is a solution as, no matter what we try, at some point somewhere greed just seems to get the better of us.

Who exactly do you see as profiting from a globally open-access paper store?

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