A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers.
For those of you who aren't already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it's sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it's since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.
"Payment of $32 is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them," Elbakyan told Torrent Freak last year."Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal."
If it sounds like a modern day Robin Hood struggle, that's because it kinda is. But in this story, it's not just the poor who don't have access to scientific papers - journal subscriptions have become so expensive that leading universities such as Harvard and Cornell have admitted they can no longer afford them. Researchers have also taken a stand - with 15,000 scientists vowing to boycott publisher Elsevier in part for its excessive paywall fees.
Don't get us wrong, journal publishers have also done a whole lot of good - they've encouraged better research thanks to peer review, and before the Internet, they were crucial to the dissemination of knowledge.
But in recent years, more and more people are beginning to question whether they're still helping the progress of science. In fact, in some cases, the 'publish or perish' mentality is creating more problems than solutions, with a growing number of predatory publishers now charging researchers to have their work published - often without any proper peer review process or even editing.
"They feel pressured to do this," Elbakyan wrote in an open letter to the New York judge last year. "If a researcher wants to be recognised, make a career - he or she needs to have publications in such journals."
That's where Sci-Hub comes into the picture. The site works in two stages. First of all when you search for a paper, Sci-Hub tries to immediately download it from fellow pirate database LibGen. If that doesn't work, Sci-Hub is able to bypass journal paywalls thanks to a range of access keys that have been donated by anonymous academics (thank you, science spies).
This means that Sci-Hub can instantly access any paper published by the big guys, including JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier, and deliver it to you for free within seconds. The site then automatically sends a copy of that paper to LibGen, to help share the love.
It's an ingenious system, as Simon Oxenham explains for Big Think:
"In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access - literally a world of knowledge."
That's all well and good for us users, but understandably, the big publishers are pissed off. Last year, a New York court delivered an injunction against Sci-Hub, making its domain unavailable (something Elbakyan dodged by switching to a new location), and the site is also being sued by Elsevier for "irreparable harm" - a case that experts are predicting will win Elsevier around $750 to $150,000 for each pirated article. Even at the lowest estimations, that would quickly add up to millions in damages.
But Elbakyan is not only standing her ground, she's come out swinging, claiming that it's Elsevier that have the illegal business model.
"I think Elsevier’s business model is itself illegal," she told Torrent Freak, referring to article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits".
She also explains that the academic publishing situation is different to the music or film industry, where pirating is ripping off creators. "All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold," she said.
Elbakyan hopes that the lawsuit will set a precedent, and make it very clear to the scientific world either way who owns their ideas.
"If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge," she said. "We have to win over Elsevier and other publishers and show that what these commercial companies are doing is fundamentally wrong."
To be fair, Elbakyan is somewhat protected by the fact that she's in Russia and doesn't have any US assets, so even if Elsevier wins their lawsuit, it's going to be pretty hard for them to get the money.
Still, it's a bold move, and we're pretty interested to see how this fight turns out - because if there's one thing the world needs more of, it's scientific knowledge. In the meantime, Sci-Hub is still up and accessible for anyone who wants to use it, and Elbakyan has no plans to change that anytime soon.
Whether Conducting Academic Research or Purely Scientific Research, These Sites can be an Invaluable Aid.
Researching is the most crucial step of writing a scientific paper. It is always a well-researched scientific paper that inspires the assessor. At the same time, it must have genuine and authentic information for credibility. With the development in Internet industry, i.e., web resources, researching for scientific materials has now become a matter of a few clicks. Now students can get information on any topic pertaining to science through academic search engines. They provide a centralized platform and allow the students to acquire literature on any topic within seconds.
While there are many academic search engines available, there are some that have the most trusted resources. They provide information on a range of topics from Engineering and technology to Biology and Natural Science. They provide a one-stop solution to all research-related needs for a scientific paper. Besides, they provide a personal and customized way to search research materials on any given topic. This article will focus on some popular academic search engines that have revolutionized the way information is researched by the students. They are rich in information and have the highest level of credibility.
- Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/): Google Scholar is a free academic search engine that indexes academic information from various online web resources. The Google Scholar lists information across an array of academic resources, mostly are peer-reviewed. It works in the same manner as Scirus. Founded in 2004, it is one of the widely used academic resources for researchers and scholars.
- CiteSeerx (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu): CiteSeerx is a digital library and an online academic journal that offer information within the field of computer science. It indexes academic resources through autonomous citation indexing system. This academic database is particularly helpful for students seeking information on computer and information sciences. It offers many other exclusive features to facilitate the students with the research process that include: ACI – Autonomous Citation Indexing, reference linking, citation statistics, automatic metadata extraction and related documents. Founded in 1998, it is the first online academic database and has since evolved into a more dynamic and user-friendly academic search engine.
- GetCITED (http://www.getcited.org/): GetCITED is another powerful tool for searching scientific information. It is an online academic database that indexes academic journals and citations. It is a one-stop platform that offers everything related to academic publications such as chapters, conference papers, reports and presentations. You can even browse through the bibliographies to search related details. Furthermore, you can find information on any author and his published works. The two ‘most outstanding’ features of this academic search engine tool include: ‘a comprehensive database’ and ‘discussion forum’. It allows every member from academia to contribute in its database resources. It has over 3,000,000 written by more than 3,00,000 authors.
- Microsoft Academic Research (http://academic.research.microsoft.com/): Microsoft academic research is yet another top search engine for academic resources. Developed by Microsoft Research, it has more than 48 millions publications written by over 20 millions authors. It indexes range of scientific journals from computer science and engineering to social science and biology. It has brought in many new ways to search academic resources, such as papers, authors, conferences and journals. This academic search engine allows you to search information based on authors or domains.
- Bioline International(http://www.bioline.org.br/): Bioline is among the most trusted and authentic search engines that has peer-reviewed academic journals on public health, food and nutritional security, food and medicine and biodiversity. It provides free access to peer-reviewed journals from third world countries. It promotes exchange of ideas through academic resources. Founded in 1993, it has 70 journals across 15 countries that offer information on subjects like crop science, biodiversity, public health and international development.
- Directory of Open Access Journals (http://www.doaj.org/): Director of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is yet another free search engine for scientific and scholarly resources. The directory offers a huge range of topics within scientific areas of study. It is among the richest sources of scholarly database with over 8,000 journals available on different topics. All the journals are thoroughly peer-reviewed.
- PLOS ONE(http://www.plosone.org/): Founded in 2006, PLOSE ONE provides a free access platform to everyone searching for science-related information. All the articles publish on PLOS ONE are published after going through a strict peer-reviewed process. This academic database has a meticulous procedure for publishing a journal. You can find plenty of articles and academic publications using this platform.
- BioOne(http://www.bioone.org/): An excellent search engine for scientific information, BioOne contains academic resources for biological, environmental and ecological sciences. Established in 2000, it started as an NGO and later became an online academic journal directory. The journal gives free access to over 25000 institutions all over the world.
- Science and Technology of Advanced Materials (http://iopscience.iop.org/1468-6996/): First published in 2000, the science and technology of advanced materials became online in 2008. This peer-reviewed academic journal offers free access to academic journals on major areas of science and technology. The academic directory is totally free of cost and provides easy and simple access to plethora of information covering scientific subject-matters.
- New Journal of Physics (http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630): New Journal of Physics is an online scientific search engine that has academic databases with physics as core subject. Founded in 1998, it is co-founded by the Institute Of Physics and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. The search engine offers academic journals on diversified topics with physics as central theme.
- ScienceDirect (http://www.sciencedirect.com/): “A leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters from more than 2,500 journals and almost 20,000 books.”
The above mentioned academic database and directories are among the most trusted search engines for scientific research. They offer information on possibly all the major areas of science including computer and technology, biology, environmental science and social sciences, and other areas of academic research.
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