|Logo of Sci-Hub. Fair use,|
As always, Björn Brembs has a great overview, a must read, though I think I disagree with the Sci-Hub As Necessary, Effective Civil Disobedience title. The argument from the developer of Sci-Hub convinces me more. Wikipedia writes: Alexandra Elbakyan has cited the Article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights "to share in scientific advancement and its benefits".
I am not a lawyer and have no idea it this really applies, but as a scholar, it does reflect exactly what I care about: research should benefit society, directly or indirectly. We have established many routes, often involving some sustainability model (whatever that is). But at a very base level, there is nothing sustainable about knowledge that is hard to get. Scarcity improves value, but knowledge must be cheap, and unlike the AAP suggests, cheap is not the same as low quality (if only they had gotten that press release peer-reviewed...). If it would, then a simple smartphone would be of lower quality than a fax.
But civil obedience is not the solution. However, the point I want to make here is that the Sci-Hub practices are not really new: scholars have been sharing papers for free for many, many years. As a student I learned how to ask collaborators a copy of some paper important to the research you were doing. And to ask the author of the paper of a copy. This civil obedience was and is common sense. And publishers were happy about this for many, many years. That is, I have never heard of any of them going after universities for these practices of their scholars.
Sci-Hub just makes this common activity easier. It only makes it easier to look up scientific knowledge. It just that publishers do not seem to want that. It has to take effort (which is a sign of high quality research, right?).
So, here is my howto on how to get access to research output in a way that publishers have been happy with for at least twenty years:
- do not use ILL or go to a nearby university has access to the paper (do not make a list of papers you can get there and do not go there once a month; while there, do not meet up with other scholars to discuss science)
- do not ask collaborators or friends at other institutes if they have access
- email the corresponding author of the paper (after all, the author decided on a closed access license)
- try to ask for a reprint via their publication list provider, such as ResearchGate (the author will love your request via such systems!)
- email him again, if you have not received an answer in about a week
- repeat this step a few times; they are busy people and may have missed your earlier communication
- email other authors of the paper, possibly the ask the dean of the faculty to ask the author to send you a reprint
- once you have a copy of the paper, email the authors to say you have a copy of their paper (they may not even have access themselves, which may be the reason why they did not provide a reprint)
Really, this "reprint" concept has been quite formalized and some of you may still remember the term. Several publishers used to have specific URLs that allowed authors to share up to X (normally quite sufficient for most papers) that authors could send back in reply to one of your above emails. Of course, it would be silly to just have the first X PDF downloads for free anyway.
Oh, and some have asked the Open Access community to indicate their position about Sci-Hub practices. Well, as is clear from the above, the Open Access community has long ago responded how to solve the problem of access to literature: by creating the gold Open Access movement.
So, that's why I try to ensure my important work is Open Access. Because then I don't get bothered with tens of reprint requests and give me time to write this personal </rant>. In no way does this post reflect the position of my employer.