– the Pirate Bay of Academic Research. Theft or not? free academic papers

I recently posted a link on facebook to Known as the Pirate Bay of the science world created 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan. jstor-intrinic-motivationAfter posting the article link to FB there was one single response. A response that seemed to imply the pirate site was childish theft. That it was an “I want everything for free” attitude. It’s hard to argue otherwise.  Us and our first world problems.

  1. Theft? Yes. – Yes I agree that the current economic structure in academics does in fact technically make this theft. So hey, Professor Elbakyan is having an American Tea Party in St. Petersberg.
  2. Further I believe it is our current economic structure that is broken. Oh, and that JSTOR is run by boneheads who couldn’t solve a problem creatively if their lives depended on it. As we say in programming – “garbage in, garbage out.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 6.43.31 PM

Taken from a behavioral perspective, if you recall, before the itunes store made buying songs easy, everyone downloaded them for free. Before the kindle made downloading books electronically cheap and convenient, everyone downloaded them for free. Make it convenient or someone else will make it really convenient!

First, what is ? From the article “Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge” by FIONA MACDONALD:

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…

Maybe I had a knee jerk reaction of vindication seeing this research become freely available after the tragedy of Aaron Schwartz’ suicide in 2013 from overzealous persecution for accessing JSTOR documents from the MIT network.  I’m seriously wondering if JSTOR is trying to make sure Martin Shkreli quits dominating the “evil capitalist stories” the media likes to write.

And to be clear, I walk the talk. Our company’s product is Tendenci – the Open Source Membership Management Software (on github too) and most of my photography is creative commons attribution

Creative Commons Capital Photo by eschipul
Creative Commons Capital Photo by eschipul

as seen used in this publication below fully within copyright laws with attribution. We can play nicely together.

CC by Ca

JSTOR’s purpose after all is to;

JSTOR was founded to be a shared digital archive serving the scholarly community. We understand the value of the scholarship and other material on the platform and that the future accessibility of this content is essential. Libraries around the world rely on us and contribute Archive Capital Fees to JSTOR for preservation activities.

To understand a Russian academics perspective, this data I found on the Internet for free, says that the overall average monthly income in Russia in 2005 was a NET total of $263 per month. Now that $25 JSTOR article for which the author was paid nothing by JSTOR is 10% of that Russian student’s monthly income.

That kind of changes your perspective a bit, huh?

I can and do understand why people would immediately view as theft. Except for academics this just isn’t a black and white issue. There are a few differences.

I can’t afford to pay $45 for every research paper I want to read knowing the research was funded by federal grants, underwritten by the University and the authors were not compensated.

Why not bring the economics down to the level of the app store?

How does JSTOR add value if they don’t pay the authors and didn’t write the content? Their answer is “peer review and legitimacy,” but those can now be conveyed on the internet. Aren’t there other solutions?

Why can’t we sign a peer review article with a blockchain?  It’s not just jstor but modern academics that haven’t kept up. Being a non-profit doesn’t mean you get to ignore everything that is going on with economics via externalities.

I’ll leave those thoughts for y’all to ponder. As for me I discovered a fully legal work around for when I wanted an academic article years ago. And here it is:

JSTOR pricing for an article free in other places on the net.
JSTOR pricing for an article free in other places on the net.

How to get 95% of the academic articles you want on the Internet for free with google.

Problem: writing a research paper for a national PR Magazine on “Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives”. Solution:

  1. Search google scholar. – Yes google scholar and NOT google. This will lead you to academic research on the subject for sale at some relatively high price on a site like jstor. This was my search Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives
  2. COPY a large amount of text from the abstract or the preview they show you on overview page on JSTOR (or any of the academic pay-or-no-knowledge-for-you sites,) Highlight it.  Copy it verbatim.
  3. Now go back to (not google scholar, but regular google this time.)
  4. Paste that monster block of text into and odds are you will find a link to a PDF version of the article on someone’s server available for free.
  5. That led me to about 5 links to academic servers with the full pdf available for download at no cost. Example:

And the bottom line is the TOPIC I was interested in in a peer reviewed science journal as recent at 2014 was downloaded within 5 minutes. It takes me longer to print it than find it. Not that probably couldn’t do it even faster. And that is a good thing for the globe. Now back to reading….

… In our study area, despite the potential of infestation of opportunistic behaviors by workers, a fixed wage (FW) contract has been dominant for rice planting since the 1960s. To account for this puzzle of a seemingly-inefficient contractual arrangement, we adopt a hybrid experimental method of framed field experiments by randomly assigning three distinct labor contracts, i.e., FW, individual piece rate (IPR), and group piece rate (GPR) contracts and artefactual filed experiments to elicit social preference parameters. Through the analyses of individual workers’ performance data from framed field experiments and data on social preferences elicited by artefactual field experiments, Three main empirical findings emerge. First……

Life can be complex. But I got what I wanted, I didn’t use it because after scanning it it wasn’t the article I was looking for. It sent unused, I didn’t pay for it, but I also threw it away, but mainly I acquired it and came to that decision faster than I could have typed in my credit card number to buy it from JSTOR.

Incentives and Social Preference
Incentives and Social Preference

In this case the economics didn’t match the need. I solved it for myself, and sci-hub is apparently solving it for millions. Open our minds and find a better optimum solution. We can and should do this.

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

On openness and open minds. While you read “the facts,” who is to say that the author of the “facts” isn’t incorrect themselves given the “history is written by the victors”?  (Note  quote and article – via @SarahWorthy)

From “The Other Side is Not Dumb

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”

Because refusing to truly understand those who disagree with you is intellectual laziness and worse, is usually worse than what you’re accusing the Other Side of doing.



My take away from the article is similar to what I have always advocated (maybe it’s a meta-meta-meta loop and I’m being duped again?). Anyway, those principles in communication are:

  1. Be present.
  2. Listen first.
  3. Be open minded.

I believe I am qualified to speak on this subject for a few odd reasons.  Like the fact that it is hard for me to be present. Being open minded is always a challenge. And listening first is also a challenge. I’m qualified to venture an opinion because I have failed so many times. Sometimes failure teaches more than success.

Then, you get older. You listen more. You respect facts but question bias in statistics. You trust your gut. Your pattern recognition carries more weight than a persuasive graphic alone.

Mostly, in my opinion you learn to listen to other people deeply. You are “present” and you “hear” them. You learn to “see” people in a different way. You aren’t present because you have to, but because you desire the wisdom they are sharing even if you don’t agree. You listen because, maybe with their input, you might come to agree and learn from them! Your passion for wisdom and knowledge outweighs the biases and prejudices we all develop.

I had a friend describe working for me (I’m paraphrasing as it has been a while.)

“It’s hard to get your attention. But when you have your attention, its 100%. It can be a bit much.”

I may have gotten the wording wrong, but it was said by one of my true friends who has been there for me for over 20 years. I respect his opinion and I used his feedback to try to tone my presence down without turning down the attention with which I listen and speak.

Changes I made? Everything from changing my attire to be more casual even in business-suit-Houston and studying my own body posture when listening. Crossing my arms and looking down was my habit when listening deeply. It turns out not everyone interprets my posture for what it was; it came across as disapproving to some when it was in fact the exact opposite. So I changed. I learned to lean against a tree and nod my head, not always in agreement, but to acknowledge what they were saying. So when I say I took my friends feedback seriously, I mean it. I even read two more books on body language.

My reward for my changes? I get to learn more from more interesting people. I LOVE THAT!

Speaking and sharing knowledge

As they say, “the thing with introverts is that it is NOT that they don’t like to talk. It’s that they like to talk about things they are interested in.”

That of course is why we must listen first and learn about things we know nothing about without interrupting people, because that curiosity might uncover something new we are interested in. It is respectful to others. And learning is a lifelong endeavor – I have no intention to stop being curious or learning from others as long as I am breathing.

Avicii’s video for Wake Me Up really captures the loss if we fail to listen to our youth in particular (more after the jump).

2016. This is a unique time in history. Seriously.

Modern knowledge in the Internet age swirls around like a whirlpool, regardless of age, gender, nationality or some certificate on your wall. Degrees in my field for example are close to irrelevant. This amazing kindling of knowledge I am seeing is practically a cauldron  about to spill over for those not paying attention.

Example: you are likely to learn more from those younger than you this year than those older than you if you are over 40.

Youth of course has it’s own arrogance and may not want to learn from their elders because like EVERY generation they believe they know more. But they MUST have this arrogance or they won’t take risks, start companies, invent calculus,  and push our society forward. Still, they can learn from their elders. But only, only if they respect you first. And they are the future. So yes, if you are over 40, get off your high horse and earn THEIR respect even if when we were 20 it was our job to earn the respect of 40 year olds.

I have traditionally, and will continue to respectfully, listen to my elders by being fully present. To learn from their wisdom. Yet…..

I must observe that in the last six months in particular, I have learned more from carefully listening to people sometimes much younger than me. To give them the floor and listen deeply and respectfully.

If you listen, our youth from 5 to 20 are particularly generous with their knowledge. I am so grateful to my younger friends and acquaintances who “grok” that I am interested in what they are teaching me. That I am fully present and grateful to them for sharing their knowledge with me.

This respect is the same as how appreciative I am of my 70 or 80 year old friend who share with me. Tell me stories. It’s kind of awesome. People are people, we should not underestimate them regardless of age. 

The reward from these interchanges is truly priceless. Knowledge, respect, love, a human connection. Pay it forward in a time when knowledge is flying back and forth between all generations and cultures. It’s an exciting (and stressful) time to live. But definitely not boring, my friends!

For the curious ones out there, now is the time. Shut up and dance. Listen first. Be present. Be open minded.

Stories are the best way to share knowledge. Tell yours to those who are intently interested. And be interested in others and ask them to tell you their story. It’s a start. For example I know Alie will teach me to fire dance.

Fire dancing is something I will not do. But if asked, there is a possibility of zero that Alie would not share this knowledge with me. It is knowledge one question away from me. What a cool world we live in!


Instead, I choose to photograph my friends, be present, listen to them, and learn what I can while wishing they would keep the fire farther away from me. (Even if my mantra is to move fast and break things.)


PS – Day job stuff. As the founder of Tendenci – The Open Source Membership Management Software project, these topics in sociology do apply very much to our vision. Systems of interaction can change behaviors (do you “like” or not click “like” on FB when a couple breaks up. It’s a serious question. Thus I value your feedback to make even better for the open source community.)

human or systemic resistance to sharing knowledge

“The biggest impediment,” the commission warned, “is the human or systemic resitance to sharing information.” … “Intelligence should be processed… according to the same quality standards”

From “Garland terror case highlights intelligence-sharing impediments”, Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2015

can data curation duties be traded?

From the post paraphrased:

…proper formatting and exposure of the nanopublications contained in diverse sources … allow these resources to be recognized for the important scientific contributions they actually are.

In full:

The brooding question: can data curation duties be traded?

Only a minority of nanopublications in databases and datasets will ever make it into a narrative as an explicit textual assertion. Even if they do, they will be very difficult to recover retrospectively, for reasons related to access and the failings of mining technology, in confronting ambiguity and sentence construction. We estimated that describing the supplementary data of Giardine et al.2 would require roughly 4 million words, with the result being a corpus hardly readable by machines.

On the other hand, a single LOVD website ( consistently enjoyed more than 50 citations annually over the past three years. It is therefore reasonable to assume that proper formatting and exposure of the nanopublications contained in diverse sources such as locus-specific databases could allow these resources to be recognized for the important scientific contributions they actually are. Appropriate standards for proper measurement of these citable items seem to be the only remaining obstacle. So, let us agree to evolve these and to communicate more effectively.

Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass

library of congress reading room
“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” – William Cowper

GN: What Should I Tell the Librarians? – I have some ideas

  Living in a Book 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

What do you tell the librarians?

Global Neighbourhoods asks "what should I tell the librarians?" for an upcoming talk on social media to a group of librarians.

First lets talk about the audience. Librarians are the most over educated, in a good way, people who are typically underpaid worse than teachers. A challenging masters frequently relegates them to book guardians at a local library doling out fines. And baby sitting kids whose parents view the library as a day care.

Librarians are museum curators trying to decide if their mission is to protect the exhibits or share the exhibits (note most museum curators go for "protect and hide" hence the no-photography rules at so many American museums. But I digress.)

I say this from the perspective of someone with two librarians in my family. Neither of them work as librarians any more.

What I have found about librarians is they have a natural desire to help. To share knowledge more than just information. One phone call can save hours of google searches looking for just the right search phrase. Just as going to a conference made me understand how important Goffman was when no amount of google searches would have generated pop-up box saying "no really, you need to read this one!"

So what to tell the librarians. Tell them that:

1) Librarians are Teachers – The biggest digital divide is more cultural than economic in the US at least. Having access to a free blogging platform in no way teaches the ethos and culture of the blogosphere. So they should view part of their jobs as teaching the public about social software tools. These tools are vehicles that bridge the digital divide (three of the last four people we hired were bloggers. We ask every applicant and recruit bloggers. So a librarian-teacher could help kids in the neighborhood get real jobs IF they understand social media.

2) Specialize – with the explosion of available information you can’t just be an "academic librarian" or a "community librarian". You need to specialize.

3) Virtualize – given limited budgets, they should be not only using social software tools themselves to connect to other librarians, but helping the public do the same. Form a super-librarian-group on facebook that enables them to connect people with the right librarian.

Continue reading “GN: What Should I Tell the Librarians? – I have some ideas”

Limitations of Folksonomies for Non Profits

Folksonomies are to taxonomies what content management systems are to webmasters; they free the people. And the people do what people do. And that is good. Even for the NPTech tag stream. I say this in reaction to this riff on the limitations of folksonomies for the non profit world. From the post:

I’ve always been vaguely uncomfortable with folksonomies. There is
something about the concept that just doesn’t sit right with me. Every
time I hear people wax on about them, I fidget in my seat; I feel kind
of itchy and unsettled at the same time. Perhaps it’s my latent,
leftover librarian-like nature.

Given a tag like NPTech applies to, as Gavin notes, a "tax status", it is not surprising that it is confusing. Yet so would reading all information in a hierarchical taxonomy under "China" (sub classed in Asia in the Library of Congress if I recall Shirky correctly.) The classification is simply too large. Which is why we use multiple word phrases when we search google.

It sounds to me like the original non profit taxonomy project needs to be revived. To create a Taxonomy to be used in-addition to the folksonomy in the NPTech space. And perhaps there is a hybrid where a person can pick a dictionary of recommended tags. Similar to the synonym ring used by libraries.

Citizendium is to Foo as Wikipedia is to Bar

Citizendium aspires to have a group of intellectuals create moderated great ideas. Like foo camp has an invited group of intellectuals.

Wikipedia aspires to have editors from the willing and takes all comers. Like bar camp has unconferences of the willing.

Some background:

Citizendium is being started by Larry Sanger, one of the cofounders of wikipedia. It is like wikipedia but with peer review. From the citizendium essay.

Imagine what is
possible with tens of millions of intellectuals working together on educational
and reference projects.

The wrench in the whole thing is that wikipedia started as a dot com called nupedia with experts and peer review (sanger) . So wikipedia started where citizendium is trying to restart. From Larry Sanger, the cofounder of wikipedia, on slashdot.

Wikipedia’s predecessor, which I was also employed to organize, was
Nupedia. Nupedia was to be a highly reliable, peer-reviewed resource
that fully appreciated and employed the efforts of subject area
experts, as well as the general public.

Is this getting recursive to anyone else?

Continue reading “Citizendium is to Foo as Wikipedia is to Bar”

Knowledge versus Information Literacy

"Knowledge is power, not
  mere argument or ornament." – Francis Bacon (link)

which of course begs the question of "how do you get knowledge"?  Which leads to:

"Knowledge acquisition is the process of absorbing and storing new information in memory, the success of which is often gauged by how well the information can later be remembered, or retrieved from memory." – Danielle S. McNamara and Tenaha O’Reilly

which is why this is a good idea.

Exam measures students’ ‘information literacy’
Friday, February 3, 2006; Posted: 9:38 a.m. EST (14:38 GMT)

(AP) — When it comes to downloading music and instant messaging, today’s students are plenty tech-savvy. But that doesn’t mean they know how to make good use of the endless stream of information that computers put at their fingertips.

Educators and employers call those skills "technology literacy," and while everyone agrees it’s important to have, it also is difficult to measure.

Now a test that some high school students will begin taking this year could help.

The ICT Literacy Assessment touches on traditional skills, such as analytical reading and math, but with a technological twist. Test-takers, for instance, may be asked to query a database, compose an e-mail based on their research, or seek information on the Internet and decide how reliable it is. (more)

Intuitively we all know this already.  Ever watch someone who doesn’t know how to construct a query in google?  It’s almost painful to watch them typing and even more painful to watch them blame the application for the unexpected results.  Which is why we need to teach technology literacy. 

On a side note, why doesn’t CNN accept track backs?  Come on folks, join the conversation!