I recently posted a link on facebook to Sci-Hub.io. Known as the Pirate Bay of the science world created 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan. After 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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 sci-hub.io ? 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
as seen used in this publication below fully within copyright laws with attribution. We can play nicely together.
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 sci-hub.io 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:
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:
- Search google scholar. https://scholar.google.com/ – 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“ http://bit.ly/1Od1fRR
- 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.
- Now go back to www.google.com (not google scholar, but regular google this time.)
- Paste that monster block of text into google.com and odds are you will find a link to a PDF version of the article on someone’s server available for free.
- 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 sci-hub.io 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.
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.