A researcher from Russia has added more than 48 million journal articles - nearly every single peer-reviewed paper ever published – and they are freely accessible. And she's now completely refusing to shut the site down, despite a court order and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's major publishers. The site in we are talking about is Sci-Hub, and it's kind of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was created in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to read the articles required for her study, and it's since gone completely viral. According to some stats, hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily from her site.
But at the end 2015, the site was ordered to be shut down by a New York district court - a decision that Elbakyan has categorically decided to fight, causing a discussion over who really owns science. Elbakyan told Torrent Freak last year "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. Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal."
And yes it kind of sounds like a modern day Robin Hood struggle, but this is a bit different because it’s not only the poor who don't have any access to scientific papers - journal subscriptions have turn out to be so costly that major universities like Harvard and Cornell have confessed they can no longer afford them. Scientists have also taken a stand - with 15,000 researchers declaring to boycott publisher Elsevier in part for its costlypaywall fees.
Sci-Hub works in two ways: when someone enter a search for a paper, Sci-Hub tries to directly download it from its related pirate database LibGen. If that doesn't work, Sci-Hub is tries to dodge journal paywalls thanks to a series of access keys that have been given by anonymous academics (the science spies).
It has definitely pissed off some big publisher, just last year New York court conveyed an order against Sci-Hub, making its domain inaccessible and Elbakyan dodged this by switching to a new location. Currently Sci-Hub is also being sued by Elsevier for "irreparable harm" - a circumstance that specialists are guessing will win Elsevier about $750 to $150,000 for each pirated article. Even at the lowermost estimates, that would rapidly add up to millions in damages.
Elbakyan is rather safe by the fact that she's in Russia and doesn't have any US possessions, so even if Elsevier wins their claim, it's going to be quite tough for them to get the money.
But for now, Sci-Hub is still up and available for anyone who desires to use it, and Elbakyan has no recent ideas to change that anytime soon.
Do tell us, what you think about this whole pirate thing……. Do you agree with Elbakyan or not?