Piracy in science

So… do I dare google for Sci-Hub, to see for myself what it is all about? I know it is a site that illegally offers more than 60 million scientific papers, grabbed from behind the publisher’s paywalls and libraries’ authentication screens and offered to be downloaded for free. I also know that its founder Alexandra Elbakyan has been featured on Nature.com as one of 10 people that mattered in 2016 [1]. If everyone’s using it or is at least checking it out, shouldn’t I be allowed a little peak?

Sci-Hub.org started in 2011 when Elbakyan decided to help others with her skills to circumvent legal access when she could not get or afford to pay for the articles she needed for her own research project. In 2015 she got sued by Elsevier which led to her losing the Sci-Hub.org domain [2]. However, Elbakyan would not give up, motivated by weekly thank-you notes, some with financial support [1] and supportive tweets [3], she moves to other domains when necessary.

An online survey by Science Magazine last May, showed that only 12% of the more than 10,000 respondents thought it is wrong to download pirated papers and 59% of the respondents admitted to having done so a few times (33%) or even daily / weekly (26%) [4].  And it’s not just people who don’t have access. Even scholars who’s institutional or academic libraries pay heavy license fees to offer the content through their websites or Discovery systems, still seem to prefer the easy, hassle-free Sci-Hub, or simply want to support the pressure piracy sites put on publishers to move towards open-access business models.

I dare. The user interface is in Russian, but it’s so easy to use there is no need to translate. I copy-paste a DOI from an article (2016) related to a project I am working on and in less than a second, there it is. One click, no messy splash page. Just the content. OK, I get the appeal. The only English button asks me to donate with Bitcoin.

Screenshot 2017-01-25 10.54.15

One more example of how scientific readers are taking control is #ICanHazPDF a popular hashtag on Twitter. When you want an article you can’t access, you tweet the DOI or URL with this hashtag and wait for one of your followers to mail it to you. Then you are supposed to delete the tweet… [5]. This practise is not always piracy, as the article you get might be a preprint or the author’s version, legitimately published in green OA in an institutional repository. Or you might get it directly from the author, a common practise that is allowed by most publishers, see for example Elsevier’s Sharing Policy [6]

Open Access as a default, we are working hard to get there. Libraries will try to maintain a relevant collection for its patrons, but cannot afford to provide access to all scientific content that is wanted or needed. In the meantime: be open, publish open access yourself and if you cannot access what you need: try document delivery / Inter Library Loan. We do not promote piracy, but we need to be aware of what is happening globally and how that is affecting the scientific community. We’ll keep you informed.

[1] – http://www.nature.com/news/nature-s-10-1.21157accessed 20-1-2017
[2] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sci-Hub – accessed 20-1-2017
[3] – http://www.nature.com/news/paper-piracy-sparks-online-debate-1.19841– accessed 20-1-2017
[4] – http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/survey-most-give-thumbs-pirated-papers – accessed 20-1-2017
[5] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICanHazPDF – accessed 25-1-2017
[6] – https://www.elsevier.com/about/company-information/policies/sharingaccessed 25-1-2017

 

Open Access articles rush: oaDOI and Google Scholar

Finding open access article versions of the ones behind the paywall seems pretty easy with Google Scholar. Yet, with a new identifier, the oaDOI (https://oadoi.org), Impact Story promises going beyond Google Scholar for articles with a DOI.

oaDOI.orgShort history: last summer Impact Story, one of the main players in altmetrics, challenged everyone to make a profile on their website and check out their “openness” by introducing a new OA badge.
In their effort to complete the profiles with open access output, Impact Story made a workaround Google Scholar in order to find any free full-text for a paper with a DOI. They search in specific sources like DOAJ, DataCite, CrossRef’s database and the BASE OA Search Engine and institutional  repositories, plus in their own list of DOI indexes and even in the articles page itself for a link to a free version [1].
In practice, after testing the oaDOI with multiple articles from behind the paywall, I found out it comes down to luck to find  an open access version which Google Scholar does not find.

We don’t know how long it will take Google Scholar to take over, but the great news about the oaDOI is that, unlike Google, it’s open: it has a versioned open API to build upon it.

oadoi widget Wayne State University Library
By now, Zotero is searching by oaDOI, Max Plank Digital Library is experimenting with its SFX lookup service for DOI using an oaDOI and Wayne State University Library has introduced a widget to search oaDOI [2].

Try it yourself at oadoi.org.


See also http://impactstory.org/u/someones_orcid and see the number of OA publications that someone has, with a percentage of “openness” added to his Impact Story profile.

References:

[1] Introducing oaDOI: resolve a DOI straight to OAhttp://blog.impactstory.org/introducting-oadoi/, accessed on 31st October 2016
[2] oaDOI APIhttps://oadoi.org/api, accessed on 31st October 2016