Forum: The ethics of sci-hub
gravatar for WouterDeCoster
23 months ago by
WouterDeCoster29k wrote:

I would be interested in a discussion concerning (the ethics of) using sci-hub ( to access pay-walled articles.

As you probably know, without subscription many papers cannot be accessed and fees are high. I'm in the quite fortunate situation that through my institution I have access to quite some journals, but I can imagine this is not the case for everyone. Especially in developing countries. I use sci-hub rather often for those papers I do not have access to, and have recommended the website on this forum at least twice.

I recognize that publishers need to have a way to get money in the bank, but I can't agree that publicly funded science, especially on human diseases, ends up behind a paywall so other scientists have to use their money from grants or other governmental money (and therefore the tax payer) to read the paper and enable scientific progression.

By the way, is there someone here with sufficient law-knowledge to tell us (probably depending on country of residence) whether accessing papers through sci-hub is illegal and whether one can get prosecuted for this?

I would love to hear your opinions!

Further reading:

ADD COMMENTlink modified 23 months ago by Aerval270 • written 23 months ago by WouterDeCoster29k

You might be interested in the story of Aaron Swartz, there's a movie about him called The Internet's Own Boy. In it you hear about his plans to download the JSTOR archive probably with the intention of making it public.

Spoiler alert - it doesn't have a happy ending.

Personally, I think intellectual copyright and interest on capital are two man-made concepts that have a great deal of practical use, even if they aren't particularly logical or fair. It's a cultural issue for me, and one that will probably out live us all. But on the other hand, thats exactly what a guy without any patents or money would say, right. :)

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by John12k

I'm not really following you in intellectual copyright. If the money made by reading the article would (partially) go to the author(s) and as such support their scientific activities, that would be another model. But the money goes to the journal.

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by WouterDeCoster29k

I don't think I was very clear in the post above. I don't agree with either the concept of intellectual property, or interest on lending capital, because both make the game of life unfair - and academic publishing is an edge-case where these two game mechanics are really quite obvious to new players - however since both are engrained in our culture (or rather, you can't quit this game to play another), I don't see it going anywhere any time soon.

Bottom line, the best thing about Sci-Hub is they have 'Sci' in the name, and probably for that reason only they haven't been taken down by Amazon et al. However, i'd bet that in 1 year Sci-Hub will be gone, and the Spotify-ification of academic journals will take its place. People will stop arguing about the cost of IP on society, and instead complain about how their paying $5 a month yet they can't sync journals to their iPad easily.

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by John12k

Perhaps stating the obvious but ethics aside, this would never be an acceptable option for researchers at a commercial entity (e.g. company) where invention/patents/long-term revenue are on the table.

ADD REPLYlink modified 23 months ago • written 23 months ago by genomax49k
gravatar for ablanchetcohen
23 months ago by
ablanchetcohen1.2k wrote:

I'm all for open access. I actually think it should be a legal requirements for all researchers using public funds to provide open access to their research. There would then be no need to circumvent the law to access their research results.

There is another worrying trend, proprietary databases, e.g. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. I try and encourage researchers to use and support all the alternative public knowledge databases, but I'm not always successful in getting my message across. The better-funded researchers are quite happy to pay for access to a private knowledge database. They don't see any ethical issues with restricting access to knowledge, so sometimes I wonder if I'm not the one with too rigid a point of view on this subject.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 23 months ago • written 23 months ago by ablanchetcohen1.2k

Proprietary solutions are OK unless they are black boxes. In which case, I believe their use is unscientific because using black boxes makes the work not only impossible to replicate but also simply impossible to evaluate.

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by Jean-Karim Heriche15k

With the use of IPA you are essentially paying the company to employ scientists to curate literature and public databases. I don't see a problem in this. You pay for service.

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by WouterDeCoster29k
gravatar for Jean-Karim Heriche
23 months ago by
EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
Jean-Karim Heriche15k wrote:

Current commercial scientific publishing is an economic rent that amounts to highway robbery. It used to be that publishers were doing some work for your paper but not anymore. Nowadays, they've transferred all the burden of editing and formatting onto the authors. They often don't have competent editors capable of reading reviewers comments and spotting conflicts of interests and inaccuracies in reviews. More often than not editors prevent scientific discussion. They don't even care about the scientific quality of the work as long as they think it's going to help sell their journal.

I work in a multidisciplinary field but our well-funded library provides access mostly to biology journals. For the rest, you need to pay >$25 to access a single article, sometimes via a badly scanned PDF copy, only to realize that the abstract was misleading. Searching the web for self-hosted authors copies can be a waste of time. I am all in favor of any approach that improves the situation but I also believe that papers are not anymore an adequate medium for disseminating research output. In many cases, papers are now nothing more than advertising for the study e.g. by telling where to access the data and/or more detailed results.

ADD COMMENTlink written 23 months ago by Jean-Karim Heriche15k
gravatar for Aerval
23 months ago by
Aerval270 wrote:

I am using SciHub extensively because it saves me so much time accessing content that I would be able to get if looked how I connect to this particular journal, log in via 3 different screens and then open the paper after ~5 minutes. With SciHub, I defined them as a browser search engine, go on the article website "Ctrl+L" in the address bar, type my key word "sh " at the beginning of the line and get my paper in 10 seconds. Sure, when I am at the institutes computer I get direct access via proxy but more often than not, SciHub is much faster.

The same is somewhat true for Library Genesis, although I understand that this is really controversial as you really damage the authors if you do not buy their books.

ADD COMMENTlink written 23 months ago by Aerval270

That's a smart way of using sci-hub :p And indeed, is's often faster than logging in using VPN etc

ADD REPLYlink written 23 months ago by WouterDeCoster29k
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