Science’s Pirate Queen Reply

If you remember: first it was music when P2P file sharing smashed the RIAA/music industry, then torrent sites like The Pirate Bay, KAT, and Limetorrents smashed the MPAA/movie industry. I think Google killed the book publishing industry on accident, and now Alexandra Elbakyan’s Sci-Hub is drilling the academic publishing industry, on purpose. I found this article to be exhausting and almost impossible to read though. It mainly focuses on the money and legal matters and I couldn’t find any mention about how more students, scientists, small startups, and independent researchers having free access to the research papers in their particular fields has been a great thing for progress in science generally. I think it would be impossible to get a head-count on the number of important connections, discoveries, or even major break throughs that have been made as a result of the removal of the barrier to entry and the ability to read a scientific paper without having to pay 30 bucks-plus a piece. If you ask me, Elbakyan may be one of the most important women of the early century.

By Ian Graber-Stiehl

Alexandra Elbakyan is plundering the academic publishing establishmen

In cramped quarters at Russia’s Higher School of Economics, shared by four students and a cat, sat a server with 13 hard drives. The server hosted Sci-Hub, a website with over 64 million academic papers available for free to anybody in the world. It was the reason that, one day in June 2015, Alexandra Elbakyan, the student and programmer with a futurist streak and a love for neuroscience blogs, opened her email to a message from the world’s largest publisher: “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED.”

It wasn’t long before an administrator at Library Genesis, another pirate repository named in the lawsuit, emailed her about the announcement. “I remember when the administrator at LibGen sent me this news and said something like ‘Well, that’s… that’s a real problem.’ There’s no literal translation,” Elbakyan tells me in Russian. “It’s basically ‘That’s an ass.’ But it doesn’t translate perfectly into English. It’s more like ‘That’s fucked up. We’re fucked.’”

The publisher Elsevier owns over 2,500 journals covering every conceivable facet of scientific inquiry to its name, and it wasn’t happy about either of the sites. Elsevier charges readers an average of $31.50 per paper for access; Sci-Hub and LibGen offered them for free. But even after receiving the “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED” email, Elbakyan was surprisingly relaxed. She went back to work. She was in Kazakhstan. The lawsuit was in America. She had more pressing matters to attend to, like filing assignments for her religious studies program; writing acerbic blog-style posts on the Russian clone of Facebook, called vKontakte; participating in various feminist groups online; and attempting to launch a sciencey-print T-shirt business.

Read it all.

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