back to article Free science journal library gains notoriety, lands injunctions

A repository of 47 million research papers is playing a game of internet cat-and-mouse with publisher Elsevier. Last month, Sci-Hub was forced to relocate to the sci-hub.io domain after its previous home at sci-hub.org was shut down when Elsevier won a preliminary injunction against it. Likewise the addresses libgen.org, …

  1. Dr Stephen Jones

    Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

    QTWTAIN of the day.

    Of course not, but a solid open access alternative to El$evier, one that publishes good work, will diminish their rent seeking abilities. Prestige journals will always be that: prestige. Most journals are not prestige journals however.

    Progress comes from creating a working alternative, not from the mass theft of property, as the author seems to believe. Authors of papers should assert their rights and remove the power of academic publishers to milk the Universities for millions.

    1. moiety

      Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

      Is it theft of property though? Copyright, it would appear to me, would belong to the authors of the papers on an individual basis. Elsevier are publishing them as a service and charging to do so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

        Almost all journals and conferences require the researchers to sign over their copyrights as a part of the publication process. Even the good ones that do it for free.

        1. nijam

          Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

          > Almost all journals and conferences require the researchers to sign over their copyrights as a part of the publication process. Even the good ones that do it for free.

          Not true ... the good ones don't require the copyright, just the right to publish.

      2. Ian Tresman

        Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

        I would argue that authors are buying prestige. Conflict of interest?

        1. Yes Me Silver badge

          Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

          "I would argue that authors are buying prestige. "

          Not really. They are getting published in peer-reviewed journals, which is vital for a successful academic career (i.e. tenure and promotion). And with Elsevier they aren't paying page charges. The trick for the future will be not-for-profit peer-reviewed journals, but doing that without page charges is hard. Once that works you will see Elsevier and the less greedy academic publishers shrivel and die.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: El$evier

      Oh come on. If you're going to change the 's' to $ in Elsevier to be edgy, and make them sound like profiteering assholes, you may as well go all out.

      €₺$€¥៛€₹

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Will it be enough to change Elsevier's business practices?

      Well what is noteworthy is that it would seem that Elsevier haven't tried disabling the accounts being misused, or is this another factor in why they are so disliked?

      Given the volume of accesses and their potentially unique profile, I would have thought the 'anonymous' accounts would be visible to Elsevier.

  2. edge_e
    Facepalm

    Simple solution

    Cut out the middle man.

    If researchers posted directly to sci-hub, they wouldn't have to pay fees and their work would be available to others. The added bonus being the leach would die.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Simple solution

      I was about to suggest the same thing, but go one step further... submit it to both sites. That way it's legal for Sci-Hub to have it. The leech will quickly die off from lack of income.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Simple solution

        submit it to both sites

        Standard part of publication is a grant of exclusive rights. You _CANNOT_ publish to both sites. It is one or the other.

        In any case, the el-reg article does not describe exactly why the researchers are _REALLY_ pissed off with El$evier. Scientific journals were never cheap. Only a very small number like Cell or Science have the circulation size to afford sane prices (orders of magnitude above other print magazines, but affordable for most libraries). So getting access directly to the magazine has _ALWAYS_ been outside the abilities of a single researcher. Like it or not, you had to deal with your university library, its loan system, etc.

        There was a bypass - in the days when I did science for a living, abstracts and search indexes used to be relatively cheap and you could always ask the researcher directly. Under the terms of publication with most publishing houses the researcher was entitled to give X free copies of their paper directly to other researchers (terms used to differ varying from X per year to X total). I remember in the pre-Internet days my dad having pre-printed stacks of his papers in his office and sending off a couple in the mail every week or thereabouts.

        If memory serves me right (I may be wrong here), at the same time El$vier created their paywall, they also changed the terms of the publishing agreement. The right to directly supply your own papers upon request is now severely restricted and in some places non-existent. This is what pissed off people really bad - you now have no choice but to pay and the payment scheme is such that even Harvard has difficulties affording it.

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Simple solution

          Elsevier does "bundling" of journals: you cannot just subscribe to a good journal, but always have to subscribe to such a bundle, one or a few good titles plus a bunch of crap titles. Ask your librarian about it!

          So (from the article),

          > ... surprisingly little sympathy for Elsevier...

          there is nor surprise here, Elsevier is almost universally hated for more than one reason.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Simple solution

          The simple solution exists:

          www.arxiv.org

          The more sane of the scientific fields (started by physics of course, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArXiv) publish the paper also on a preprint server. It is legal and allowed by both APS and Elsevier.

          Enlightened journals certainly sanction this, such as the American Physical Society and Elsevier

          (despite what others are saying about them).

          Scientists should simply boycott journals that don't allow public preprint publication.

          Woe betide the first journal to sue an scientist for preprint posting. It would terminate the journal's author stream instantly.. would you publish in a journal with a reputation for suing scientists???

          http://journals.aps.org/edannounce/PhysRevLett.101.140001

          Editorial: APS now leaves copyright with authors for derivative works

          "

          Since we recognize that transfer of copyright is important for this specific and limited reason, the APS has been very generous, by the standards of journal publishers, in giving rights to its authors to use their articles as they wish. The APS has allowed authors the right to publish the APS-prepared, final, and definitive version of the article on their web site or on the authors’ institution’s web site, immediately upon publication. The author’s final version could also be put onto e-print servers such as the arXiv. Authors and their institutions could make copies of their articles for classroom use, and others could copy the article for noncommercial use. As authors expect additional rights of use, we will consider adding them.

          "

          Elsevier: https://www.elsevier.com/about/company-information/policies/copyright/permissions

          "

          Can I post on ArXiv?

          Yes, you can post your preprint, which is your own write up of your results and analysis, anywhere at any time.

          If you have posted your preprint on ArXiv, which is a non-commercial preprint server, you can also immediately update this version with your accepted manuscript. In all cases, posted manuscripts should link back to the final published article on ScienceDirect and should have a non-commercial user license attached (CC BY-NC-ND)."

          Finally....

          arxiv is in part funded by the Simon's Foundation, representing the charitable activities of a hell of good string theorist who also became a hell of a good hedge fund manager, automated trader, and

          "Financial Engineer of the year", a multi billionaire, Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy too....

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Harris_Simons

          Wikipedia also said he taught the NSA a thing or two about code breaking.

          A very interesting & powerful person!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Simple solution

      Simple and elegant. Make it so!

  3. Roq D. Kasba

    Elsevier, oh Elsevier

    I worked for them for a couple of years last millennium, and yes some of the fees back then were eye watering - tens of thousands of dollars for library subscription to some titles. Gouging, absolutely no question. Elsevier have brought this entirely on themselves.

    The costs are fairly notional for peer reviewers, editors, print or online. They don't pay for the content (in fact as observed, it's a revenue stream in some cases) and went through a big round of hiding away any information possible so they could gouge.

    There's a big difference between this and Pirate Bay - the creators of this content WANT it to be shared publicly, that's the whole point of publishing. They don't earn royalties, so no protection or collection mechanism is required. Elsevier just dump themselves in the middle of the equation for no material benefit to any party, beyond a little editorial curation, some typesetting, and a search engine. They know it's a racket, hence fighting so hard to maintain their free money model (which stinks). They created this situation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Elsevier, oh Elsevier

      Wow. Just wow. Legal extortion.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I generally find it cheaper (by a few quid) to access papers via the British Library document service.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about time governments realised that this kind of thing is a basic educational need and fund it through general taxation, like libraries in general are.

    Let's face it: a lot of the research in those papers have been funded by public funding bodies anyway.

    Until then, we're going to continually see this kind of stupidity.

    1. Marshalltown

      Governments?

      Fund it? The only ones that get funded are Elsevier, and they are arguably a bunch of thieves that provide no discernible service to science - or to anyone else outside Elsevier.

  6. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Pirate

    47 million as text files ??

    Even as searchable .pdf files, this shouldnt take up too much space; dump them all on to the torrent sites and let the streets run red with the blood of Elsevier execs.

    (OK, might have got a little carried away at the end there!!)

    1. Justin Clift

      Re: 47 million as text files ??

      Lots of papers have diagrams and other non-text based information, so it's more likely they're pdfs' and/or other formats able to do that.

      47 million pdfs' could be pretty hefty in disk space. Possibly in the terabyte range. Even broken up into a collection of x sized archives (say 10GB), that would be tricky to manage effectively using torrents. Technically possible though... yes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 47 million as text files ??

        Approaching a terabyte? So, approaching the size of my off air recorded film collection then?

        1. Justin Clift

          Re: 47 million as text files ??

          It's being reported as more like 38-40 TB in size.

          Source: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11093477

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 47 million as text files ??

      They're already available as .torrent files.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: 47 million as text files ??

        Would someone who understands torrents better than I do please advise.

        I'd like to help by contributing a Raspberry Pi and a couple of TBs of disk space. Obviously this won't host all the files. So I could pick some at random. But if we all did this, we might all pick the same files. So is there a torrent protocol that will seed a random selection onto my server? If so, what's it called and how do I set it up?

      2. Mikel

        Re: 47 million as text files ??

        >They're already available as .torrent files.

        Bless your heart!

  7. Peter Prof Fox

    Injunction juristiction?

    Where were these injunctions given and what coverage do they claim?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Injunction juristiction?

      Eastern Texas at a guess - they'll give any business an injunction especially if its against something that should be free.

      Groklaw please come back!

  8. speedbird007

    Free libraries

    Public libraries are financed through your council tax and are now closing at a rate of knots because the government have reduced local authorities grant funding. Some are being handed to volunteers to run which effectively become community book clubs a la Richard & Judy.

    Good luck finding any non-fiction there or access to British Library loans because the trained staff have been sacked and volunteers won't have a clue what you're talking about.

    400+ libraries have closed despite it being a statutory duty to provide public library services.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Free libraries

      At the height of mankind's knowledge it seems the PTB are desperately trying to bring back the Dark Ages.

      Or the 19th century st least.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @ecofeco -- Re: Free libraries

        At the height of mankind's knowledge it seems the PTB are desperately trying to bring back the Dark Ages.

        Well yes. The corporates need serfs to work for them.

      2. Lyndon Hills 1

        Re: Free libraries

        And in an ironic twist, easy access to research papers is what Sir Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he developed html. The hyperlink was to be an easy way to reference someone else's research that you were citing in your own paper. If you look back to the original html spec, you find plenty of tags (like tables of authority, citation, index) that are exactly what you need to publish academic research!

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Free libraries

          And probably in PDF too eventually along with a memory leak or 2**64.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Free libraries

      Sadly, as a trustee of one of these community libraries, this is true. On the one hand we are fighting to get funding to function like a proper library, on the other we have to try and filter through the well meaning "donations" of people's unwanted books while having inadequate budget to buy the new ones that serious readers might need.

  9. PNGuinn

    Universities?

    Surely a large part of the answer lies with the universities.

    They have sophisticated web sites. They have the academic connections. It would be trivial for them to arrange academically respectable peer review and self - publish academic articles. The web makes the publishing bit (relatively) trivially inexpensive.

    I believe some already do. If some leading institutions can get together and agree some form mutual access site, perhaps linking to information on their own servers, we have an enormous academic elephant in the (sometimes greedy) publishers' room.

    If that gains traction, and I believe it will, It would do academic publishing what the net has done to print journalism. With probably far less in the way of negative effects.

    We're already seeing this happening piecemeal, both with research papers and academic textbooks.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Universities?

      You're right, some kind of federated peer to peer membership - publish to the platform to get access to the platform, with some kind of review and promotion process as experts endorse each other's work.

      To make it more 2016 ¡Bong! though, it should be gamified and have at least one blockchain built in (and I'm only half joking, there's possibly some benefits to those things)

    2. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Universities?

      Scholarly societies already do this - the Institute of Physics has a substantial publication business, for example, as do the US equivalents. Universities could, but as far as I recall mostly they stick to book publishing rather than journals.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Universities?

      The issues are the peer review and the formal cataloging of the research.

      To be credible, the peer review process needs to be overseen by a third-party and involve researchers from other organisations. Self review and moderation is subject to abuse, there are plenty of examples from the past that show that this is not a good thing.

      The second thing is making the research accessible to other scientists, given the historical basis of science is that it is for the benefit of all, it is natural for research to be published in well defined and accessible places; something the major (paper) journals have been doing for decades. I suggest simply publishing a paper on a university website, doesn't fulfil the criteria and reduces the research paper to the same level as the whitepapers many IT companies self-publish...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems like a good candidate for a .onion site

    Would get around the having to care about domain name registrar problems.

    Most researchers/academics who would be wanting access can get the Tor Browser Bundle working.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems like a good candidate for a .onion site

      Which deals nicely with a distributed requirement for hosting in the tens of gigabytes range from my collection here.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Seems like a good candidate for a .onion site

      "Most researchers/academics who would be wanting access can get the Tor Browser Bundle working."

      Wait....hang on...I need a minute......

      Phew! Finally stopped laughing.

      You've never been IT support or frontline helpdesk in academia, have you. There's a wide range of people and abilities, but assuming that someone who is clever can also "do" computers is an incredibly dangerous assumption. Even people in technical fields. I've met people who can quote chapter and verse from their own field but can't find the on switch for the computer or remember to put their coat on when it;s raining. Or the Art History prof. who was de facto IT support for his department and damned good at it too.

      1. theModge

        Re: Seems like a good candidate for a .onion site

        Academics struggle to make power point work, they'll never manage tor! However, PhD students and other younger folk doing research are much more likely to be able to do that. There are times when being a PhD student includes professorial IT support...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freetards

    Isn't "Freetards" the Register's nice choice of name for these good people ? :-/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Freetards

      Perhaps, but what descriptive name would you use to address a collection of gatekeeping trolls? Feetards? I'm open to suggestions. (When I wasn't off in engineering you would find me at the uni.)

      1. itzman

        Re: Freetards

        Perhaps, but what descriptive name would you use to address a collection of gatekeeping trolls? Feetards?

        RSA

        Rent Seeking Anachronisms.

  12. quattroprorocked

    PLOS

    Public Library of Science

    Should be much better supported by academics.

    Works simply - submitters pay for the overhead of the peer review etc, then the paper is available for free.

    I don't understand why Elsiever still has a business.

    1. Hideki

      Re: PLOS

      This.

      PLOS One will even waive the publishing fee if paying it would cause some hardship to the researcher.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somebody has to pay anyway

    This is one of these cases where I can empathise with both sides of the dispute, up to a point.

    I do publish a fair bit in scientific journals, and it is clear that Elsevier is currently interested purely in maximizing their profits (this has not always been the case). For this reason, I try to avoid publishing in and refereeing for Elsevier journals. I do not boycott them altogether (this would be professionally untenable), but if an alternative exists I try to choose that. Nonetheless, I would prefer if they continued to exist, preferably in somewhat diminished and humbler capacity.

    The reason is that scientific publishing is not about simply sticking your work online, and hoping somebody will read it. There is a number of additional conditions, which make all the difference, namely:

    1. Quality assurance. There is nothing your average scientist likes to grumble about more than peer review and the incompetence of the referees of her or his latest paper. Nonetheless, most scientists will also agree that peer review is an essential step of providing at least some assurance the work is not totally bogus. Having a formal (ie peer-reviewed and published!) comment and retraction system also helps.

    2. Attribution and authentication. With a journal publication, I have a good degree of assurance that the work is done by the people appearing on the byline. For publications which are not too old, I also have a way of contacting the actual authors of the work. Of course, the system is not infallible - but failures are hoaxes are rare (which is exactly why nearly every case becomes news).

    3. Immutability and persistence. With a journal publication, I have an expectation that the resource will not change between now and tomorrow. When a correction is required, then an erratum will be published, and will also become part of the permanent record. Furthermore, I also have an expectation that the article will still exist five, ten, or hundreed years from now. (It is not uncommon for me to have to refer to scientific articles published in in the late 19-th and early 20-th century; on one occation, I also found an article from early in 18-th century to be what I needed).

    4. Indexing and cross-referencing. With a journal publication I expect to be able to find the articles I need in professionally-maintaioned subject databases. Sometimes these will ne online; somethimes not. Google and the ilk may be useful for some of the more superficial quieries, but sooner or later real understanding and knowledge is required.

    A lot of these tasks can be done by the scientists themselves "for free", as a contribution to the community (I certainly do a fair share of refereeing myself). However, in the end, not everything can be done by volunteers, and somebody has to pay for the administrative expenses, the purchase and upkeep of the hardware, communications costs, backup and archival, and so on.

    If we want to do a good, reliable job out of it we'll likely need to pay a lot: few of top-level experts in any field are willing or able to work entirely for free.

    We can choose to pay these costs upfront as the society, in recognition of the importance of the scientific information systems for our continuing prosperity (or perhaps even survival). Or we can choose to pay piecemeal, through a multitude of commercial publishers. I do not really care which it is - but somebody has to pay in the end. And I do not see how scihub would be able to pick up the bill, or fill the roles played by the scientific publishers - commercial or otherwise.

    1. Nixinkome

      Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

      Is TOWIElsevier?

      This argument ebbs and flows.

      [Mass] Market conditions and technological changes have seen the demise of plenty of things deemed useful for their time. Freedom of scientific information must be of utmost importance in this week of announcement of the 'discovery' of 1+ billion year old gravitational waves ..... if the masses so desire.

      I note that Wikipedia does reference to Published works even if not charging for this or substantiating [F - that was a hard word to type] such references. Maybe the Blockchain idea has merit.

      Have El Reg's readership noticed the emanation of scientific announcements from joint studies? Does Elsevier have a market in China?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

        "I note that Wikipedia does reference to Published works even if not charging for this or substantiating [F - that was a hard word to type] such references. Maybe the Blockchain idea has merit."

        I must admit that while reading the article I was wondering how hard and expensive it would be to set up a wiki on the lines of wikipedia for publishing scientific journals with edit tracking and quite strong limitations on who can edit an article. There seems to be quite a number of tech billionaires throwing money at various research projects. Maybe something for Gates, Musk, Bezos, The Googlers etc to consider donating too but without too much oversight (especially if Google got involved). It would have to be at arms length and independent.

    2. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

      Well voiced comments :)

      I saw another comment above about universities managing an alternative platform. I responded (to get down voted, but whatever), but I can actually see where blockchain-style verification and voting and effectively peer signing can help enforce a lot of those things that concern you.

      However, I also believe in paper. Paper keeps stuff far better/longer than rust, the analogue world has many advantages. So even a federated university-led system would need a long-term propagation and storage.

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

      Why is not using Elsevier untenable ?

      If major institutions can't afford their prices they're not reaching the market anyway. If authors will only consider Elsevier-sourced journals as legitimate sources of published material, they've made a rod for their own back.

      Just choose a different canonical source of papers and move on. Set up something lke Github. Why is that so difficult ?

      1. x 7

        Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

        Just choose a different canonical source of papers and move on. Set up something lke Github. Why is that so difficult ?"

        Because the problem is that often what is required is an archival document that goes back years, and is "trapped" in their publishing system.

        For instance if I need details of a specific chemical technique that was posted back in the 1980's, I have little choice but to retrieve it from their archives. OK maybe I'd access it indirectly via STN and Chem Abs, but that adds an even higher level of cost for the search.

        Scientists and industrial researchers aren't just interested in whats new - easy access is required to the whole history of science literature. Its not unusual to need details of a paper from 50-60 years ago.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

          So they are the gatekeepers, and they just asked for your life and all, else they shut the gate?

          Monopoly and total power?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Why is not using Elsevier untenable ?

        There are many possible reasons. Using can also mean many different things, so I'll try to answer for each aspect of "using" I can see, namely:

        1. Why one might read the journals published by Elsevier?

        2. Why one might referee for journals published by them?

        3. Why one might publish in their journals?

        The number 1 is easy. Elsevier is a publisher with a long, and mostly good history - whatever their recent failings may be. During that time, they've accumulated very many exceptionally good journals (and quite a few not so good, of course). Some of these journals may be central to your discipline, or perhaps used to be at some time in the past. Ignoring key publications in your field because you happen to disagree with the current commercial policies of the publisher is a recipe for certain professional suicide.

        The number 2 is less clear-cut. However, if a colleague you know and respect, who happens to be on an editorial board of a journal asks you to referee a manuscript, you usually don't say no: at some point in the future you may need her or his help, too. Similarly, if you receive a request to referee a paper by a respected colleague, you would usually accept the request (although not necessarily the paper ;). Finally, if you've recently published in a journal (see #3 below), it is a common courtesy to referee for them.

        The number 3 may be tricky as well. Generally if you are the lead author, and you disagree with the publisher's policies, you'll try to find another journal: there are certainly alternatives in most fields. One exception would be a thematic special issue: if you want to be a part of it (which is usually a good idea, as it increases the chances your paper will be noticed), you don't get to choose the journal. Finally, most scientific publications are a result of collective effort. If you happen to be a minor contributor to a publication, you don't get to dictate where it goes. Of course, you always have an option of withdrawing as an author - however, few people will be willing to do so.

    4. nijam

      Re: Somebody has to pay anyway

      One of the banes of academic life is an increasing number of serious-sounding specialist journals that are complete junk.

      Not junk in the sense of the earlier comment about Elsevier's "bundles" (you want this journal, you have to subscribe to these others that *nobody* wants - a sort of anti-BOGOF), but actual junk. Fake peer reviews, incompetent or non-existent proof-reading, etc. So now, you also have to assure yourself (whether publishing or reading) of the validity of each of your 4 points anyway.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copyright theft

    So my tax-payers money is used to fund science, and also in some cases, the researchers have to pay to have their article published and give away their copyright to the private sector.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Copyright theft

      There are many journals for each area of research. And not all of them publish through Elsevier.

      OUP, Springer (publishes Nature), Wiley-Blackwell

      And some of these do open access where the publication costs are borne up front.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Copyright theft

      "So my tax-payers money is used to fund science, and also in some cases, the researchers have to pay to have their article published and give away their copyright to the private sector."

      It's actually better than that. There are two models:

      1) Taxpayers pay for the research, then it gets given for free to Elsevier/Springer/Taylor and Francis/etc., who give it to an editor who works for free, who sends it for free peer review. The publisher then puts a massive price on the front and charges the universities that did the research to buy it back again.

      2) Taxpayers pay for the research, then it gets given for free to Elsevier/Springer/Taylor and Francis/etc., who give it to an editor who works for free, who sends it for free peer review. The publisher then charges the author of the work thousands to put the pdf on their website so that anyone can access it. However, in many cases, it is part of the usual pay-for journal as well, so libraries again buy it anyway.

    3. dochego

      Re: Copyright theft

      At least in science and engineering in the UK, research funded by the research councils and most charities has to be made available freely. This is also a requirement for the publication to be eligible for the next REF ("Research Excellent Framework" - the beauty contest of the academics which defines how much public money they get).

      Usually the researcher is free to self-publish a pre-final version, usually the one after peer-review, but before the copyright gets handed over to the publishers and they typeset the manuscript. Good universities have their own repositories where these are published and made available, and/or you go with arxiv or pubmed central.

  15. tp2

    Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

    So, these researchers spent their whole life studying some aspects of the universe, and this guy thinks he can take the results and publish them to the world? Maybe there's reasons why these researchers chose elsevier to publish their work? This arrogant guy thinks that "information should be free", and uses it as his reason to violate copyright of the works? He just dig himself to a huge hole, and will need to pay huge sums of copyright infringement money as a result. No amount of "developing countries need the information" is going to help in this. This is why we have money -- if you want something, you spend your money to receive it. Using that money, the system is kept running -- publishing papers to large section of the scientific world is not cheap. This is why elsevier gets the money, not the researchers. They're doing the hard work. If he thinks he can compete against elsevier, he shouldn't ripoff elseview's database of papers, but try to attract researchers to publish in his publishing platform. Elseview spent large sums of money to gain their position in that market, and some random researchers shouldn't be let break this system by publishing the papers in some random website. Information shouldn't be free for everyone. There's reason why these papers are kept hidden. But this guy can't seem to understand this. If someone spends their whole life studying something, the resulting information is so powerful that reinventing it will be impossible. If you build some system using that information, you lose reproducability of the system. Next guy who needs to "reinvent" the same stuff, doesn't have that information available, and he fails to implement the same system. This is the reason why this information shouldn't be spread around without restrictions. Soon we'll be all using products built using impossible-to-reproduce information, and next year this information will be gone. Then suddenly the products stop working, since noone knows how to build them. People who relies on the products will lose that feature, after learning how it works. This kind of practises are causing large amounts of damage. Some day the information to build our products are no longer available and the world will suffer as a result. (think what happens if they forgot how to do agriculture, and fail to produce food for the people... This kind of problems can happen, if information is spread without restrictions...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

      Ugh. If I were to summarise this rant, your points are:

      0. Greengrocer's apostrophe will always be with us.

      1. Copyright system is appropriate for controlling access to our knowledge of the natural world.

      2. Researchers in every field of science work hard to gain the knowledge about the natural world. To compensate them, we need to hand large pots of money to Elsevier on every occation which presents itself.

      3. Artificial scarcity of information is good - it saves lives and promotes technological development.

      I would like to thank you for bringing up the second item - it supplied me with the much-needed comic relief for today. On the other hand, the other two points are quite interesting.

      Let's start with the first point.

      The intent of the copyright system is to protect creative expression and the ability of the creator to benefit from it (frequently, this is not how it ends up working in practice, but nonetheless). I agree that a scientific publication does have a creative aspect: the way the information is presented, the choice of arguments, and to a degree the conclusions drawn from the data are a reflection of the authors' personalities and experience.

      On the other hand, we do not read scientific articles to enjoy the scintillating dialogue, or to appreciate the wonderful harmony and composition of the graphs (although it is enjoyable when these are in evidence). The value of the scientific publication comes from providing the knowledge about the natural world - that is, from something which exists independently of its creator, and can be expressed in many different ways without losing any of its value.

      Now, which of the two aspects of a scientific work should prevail? Should we treat it purely as a creative work, or should it be merely a statement of a fact, which does not belong to anybody in particular? I am not sure, and I doubt that the current approach of treating scientific publications identically to works of fiction is what we want or need.

      On your final point, it is easy to construct scenarios where artificial scarcity of information would indeed save lives (e.g. information on infectious-desease agents, or on chemical weapons technology, or on nuclear physics of fissile materials). On the other hand, this same information could be key to saving lives: the difference lies not not in the information itself, but in the way it is used. Interestingly enough, scientific knowledge often comes with a built-in safeguard: the more potentially damaging (or beneficial) it is, the harder it is to understand and assimilate to a degree necessary to make use of it.

      Nonetheless, I can see the common-good argument for controlling access to certain kinds of knowledge (both practical and fundamental). The trick is to decide who gets to set the controls, and how to enforce them in practice. I doubt the posession of a credit card with a sufficiently high limit is either necessary or sufficient means for such control.

      1. Bibbit

        Re: Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

        Bravo. Excellent post.

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

      @tp2: this is the mostest deludestest comment I have read in about a year. You win an internet made of pure stupidity. Thank you.

    3. banalyzer

      Re: Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

      I take it you did read the article?

      Otherwise you may have noticed the term 'she' being used, just a heads up so your better prepared for your next troll.

      No, no, no need to thank me it was a pleasure to help improve the level of trolling around here, it's been quite poor of late.

    4. Moonunit

      Re: Sounds like russian's don't know how copyright works...

      Whoa, dude, whoa!

      Never submit rants when you*re fatigued or on your ear. Always causes woes ...

  16. Wiltshire

    DOAJ

    The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) seems like a good alternative

    https://doaj.org/

    Strange perhaps that Elsevier seems to be a sponsor, but not a publishing member. Good PR for them and fudging the issue?

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: DOAJ

      Elsevier do do open access, in at least some of their journals. The authors have to pay them a wodge of money (perhaps £1k - £2k) for that. But it's a not dissimilar sum of money (albeit a bit larger IME) as for the same deal/service in a scholarly society journal such as PRL or NJP.

  17. x 7

    Good for her

    One of the biggest frustrations in my life has been access to scientific journals. Often I have to use STN to scan for chemical manufacturing methods, patents, and health and safety information.

    Yet each time I do it I get charged a bloody fortune for results, many of which prove irrelevant - but I still have to pay for them

    Some months I've run up bills of thousands of pounds, just to find articles which are totally bloody irrelevant. Scientific information should be in the public domain, and access to it should be free.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      I have found a number of times when beginning a new project, that, when looking for information at a basic level for a process, that many of my searches come up with Elsevier papers which form an effective block to progress at a time when the feasability research is not far enough forward to warrant the cost of their paywall.

      However I have been very lucky with a great many studies released by the German Frauenhoffer Institutes that often cover much of what would be in an Elsevier paper but ispublished on the net free and usually a step or two further on than the original research.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget the poor practitioners too

    I'm expected to keep up to date in my field - which means having an overview of current research into literacy. I'm also expected to be able to evaluate its relevance to everyday educational practice and policy. Even when I was working in a full time team there wasn't money to access much of this stuff.

    It is also practitioners who have to watch to make sure that the research hasn't been sidetracked by political and financial pressure on the university departments.

    In fact, in education ( and I'd guess other fields) fashion, finance and political pressure can make a massive difference to where research funding goes. Some things get published more easily than others. Some people get bigger grants that others.

    If we make access to published material prohibitive then lead practitioners can't monitor what is happening in academia and academics who aren't saying the things that the politicians and bean counters want published won't have the budget for the level of access they need (perhaps including having access to the research themselves).

  19. Aeolus
    Unhappy

    But surely

    At least UK government-funded research was going to be freely published:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-open-up-publicly-funded-research

    wasn't it?

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: But surely

      "At least UK government-funded research was going to be freely published:

      https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-open-up-publicly-funded-research

      wasn't it?"

      Yes, all RCUK grant-related research is required to be at least green open access, so that anyone can access it for free, at least on a preprint server, e.g., arXiv.

  20. Bibbit

    Now I find out

    Wish I'd known about this site a couple of years ago. Pointless now as I have ordered myself to no longer inflict more studies upon myself as it causes me nothing but pain and I suck at it.

  21. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Dear Elsevier...

    ... thanks for drawing my attention to Sci-hub. Yours etc. B. Streisand.

  22. mhenriday
    Thumb Up

    Brava,

    Alexandra Elbakyan ! Let us see more of the same - and mandatory publishing on free access sites for work at least in part funded with public resources....

    Henri

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paywalls

    My reason for disliking Elsevier is simpler. They almost cost me my Masters.

    I finished a Masters in CompSci last year and even though I got a first, I nearly got a fail. One of the negative comments was that a number of my references could not be verified and should therefore be disregarded, along with the points they were supporting! WTF! I had cited papers that were published behind a paywall that my lecturers did not have access to, therefore they wanted to pretend they didn't exist. When I demonstrated that they were also available from other sources which was how I was able to read them, there was threats of ethics reviews and the word theft was bandied around. Only when I pointed out that some of the alternate sources were the original authors were they accepted.

    AC because some of those bastards maintain grudges.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Paywalls

      When I demonstrated that they were also available from other sources which was how I was able to read them, ... some of the alternate sources were the original authors were they accepted.

      This is the aspect the case, as presented, that confirms to me the criminal nature of the Sci-Hub operation. Currently the Sci-Hub operation has focused on automation and to achieve this set up a system that automatically mis-uses Elsevier accounts to grab papers.

      Like you, I've often had references to papers and found it to be behind a paywall. However, the abstract often gives sufficient information to do a second set of web searches which often turn up the author's personal academic website and a full archive of their publications. Whilst I don't always get exactly the same paper as the one behind the paywall, I often get variants that are either pre-press, conference presentations of the published paper etc. which give sufficient information to satisfy my access requirements.

      So perhaps Sci-Hub need to invest more in their search engine rather than always taking the lazy approach and go straight to Elsevier.

      Aside: WRT your masters, I think you caused yourself some of the problem. Since the mid 1990's, I've tended to include full details of my references, so that means including the URL of the version of the article/paper I actually accessed and the date of my access and noting the relationship between the version I've accessed and the one that others reference in their papers.

      Working in industry, one of my most important tools back in the 90's was a little Netscape add-on called Secret Agent that could read the browser cache and create an off-line readable version. This inconjunction with MindMap (to link the various sessions together) allowed me to retain libraries of my sources, so if there was any queries I could revisit my references. Interestingly, compiling web searches into meaningful accessible offline archives is still a pain, but worth doing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Paywalls

        @Roland6 - On the contrary, it confirms the illegality of Elsevier's actions! They are propagating the malicious idea that science does not exist unless you pay for it. And seriously? Preprints and presentations might be sufficient to satisfy your own curiosity, but are not exactly the rigorous and peer reviewed evidence that is required to move the state of the knowledge forward! As I understand it, SciHub provides access to and copies of publications of record. Anything else is just opinion.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Paywalls

          @AC - The points you make are quite interesting...

          Preprints and presentations might be sufficient to satisfy your own curiosity, but are not exactly the rigorous and peer reviewed evidence that is required to move the state of the knowledge forward

          This would seem to imply that the original AC's lecturers were right to question the validity of their research, given it referenced papers (in the Elsevier's archive) the author hadn't actually seen...

          Additionally, because of the chain of evidence and the ramifications that you allude to, is the version of a paper on the author's personal/university website or held elsewhere the same as the peer reviewed on held by Elsevier et al? Which in turn raises a question over the validity of papers served by Sci-Hub, LibGen et al. because can they (and will they) stand up in a court and reveal the provenance of their papers...

          it confirms the illegality of Elsevier's actions! They are propagating the malicious idea that science does not exist unless you pay for it.

          I can see how this idea could have come about and how some may like to maintain the confusion; Science exists with or without peer-reviewed papers and publishers such as Elsevier. What publishers do is to facilitate the dissemination of scientific research, both directly through the distribution of journals and through the maintaining of an archive/back catalogue. To add value to their 'product' they also perform limited QA on papers through peer review. Obviously, by creating a trusted channel for scientific research communication they have become part of the scientific research ecosystem, because they enable researchers to better trust the reports on the work of others.

          So I suggest the issue isn't that what Elsevier et al are doing that might be considered illegal (although they might be profiteering), but more of how do we fairly fund this important component of the scientific ecosystem for the long term. However, what is clear, Sci-Hub et al. don't provide a solution and are in fact leeching off the existing system.

  24. Eclectic Man
    Unhappy

    Paying and longevity

    In my very brief career as a reviewer for mathematical Reviews, I got a paper to review and international postal coupons to send my words of wisdom to the journal. My own first research papers were accepted for publication after free peer review (I assume the reviewers did the work for free as I did not have to pay). I got free copies to send out (still got some left, actually, if you are interested)

    Nowadays looking at 'prestige' academic journals, the author has to pay just for a 'peer review', then, if accepted a page charge or publishing fee, and an extra fee (in one case £1000) for making the thing freely available on the Internet to the general public, irrespective of length. (Electronics Letters is an exception, although as they no longer publish in information security, not helpful for me personally.)

    The problem with starting a new, prestige, journal is getting it established, and as academic status is often based on first publication, you want to get your paper into the highest prestige journal you can find so that all the right people will read it, and your department will get the 'points for publication in the right places. That helps with the research grant applications later on.

    As anyone who has tried to persuade management in a large organisation to do anything sensible knows, publishing your ideas is nothing, getting people to read and understand what you have said is everything. Would you rather publish in The Journal of Symbolic Logic (established, prestigious etc.), or 'Peter's New Logic Journal' (which may last almost as long as an entire issue and then vanish forever)?

    1. Paul Smith

      Re: Paying and longevity

      A very valid point but it also shows what is wrong with the current situation. What is the advantage of publishing in a prestigious journal if it is behind a paywall that prevents your target audience from reading your opus?

  25. aj69

    Somebody has to pay anyway

    How about a non-profit?

    Elsevier made more than £570M in profits in 2013.

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