Activists are moving to fight censorship and preserve open science

Major publishers want to censor the research-sharing resource Sci-Hub from the Internet, but archivists are responding quickly to make that impossible.

More than half of academic publishing is controlled by Only five publishers. This position is built on the premise that users must pay for access to scholarly research, to compensate publishers for their investment in editing, organizing, and publishing it. In fact, research is usually submitted and evaluated by scholars without compensation from the publisher. What this model actually does is take advantage of restrictions on access to articles with a cumbersome paywall. One project in particular, Sci-Hub, threatened to break this barrier by sharing articles without restrictions. As a result, publishers go to every corner of the map to destroy the project and erase it from the Internet. Continuing the long tradition of online piracy, however, Redditors are mobilizing to create a file Uncensored support for Sci-Hub.

Paywall: More inequality, less progress

It’s an open secret at this point that the paywall model used by major publishers, where one has to pay to read published articles, is at odds with the way science works which is one reason researchers regularly undermine it by sharing PDFs of their work directly. Paywall’s primary functionality now is to raise the prices of contracts with universities and ensure that current research is only available to the wealthy or well-connected. The cost of access is so out of control that it’s even $35 billion Institutions like Harvard They warned that contract costs were becoming unaffordable. If this is the case for Harvard, it is hard to see how smaller entities can manage these costs – especially those in the Global South. As a result, crucial and potentially life-saving knowledge is kept away from those who need it most. This is the reason to fight for Open access is a fight for human rights.

In fact, he showed us last year The incredible power of open access After publishers made COVID-19 research available immediately at no cost. This temporary move toward open access has helped support an unprecedented global public health effort that has spurred the rapid development of vaccines, treatments, and better-informed public health policies. This kind of support for scientific progress should not be limited to a global crisis; Rather, it should be the standard in all areas of research.

Sci-Hub and fight for access

Sci-hub is an important part of the movement toward open access. The project was started more than 10 years ago by a researcher in Kazakhstan, Alexandra Albakyan, with the aim of “removing all barriers to science”. The result was a growing library of millions of articles that are now freely available, working solely on donations. Within six years, it has even become the largest open-access academic resource in the world, and has only grown since then, delivering cutting edge research. For rich and poor countries alike.

But this priceless resource had a cost. Since its inception, Sci-Hub has encountered many programs legal Challenges and investigations. Some of these challenges have led to seriously Wide Court orders. One such challenge is being addressed in India, where courts have been asked to block access to a site by publishers Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society. However, the courts have been reluctant, as the site is of obvious public importance, and local experts have argued that Sci-Hub The Just A way for many in the country to access research. Anyway, one Inevitable truth It can’t be avoided: Researchers want to share their work — not make publishers rich.

Archivists rush to defend Sci-Hub

As these challenges continue, SciHub’s Twitter account permanently suspended Under the title “counterfeiting policy. Given the timing of this comment, Al Peking and other academic activists believe it is directly related to the legal action in India. A few months later, Beijing I shared it on my personal twitter That Apple gave the FBI access to its account data following a request in early 2019.

The response to these attacks last weekthe redditors in the archive subreddit r/DataHoarder have (Again) rallied to support the site. in Posted 2 weeks agousers appealed to the legacy of the co-founder of Reddit Aaron Schwartz He called on anyone with hard drive space and a VPN to stand up for “free science” by downloading and streaming 850 torrents containing Sci-Hub’s 77TB library. The ultimate goal of these activists is to use these torrents, which contain 85 million scientific articles, to make a completely decentralized and uncensored iteration of Sci-Hub.

This project should ideally be for anyone who values ​​access to scientific knowledge, a goal that the publishers and the Department of Justice have taken pains to put in place to block legal hurdles. A fully decentralized, uncensored and globally accessible database of scientific work is a potential driver for greater research fairness. The only potential losers with such a resource might be the old Gatekeepers who rely on artificial rarity scientific knowledge, and Increasingly monitoring toolsto extract exorbitant profit margins from the work of scientists.

It’s time to fight for open access

Journal publishers must do their part to make research available immediately AllFreely and without violating privacy practices. There is no need for such a valuable resource as Sci-Hub to live in the shadows of copyright lawsuits. While we hope publishers will willingly make this change, there are other logical initiatives that can help. For example, there are federal bills like the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), or state bills like AB 2192 in California, which may require government-funded research to be made freely available. The principle behind these bills is simple: if the public sector funds the research, the public will not have to pay again to access it.

In addition to supporting legislation, students and academics can also Advocating for open access on campus. Colleges can not only provide a financial incentive by terminating contracts with publishers, but they can also support researchers in the process of making their own work open access. For example, the University of California system has required that all research from its 10 campuses be open to access since 2013, a policy that public institutions can and should adopt. Even talking about open access with colleagues on campus can spark interest in local regulation, and when it does EFA Local Organizing Toolkit The organizing team ([email protected]) can help support these local efforts.

We need to lift these artificial constraints on science imposed by major publishers and on taking advantage of 21st century technology. Initiatives taken by archive activists such as those who support Sci-Hub should not fall within the scope of cat and mouse game But it is backed by the policy and business models that allow such enterprises to thrive and promote equality.

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