Scientific research papers are hard to find on the internet. To say the least they are not freely available. If you wish to have one, you have to pay a price. That’s where the concept of “paywall” comes into being – you have to subscribe to a website to be able to access content that lays within.
But looking at the recent turn of events, we are certainly in a turmoil over how ethical is the availability of advanced scientific knowledge for free.
Online Research Depositories Provide A Way To Surpass These Paywalls
With an intention to make the scientific research papers and other research worthy content available to everyone, many activists, archivists and libraries online are trying hard to keep them free.
For instance, Sci-Hub (brainchild of scientific researcher and hacker Alexandra Elbakyan) and LibGen are two of the most famous online scientific research depositories that have become rather infamous for pirating scientific papers.
The Depositories Weren’t Welcomed With Open Arms And Here’s Why
For pirating scientific research papers, the online research depositories are being condemned by many organizations. So much so, that they are finding it hard to maintain their existence online. They have endured lawsuits by governments and publishers from all across the globe and have faced logical hosting problems too. Here are a few examples –
- Russian courts sided with UK based academic publisher Springer Nature Limited claimed that Sci-Hub had three copyrighted works that focus on brain and heart health
- Elsevier, A Dutch publishing company claimed that Alexandra Elbakyan had been accessing and pirating copyrighted papers. For this she had to face an injunction of $15 million
But, Are They Really Doing Something Worth Being Condemned?
It is, but a very debatable topic.
Afterall, what’s wrong in information being freely available. Isn’t it that more and more people will be benefited by it? Isn’t it that more and more people will be able to gain knowledge? Well! It’s not as simple as it may sound, and you cannot side away with one corner. So, we shall try and have a look at both sides of the same coin –
The Moral Stance
Are these online research websites doing any good to the masses? In a way, yes!
Sci-Hub and LibGen are helping tons of medical professionals and scientists out there who cannot fund their research maybe because they live in developing countries where they can hardly carry their researches. Also, it could be that the required books and other scientific journals are unavailable in their country.
Sci-Hub has a database of over 48 million well researched scholarly articles. It downloads PDF pages and HTML from the web. And, since most of these researches are scraped from paywalls, traditional publishers didn’t seem to like it.
LibGen on the other hand, has over 2 million free books on engineering, science and medicine, a data that amounts to over 33 terabytes. And, it’s not just one site index but a network of mirrored sites. This means as soon as one site is taken down, another one pops up.
Commendable Support That The Cause Has Received
In the wake of preventing these online research websites which are also touted as ‘Pirate Bays of Science’, Redditors seem to have taken the movement in their own hands (and they are getting commendable support too!). For instance, Seedbox.io and UltraSeedbox, two seedbox companies have pledged to deploy their servers for uploading and downloading humongous amounts of scientific data. To be precise, approximately 16.7 TB data has been pledged up until now!
LibGen has also collaborated with the Eye and archivist who will facilitate the storage, tracking and seeding of LibGen’s archival data. The-Eye has previously archived 80 GBs of apple videos which were deleted by YouTube. Moreover, it has also tried to archive the entire Instagram too.
Going Against The Motion – Why Restrict Dispersion Of Scientific Research
The reasons why many scientific researches are hidden by paywalls is the fact that not everyone using the research has a noble mindset. So, access to such information, but obviously has to stay with someone who is authorized to use the information constructively.
For instance, would you side with a miscreant getting hands on some crucial scientific research done by the UN and WHO. Of Course no! The miscreant would wreak havoc, isn’t it?
Also a research takes tons and tons of effort. It does take a lot of effort to gather data, raise funds from government organizations and then find a platform. This effort definitely deserves credibility.
In The End – Wisdom Is The Key And It Shall Prevail
While scientific valuable research if made available to the public, will be beneficial. Yet, we need to ponder deeply upon the fact that information is something that is vulnerable to a lot of misuse and hence, the need of the hour is to distribute such crucial information with a lot of wisdom. It’s not just about the profitable aspect of copyrighting alone but even the extent to which the information can be used.