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 Table of Contents  
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 210-212

Why should Sci-Hub be supported?


Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Poona College of Pharmacy, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission15-Nov-2018
Date of Acceptance07-Jun-2019
Date of Web Publication05-Aug-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Prasanna R Deshpande
Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Poona College of Pharmacy, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijhas.IJHAS_91_18

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How to cite this article:
Deshpande PR. Why should Sci-Hub be supported?. Int J Health Allied Sci 2019;8:210-2

How to cite this URL:
Deshpande PR. Why should Sci-Hub be supported?. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Aug 20];8:210-2. Available from: http://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2019/8/3/210/263953



Sir,

At the moment, Sci-Hub is the world's largest, pirate, and one of the controversial websites for research-related literature. However, there are multiple positive aspects about Sci-Hub, because of which it should be supported. The advantages are as follows:

Publisher paywalls are one of the major hurdles throughout the world to access e-research articles. Institute libraries are spending huge money every year for getting subscriptions of scientific journals and publishers. Many journals either charge money from researchers or from readers which are creating gaps between developed and developing world.[1]

The very first and the most important plus point of Sci-Hub is “no cost”. A researcher generally has to pay some money ($30 or more per article on an average) for accessing the scholarly articles. However, the amount may not be “small” for a researcher/research scholar, especially from a developing country. Journal subscription charges are so high that well-known universities in the world (like Harvard and Cornell) have cut down the subscriptions.[2] However, Sci-Hub provides mass and public access to research articles “free of cost”.[3] Sci-Hub provides the articles in PDF versions that are reproducible at negligible cost.[3]

Sci-Hub provides access to nearly all scholarly literature.[4] It has more than 81 million scholarly articles registered with Crossref.[4] It covers almost every kind of research subjects including chemistry, chemical engineering, material sciences, pharmacology, toxicology, pharmaceutics, dentistry, physics, astronomy, neurosciences, immunology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, environmental sciences, engineering, energy, business, management, accounting, decision sciences, nursing, economics, finance, econometrics, psychology, social sciences, veterinary, health professions, medicine, mathematics, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, earth and planetary sciences, arts, humanities, multidisciplinary, and computer sciences.[4] Moreover, more than 76.3% of articles in these different disciplines are available on Sci-Hub.[4] It covers 77% of articles from inactive journals (no longer publishing articles) too.[4] The scientific content of the world class publishers is accessible, with coverage more than 79.6% involving Elsevier, Springer, Nature, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, Wolters Kluwer, Oxford University Press, SAGE, and American Chemical Society.[4] Apart from research articles, Sci-Hub gives access to book chapters, monographs, and conference proceedings as well.[5]

Sci-Hub is more convenient than library or e-library.[5] You need not have any detail of the article such as volume number, issue number, page number, journal name, and year of publication which many e-libraries need. You need not to subscribe it. One can access the full text-article simply by mentioning the URL, title, or digital object identifier (DOI) from any computer with an internet connection.[5] For accessing articles from e-library, one needs to have an ID and a password but Sci-Hub does not need this.[3] If some articles are not available on Sci-Hub, it pirates a copy and adds it to the repository.[5]

It has been reported that users love simple interface and broad access to articles.[6] Many researchers have switched from institute library to Sci-Hub because of the convenience[5] Greshake has concluded that Sci-Hub is a convenient resource for accessing articles, as compared to the complete corpus.[7] As per a recent survey, Sci-Hub does contribute to scientific investigation of 62.5% of medical students. The study was conducted across six countries in Latin America including 6632 participants.[8]

Sci-Hub is being used globally; the users are from every continent of the world except Antarctica.[5] The users are limited not only to developing countries but also to developed countries.[5] It has been estimated that 99% of requests have been fulfilled by Sci-Hub.[9] As per a study conducted in 2016, more than 200,000 download requests are received by Sci-Hub every day.[5] The number would have increased by today. The requests are received by minimum 3 million unique IP addresses.[5] Even open-access articles are being downloaded from Sci-Hub.[10]

Although Sci-Hub provides free access to millions of scientific articles, there is no harm to science. There is no harm to commercial publishers/journals, because their H indices, impact factors, and citations will grow continuously, and their reputation, legacy, rankings, and brands remain the same.[3] Overall, scholarly publishing remains the same.[3]

Existing legal proceedings have been failed in turning off Sci-Hub.[6] It has been predicted that the future attempts would end up with the similar results.[6] The subscription publishing model is becoming unsustainable because of Sci-Hub.[4],[6] Overall, Sci-Hub is likely to exist in future.

Even though Sci-Hub is not yet “universally accepted by all”, it is gaining recognition by different means. The founder of Sci-Hub has been nominated in Nature's 10 (an annual list of ten people who mattered in Science) in 2016.[11] She receives a hundred supportive messages a week and donations from some supporters too.[11] Moreover, there is a provision on Sci-Hub website if you wish to donate something.[12] Sci-Hub has been appreciated as a “transformative” and having “how we access the knowledge”.[13],[14] Further to add, it has been applauded as “Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access – literally a world of knowledge” whereas the establisher of Sci-Hub has been named as “Robin Hood of Science”.[15]

Research articles are currently being read/referred by different professionals such as researchers, research scholars, students, teachers, health-care practitioners, research-based companies, policy-making authorities, lawyers, and common people as well. Health-care providers do need access to advanced knowledge for better practice.[1],[16]

Research publications have many advantages such as:[17]

  • It provides newer ideas to other researchers and improves quality of further research
  • It avoids repetition of research work by other researchers
  • It provides royalty to the researchers
  • It contributes to development of a particular field and indirectly a nation
  • It provides access/a reference material to other researchers
  • A research publication gives an idea about other similar researches conducted
  • It adds a value to researcher's curriculum vitae.


Further to add, It has been reported that chargeless/free availability of medical literature is the ethical need for development of global health care.[1]

Apart from all the above plus points, Sci-Hub does have some disadvantages as follows. Article usage information is lost.[18] One cannot directly track how many times the article was accessed or downloaded. Journals do have some expenses to publish an article,[18] but in a way, Sci-Hub is not justifying them. In 2015, Elsevier had filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub for violating copyright laws.[19]

However, I think we should ask some basic questions to ourselves rather than discussing these disadvantages. (1) Why are we (the researchers) all “breaking our heads” for conducting research? Ultimately, we conduct research for welfare of humans and the universe. (2) Should advance knowledge be available only to “rich” or people from developed country? Actually poor or people from developing country also have the equal right on the advanced knowledge. (3) Should “money” be the barrier for a poor person to access advance research-based knowledge? Ideally, knowledge should be (available) to all. (4) Is research a “one stroke activity” or a “one day game” to bring the change? Research is a cumulative and ongoing process. One cannot think of making a satellite “yesterday” and launch it “today”. One has to keep on the things searching, searching and researching. Sci-Hub is a source of huge number of articles with advanced knowledge with no cost and with gigantic searching opportunities. We can take it as a mean for opening the doors of knowledge to all. (5) How ethical is it to charge “(just) reading” the advanced research-based knowledge? One can (just) read the article through Sci-Hub for updating the knowledge and practice, without cost. Reading is one of the crucial aspects for lifelong learning[20] and Sci-Hub does support it indirectly. (6) Is reading a research article a waste of time? Reading a research article updates your knowledge and helps in better practice. It also helps policy-makers and decision-makers. Even a negative finding is a plus point in research field. (7) How much do we pay to read a news online? Various newspapers are available online with no cost. For news, a journalist has to study the whole matter and write about it. Isn't it analogous to researchers and availability of research publications (on Sci-Hub)? (8) If one can access huge number of research articles freely from Sci-Hub, why are we taking subscriptions of various paid journals? Why can't we use that money for some other student welfare schemes at university/institute level? (9) Should research articles (in soft copy) be “sold” in this hi-tech world? As mentioned in literature,[21] I think may be the time has come to reconsider the rules and regulations of publishing market.

In conclusion, Sci-Hub is a ground-breaking search engine for accessing numerous scholarly articles with no cost. Sci-Hub is probably the first step taken in the world to provide mass open access to research articles without copyright issues. Reading updated knowledge is one of the essential parts of lifelong learning. Currently, Sci-Hub is the only answer for this. Therefore, Sci-Hub has various advantages because of which it should be supported.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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1.
Deshpande PR, Naik AN. Chargeless/Free availability of medical literature: The ethical need for development of global healthcare. Indian J Community Med 2012;37:264.  Back to cited text no. 1
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2.
Macdonald F. Researcher Illegally Shares Millions of Science Papers Free Online to Spread Knowledge. Science Alert; 15 February, 2016. Available from: https://www.sciencealert.com/this-woman-has-illegally-uploaded-millions-of -journal-articles-in-an-attempt-to-open-up-science. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
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Priego E. Signal, not solution: Notes on why Sci-Hub is not opening access. Winnower 2016;3:e145624.49417.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Himmelstein DS, Romero AR, Levernier JG, Munro TA, McLaughlin SR, Greshake Tzovaras B, et al. Sci-hub provides access to nearly all scholarly literature. Elife 2018;7. pii: e32822.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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8.
Mejia CR, Valladares-Garrido MJ, Miñan-Tapia A, Serrano FT, Tobler-Gómez LE, Pereda-Castro W, et al. Use, knowledge, and perception of the scientific contribution of sci-hub in medical students: Study in six countries in Latin America. PLoS One 2017;12:e0185673.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
McKenzie L. Sci-Hub's cache of pirated papers is so big, subscription journals are doomed, data analyst suggests. Science. Available from: https://www. sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/sci-hub-s-cache-pirated-papers-so-big-subscription -journals-are-doomed-data-analyst. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Machin-Mastromatteo JD, Uribe-Tirado A, Romero-Ortiz ME. Piracy of scientific papers in Latin America: An analysis of Sci-Hub usage data. Inf Dev 2016;32:1806-14.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Nature's 10. Ten People who Mattered this Year; 19 December, 2016. Available from: https://www.nature.com/news/nature-s-10-1.21157. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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13.
Sci-Hub website Causes Major Controversy in the Science and Publishing Communities. Law & Technology. Thomson Reuters; 11 August, 2016. Available from: http://blog.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-and-techology/sci-hub-website-causes-major-controversy -in-the-science-and-publishing-communities/. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 13
    
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Shoemaker N. Sci-Hub has Changed how we Access Knowledge. Big Think. Available from: https://bigthink.com/natalie-shoemaker/sci-hub-has-changed-how-we-access-knowledge. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 14
    
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Oxenham S. Meet the Robin Hood of Science. Big Think. Available from: https://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/a-pirate-bay-for-science. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 15
    
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Bendezú-Quispe G, Nieto-Gutiérrez W, Pacheco-Mendoza J, Taype-Rondan A. Sci-hub and medical practice: An ethical dilemma in Peru. Lancet Glob Health 2016;4:e608.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
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Ernesto. Elsevier Cracks down on Pirated Scientific Articles; 9 June, 2015. Available from: https://torrentfreak.com/elsevier-cracks-down-on-pirated-scientific-articles-150609/. [Last accessed on 2018 Oct 19].  Back to cited text no. 19
    
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Strielkowski W. Will the rise of Sci-Hub pave the road for the subscription-based access to publishing databases? Information Development 2017;33:540-42.  Back to cited text no. 21
    




 

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