Academic Publishing: Scientific Journals Need to Open Up-Part 6

The rise of Sci-Hub and one that rankles the publishers the most. I have covered Sci-Hub, a number of times. It’s premise is very simple. Enter the DOI and it pops out the article.

One of the best known, because of its tragic end, was that of internet activist Aaron Swartz, who downloaded millions of Jstor articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s network starting in September 2010, intending to make them free to all. After being caught in early 2011, he gave up the downloaded documents, and Jstor asked that no charges be pressed. But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston plowed ahead, and Swartz killed himself in 2013 while awaiting trial.

By then, Kazakhstani computer programmer Alexandra Elbakyan had started an effort to make all academic-journal articles free to read via SciHub, a self-proclaimed “pirate website” that operates outside the reach of Western authorities and publishers.

Viewpoint: Covid-19 Shows That Scientific Journals Need to Open Up

However, interestingly, the citations rise if the articles are available freely. (This would open up the PDF).

How do you explain this?

Among other characteristics of publications, the number of figures in a manuscript consistently predicts its future citations. The results suggest that limited access to publications may limit some scientific research from achieving its full impact.

It merits a discussion some other day but is a clear reflection that demands between accessibility, profitability and unmet need for publication requires (and merits) a very careful consideration.