February 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
This post’s first title was “It’s Now Possible To Access 47 Million Academic Papers For Free, But Should We?”
I have since turned it into a Best list on the topic.
Anybody who is outside of universities and colleges in the Western world, and who has attempted to do academic research, knows about how expensive it is to gain access to many studies. Though there is an on-going effort by many researchers to make their work freely available, the lure of publication in prestigious journals is very tempting and often necessary for career enhancement.
Now, a Kazakhstan researcher – with allies from around the world – has devised a method that allows anybody to gain access to pretty much any published research paper – for free. Later in this post I’ll be sharing links to articles that explain how it works in more detail, but my understanding is that allies in institutions that do subscribe to these journals have shared log-in credentials. Once you copy and paste the url address to the paywalled paper into the “pirate” site, it automatically searches and mixes-and-matches until it gains access.
It seems unbelievable, but does appear to be extremely easy to use and works within minutes.
But it does raise obvious ethical and legal questions:
Yes, the publishers act like bandits, but how ethical is to get research for free – through subterfuge -that is being sold (even though the people who wrote the study receive none of the the money – at least according to the articles written about this issue)?
When the movie industry began trying to shut-down pirate film sites, they were able to identify some who downloaded copies and prosecuted them. Is that a possibility here, or is the technology completely different?
Since these papers are about science, do ethical questions around pirated movies, books, and music not apply?
Are my questions reflective of a First World Problem mentality?
I’m raising these questions not only for me, but because I plan to discuss this site and these questions in my IB Theory of Knowledge class as we examine ethics….
Let me know what you think…
Here are articles about the site:
The website that offered 47 million pirated academic papers is back is from Quartz, and shares the new url address of the site.
The Research Pirates of the Dark Web is from The Atlantic.
Meet the Robin Hood of Science is from Big Think.
Why one woman stole 47 million academic papers — and made them all free to read is from Vox.
Expensive Journals Drive Academics To Break Copyright Law is from NPR.
Should All Research Papers Be Free? is from The NY Times.