Fiona MacDonald in Science Alert:
A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles – almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published – freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers.
For those of you who aren't already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it's sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it's since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court – a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.
“Payment of $32 is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them,”Elbakyan told Torrent Freak last year. “Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal.”
If it sounds like a modern day Robin Hood struggle, that's because it kinda is. But in this story, it's not just the poor who don't have access to scientific papers – journal subscriptions have become so expensive that leading universities such as Harvard and Cornell have admitted they can no longer afford them. Researchers have also taken a stand – with 15,000 scientists vowing to boycott publisher Elsevier in part for its excessive paywall fees.