In a recent article for the Australian journal The Conversation, Dana Ruggiero explains why the “Black Market In Academic Papers Is Spooking Publishers.”
The title is actually somewhat misleading because scholarly papers are being shared without cost in ways that circumvent the corporations that have come to dominate the “market” in academic publishing.
Ruggiero reports that because “many academics have to seek other means for finding articles rather than pay the minimum US$30 that most publishers charge to access an article, . . . a black market of scholarly papers exists that those in the know can access as easily as using a hashtag on Twitter: #ICanHazPDF”: “This system relies on academics helping each other. I post a request for a paper and in ten minutes a response with an attachment may come back to me. The original tweet is then deleted.”
After describing “the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations,” Ruggiero focuses in greater detail on “Sci-Hub, a website developed in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, [which] is a repository for over 48,000 papers which continues to grow every day.” Although “Elbakyan has been called a modern-day Robin Hood by some, . . . Elsevier is currently suing Sci-Hub and Elbakyan in New York for copyright infringement.” But “after Elsevier won a temporary injunction against the site in January, it reopened with a new domain name.”
Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s director of universal access, has offered this pithy explanation of why sites such as SciHub are unethical as well as illegal: “’It’s as if somehow stealing content is justifiable if it’s seen as expensive . . . It’s not as if you’d walk into a grocery store and feel vindicated about stealing an organic chocolate bar as long as you left the Kit Kat bar on the shelf.’”
After reviewing “the normal scenario of scholarly publishing,” Ruffiero sums up the dilemma faced by academic researchers: “Not many academics can afford to publish open access with top-tier journals, but for their careers, they can’t afford not to publish in what are known as ‘high-impact’ journals.” She then sums up the dubious ethics in the current state of academic publishing, making a point that is every bit as incisive as the analogy offered by Alicia Wise: “The difference between academic publishing and other types of creative work is in who owns the rights and who gets paid. Simply put, the author does not get money once the article is published in the journal, the academic editors and peer reviewers are not paid for reviewing these articles. The publisher gives nothing and gets everything.”
Ruggerio’s complete article is available at: https://theconversation.com/the-black-market-in-academic-papers-and-why-its-spooking-publishers-57296