The Streisand Effect Benefits Us All

I’ve written a bit about the increasingly larcenous and parasitic scientific journal industry.

I have in fact said that the giant of the industry, Elsevier, “Is determined to suck the marrow out of learning, and dance on its bones.”

I have on occasion (first link) noted that there is a site, Sci-Hub, based in Russia, which is making much of the previously paywalled material freely available.

Elsevier has aggressively gone after Sci-Hub in court, with the result that Sci-Hub’s profile and hence access on the internet, has skyrocketed:

Techdirt has been covering the story of Sci-Hub, which provides unrestricted access to a massive (unauthorized) database of academic papers, for a while now. As several posts have emphasized, the decision by the publishing giant Elsevier to pursue the site through the courts is a classic example of the Streisand Effect: it has simply served to spread the word about a hitherto obscure service. There’s a new paper exploring this and other aspects of Sci-Hub, currently available as a PeerJ preprint. Here’s what one of the authors says in a related Science interview about the impact of lawsuits on Sci-Hub:

 In our paper we have a graph plotting the history of Sci-Hub against Google Trends — each legal challenge resulted in a spike in Google searches [for the site], which suggests the challenges are basically generating free advertising for Sci-Hub. I think the suits are not going to stop Sci-Hub.

That free advertising provided by Elsevier and others through their high-profile legal assaults on Alexandra Elbakyan, the academic from Kazakhstan who created and runs Sci-Hub pretty much single-handedly, has been highly effective. The surge in searches for Sci-Hub seems to have led to its holdings becoming incredibly comprehensive, as increased numbers of visitors have requested missing articles, which are then added to the collection: 

As an FYI the Streisand effect is where an attempt to suppress information results in further publicizing and popularizing the data.

Considering the nature of peer reviewed journals, where the publishing houses neither pay the authors, the reviewers, and frequently the editors, and prices have increased largely because of industry consolidation.

If Sci-Hub and its ilk sends these publishers into bankruptcy, the world will benefit.

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