Without access to journals via a university library or other institutional subscription, thousands of students and researchers are effectively excluded from the exchange of scientific ideas. Hence Sci-Hub, the Napster-like site that provides pirated journal papers free of charge, which is now entangled in legal challenges with publisher Elsevier.
Stanford education professor John Willinsky, PhD, makes the case for the importance of open access and reflects on the Sci-Hub controversy in a recent Times Higher Education essay:
The right to know is also behind this new, emerging academic publishing economy. It is aligned with the broader social and intellectual movement of open science...
It has given rise to more than 11,000 open access journals, including hundreds from Elsevier.
In the piece, Willinsky emphasizes that research is fundamentally different than music or other copyrighted goods, a point made by Alexandra Elbakyan, the researcher who started Sci-Hub. "This is not only because of the public and tax-exempt funding involved in its production and publication," Willinsky writes. "It is because of how this work’s value and benefit is realised through others’ access to and use of this work."
For more on the clash between established journal publishers and the open access movement, check out the full piece or Willinsky's book, The Access Principle, in which he argues that "a commitment to scholarly work carries with it a responsibility to circulate that work as widely as possible."
Previously: Gates Foundation makes bold moves toward open access publication of grantee research, Teen cancer researcher Jack Andraka discusses open access in science, stagnation in medicine and How open access works — in animation
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