Increasing free access to scientific research

Another instance of digital extremism has emerged in the academic industry. Research pirates are stealing from academic journals and making the information freely available. Despite the illicit nature of these activities, I think it’s a good thing for society. Information should be free to begin with.

Research papers happen to be an extremely lucrative business. If someone wants to know about the latest breakthroughs within their industry, they need to pay exorbitant fees to academic publishers.

My biggest issue with financial research obstacles occurs when I’m reading a sensationalized article or someone in conversation randomly throws out a statistic. When claims about an interesting topic are made, a voice in my head says “prove it.” I shouldn’t have to take someone’s word for everything.

When I’m persistent I eventually find some articles that look like evidence. Possibly, an experiment with observable results. They’re typically hidden on an academic website and only the abstract is available for reading. If someone wants to the read the entire paper, they have to pay $30 or some expensive subscription fee to read about how the experiment was done.

This month, Sci-Hub launched a new website that steals data from academic publishers and also satisfies my intrigue in cutting edge scientific discoveries. The website has a repository of over 48 million research papers already. That’s more than I’m ever going to read in my lifetime.

I think this is a great development in the way we share information. We should share our discoveries publicly. It’s essential that everyone has the opportunity for knowledge in this world so that we can communicate and work together as a species effectively.

This business model is similar to the captive markets of the textbook publishing industry when students have to buy a specific textbook for their courses. The publishers can sell the books at whatever price they want.

If someone is submitting an experiment about human psychology in which only a couple dozen subjects were used then they might want some more data to verify their results. The juicy details of someone’s experiment is not freely available to the public and most people will not know exactly how the experiment was performed or what the results were.

Furthermore, I don’t think people should reinvent the wheel. The whole point of nurturing our society and civilization is to build upon other peoples’ works and discoveries. If we want to reach higher heights in knowledge and progress in all fields, we need to share as much as possible.

The social expectation that someone’s research is more credible when submitted to an academic publication is ridiculous, but it exists.

Very little money used to access a research paper goes to the author and a very small portion of the public gets to learn about the hard work that went into an experiment. No one wins.

I think that the best thing that is going to come out of this is the opportunity for knowledge outside the United States. It’s surprisingly difficult to obtain valuable information and education in rural regions of the world and I think that the more everyone understands how the world works, the more progress we will be able to make on more difficult problems.

In order to make more permanent and beneficial marks upon our society for years and years to come, we need to share everything we have amongst ourselves. I think the published works of the smart minds in our society is a good step towards that goal.