Do Your Part! Illegally Download Scientific Papers


I never said proposed a fee free model. I’m asking why in a world of publishing the prices for this specific corner are so extortionary. I have better, cheaper access to Cigar Aficionado than Science and the latter probably has wider circulation. I’m also making it clear to everyone that scientists are not paid by journals, because this is a misconception that I’ve encountered before.


Really, stealing the articles will do little to fight the stranglehold that publishers have on scientific publication. If you want to attack the beast DO NOT SUBMIT papers to super-overpriced journals.


My apologies, I didn’t mean to get your statements incorrect. I agree that scientific journals should be appropriately priced, and that the information should be made as freely available as possible. I also believe a lot of people don’t know the amount of time, energy, resources, and people it takes to get one article published. It also means a much smaller audience, which will naturally drive the price per article up.

I will say that I work for a non-profit organization, so our goal is not to make money, but to publish the best content possible to as wide an audience as possible. Not all publishers are the same.

You are also very right about this, and depending on the paper and journal, some researchers pay for it to be published. If the publisher is doing it’s job correctly, this has the benefit of both allowing a wide audience access to it, and yet still being properly peer reviewed before publication. That also gives some insight to the costs, which for us is about $2k an article, and that does not come with a massive profit margin at all.


Good for your organization. However, profit margins at Elsevier were 39% in 2013, and 37% in 2014. That’s just disgusting for a function that’s too damned important. This is an industry that should be nationalized. Maybe we could get rid of the fake journals as well.


That someone would use those words publicly in a non ironic context is a sure sign of involvement in the social alchemies.

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The extended implications.

All of science is built by standing on the shoulders of those who came before. Scientists traditionally give their work to the world for free, but this isn’t purely altruistic. In part, it’s a pay-it-forward deal; giving your work away is the price you agree to pay in return for the free usage of the science of the past.

Closed-access for-profit journals fundamentally violate this ethos. Even if they were run ethically, they would still be objectionable.

But they aren’t run ethically. Corruption scandals amongst the for-profit journals are routine and increasing; see for an example. In the medical sciences especially, this corruption has literally murderous consequences.

Beyond that, for-profit journals create many bad externalities. Academic institutions in the developing world cannot afford them; this in turn cripples the ability of local researchers to respond to the medical, environmental and social problems of which their communities have the most intimate knowledge. The resulting suppression of academia and brain-drain of local scientists towards the developed world further damages their societies.

For-profit journals also increase the tendency towards sensationalism, the neglect of replication and the bias against publishing negative results.

Although there is some cost involved in journal production, almost all of the work is done at the expense of unpaid junior academics. Not just the writing and reviewing; these days, academics have to do the bulk of the typesetting themselves as well. Journal submission processes are nightmarish; getting a manuscript into an “acceptable” format takes days of work, and uploading a submission often requires hours.

It is entirely within the technological ability of 21st century humanity to create a single database, paired with an excellent search engine, that includes the full text of every single academic paper that has ever been published, and to make this database freely available to every person in the world. If the cost were shared amongst academic institutions worldwide, the expense would be trivial.

Doing this would constitute the greatest advance in the dissemination of human knowledge since the Gutenberg press. The only reason why we can’t do it is because a bunch of hugely profitable rent-extracting parasites are squatting on top of an unearned mountain of copyrights.

65 out of the top 100 most-cited scientific papers are behind a paywall, with a weighted average cost of $32.33/each
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There are many, many reasons Elsevier needs to die, and their greed is actually almost the least of it.


Elsevier delenda est.

In a just world, their entire board of directors would be facing life in prison. They’re mass murderers.


Too bad there isn’t some sort of system where research could be funded by grants. Maybe the government could even fund some research that might be in the interests of the public. Not being snarky, but this stuff is paid for. If the funds are mismanaged or not allocated properly, that’s a problem that should be solved, but not by withholding the information from all but the wealthy elite.

Wikipedia, despite its issues, is a great example of what could happen. Tremendous amounts of knowledge are now freely available to anyone, where previously they would have had to pay $1000+ for a set of encyclopedias (quickly outdated). Academic journals of course would have some differences, but there’s no legitimate reason that they couldn’t also be made freely available to everyone.


This is a soon to be (mostly) self-corrected problem. Increasingly, the federal granting agencies on which so much scientific research relies are insisting that science funded by public taxpayer dollars be made freely available to the public, if not immediately upon publication, then within a short time-frame (e.g. two years), either because the journal makes all their not-super-recent papers freely available or because the journal allows the authors to make it so at their own free institutional databases. Scientific journals are now scrambling to change their copyright and free-to-access policies, because they can no longer run under the current model if they ever again want to publish NSF-funded research. That needle will keep swinging in that direction, because the scientific research community wants to, and because the researchers are actually the ones who do both the editing and peer-review for the journals and the reviewing and adjudication for the granting agencies.

(And no, academic scientists don’t do that editing and peer-review work “for free”. We do it as part of our expected service to the scientific community, which is in our job description and a criteria for promotion and tenure. We do get paid to do that work: it is part of our job as academic scientists.)

That said, yeah, seriously, fuck Elsevier. Those guys have been price gouging for decades.

The alternative to SciHub and illegally downloading yourself, of course, is to make friends with an academic scientist at a university that pays for access and ask them to send you the papers. Which they will happily do. (Or go to school there. I know alumni at my school get lifetime access to everything available through our library, which is basically everything.)


Yes, funded researchers can use their grants to pay “page charges” to the journals, and requiring such charges is one way the journals can keep costs down for consumers.


Sure, but (e.g.) Journal of Chromatography A does NOT cost $20,000 per year per subscriber to produce / host online, even including a healthy profit margin.


While I’m pursuing my degree in planning I actually work in printing, so I’m aware of the typesetting, printing and associated costs. It is actively difficult to get those costs above $10 an issue for even the lowest volume publications. Call it 100% profit and another 100% for administrative costs beyond the print and postage side and it is actually hard to get above 30 bucks an issue. So you’ve got a clearly ludicrous price structure paired with the mammoth social damage caused by restrictive access and it is hard to imagine a better set of circumstances for backlash.


That’s the print cost. The online cost is a bit lower.
It’s 7,500 pages a year,

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I’m seeing a more agreement than disagreement in this thread.

To sum:

  • “Free” isn’t a thing.
  • “Reasonable” is what is desired.
  • This is important.
  • Fuck Elsevier.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if you get it in a package with 60 journals you don’t want it’s even cheaper.

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Excerpta Medica Full Set Series: $133412
Pharmacology Package: $73808

Yeah, those are packages. seems that $20,000 per title is a line that won’t be crossed until next year.


While I’m on board with the venom directed at Elsevier it’s not just the pricing that’s the problem at Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley. It’s also the byzantine license agreements for package deals that allegedly save libraries money by capping the subscription price increase of most journals for a set period.

There is of course the old, “We added this journal last year and as a new addition to your package it’s not covered by the agreement so we’re increasing the price 25%.”

I understand publishing is a costly business but I also wonder where most of that money goes since large publishers have such minuscule customer service departments to deal with problems. I remember having trouble getting the library’s online access to a Springer title activated because the one person who handled that was out of the office.

Finally someone at a higher administrative level contacted Springer and said, bluntly, “We’re paying you $1 million per year. How is it you only have one person who handles online access?”

Cornell University has been doing their sticker shock exhibits since at least 2001 and the problem has only gotten worse.


Social alchemy…haha. Don’t think I’ve heard that one before. I actually studied literature, not social science (and wrote my thesis on a video game, of all things). I then ran screaming from academia and got into organizing (what most academics would call praxis, which still gives me a case of the lol’s).

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Since nobody has mentioned this I will recomend bearing it in mind.