How to Access Research Articles for Free

How to Access Research Articles for Free

October 6, 2019 100 By Ewald Bahringer


“How to Access Research Articles for Free” The first issues of the first scientific
journals were published back in 1665, in which it was noted things like, hey,
it looks like there’s a spot on Jupiter, thanks to new telescopes
invented by a certain Mr. Newton, whose friend Halley described a comet. The same journal that reported that
oranges and lemons could cure scurvy, and something in willow tree
bark could bring down a fever. Also published, a letter by
some guy over in the colonies about playing with kites
during lightning storms, and an account of a remarkable 8-year-old
musician by the name of Amadeus, and within this last century some
sketchings of the structure of some molecule called DNA. A journal still in publication
to this day, 350 years later, available now online and in print for the low, low subscription
price of only $6,666 a year. As you can imagine, the
high price of journals leaves doctors in developing countries missing out on relevant
information about health. At that time, back in the ’90s, there
was optimism that by 2004 at least, the problem of access to life-saving
scientific information would be solved. But 2004 came and went,
setting their sights for 2015. Surely by then we can achieve
health information for all, as lack of access
remained a major barrier. Realistically, only scientists at really
big, well-funded universities in the developed world may have
full access to published research, and as prices rise even higher,
even that may no longer be true. You know there’s a problem
when even Harvard, as in $30-billion-dollar-
endowment Harvard, claims that costs for research
journals are now prohibitive. Meanwhile, the journal
publishers are raking in billions charging institutions up to
$35,000 a year per journal, and charging individuals
online per article. So you have a family member diagnosed
with some disease and you go online. You can read all sorts of internet drek, but if you want to see the actual
science, it can get expensive. And you likely paid for the research. Tax dollars pour in to fund the research, and then you can’t get access
to the research you paid for. It’s like if a nice little city park was built, but then some private firm came in
and started to charge admission. That’s roughly how it works
with scientific research, and this conversion of public research
dollars into private publishing profits has long been a source of discontent. The publishers don’t end up
paying anything for the research. They get it for free; they don’t
pay the researchers anything. So we pay for it, and then we have
to pay for it again if we want to read it. So it can end up with science as a profit
system, rather than science as knowledge. Enter Alexandra ElBakyan, nicknamed
by some the Robin Hood of Science. It’s the story of how one researcher made
nearly every scientific paper ever published available for free to everyone,
anywhere in the world. Named by perhaps the most prestigious
scientific journal in the world as one of the top 10 people who
mattered the most in science in 2016, Alexandra started out as just a
frustrated grad student in Kazakhstan, unable to access the scholarly papers
she needed for her research. Once she figured out how to
circumvent all the paywalls, she started a website, now at sci-hub.io
[2018 update: try sci-hub.la], to remove all barriers
in the way of science by giving away the world’s scientific,
medical, and nutrition literature for free. “What she did is nothing short
of awesome,” said one researcher. “Lack of access to the scientific
literature is a massive injustice, and she fixed it with one fell swoop.”