It’s always questionable to blog about something that is gaining attention because it’s illegal, but that’s the case with the latest crop of articles about open access in popular media. While the scientific community has been debating the merits of open access for a while now, the business behind scientific publishing is getting a lot more attention lately because of Alexandra Elbakyan, a graduate student from Kazakhstan who has hacked into hundreds of scholarly journals.
Elbakayn leaked millions of documents, opening a (albeit illegal) door for the public to freely access just about every scientific paper ever published.
To some, Elbakyan is a hero – taking a stand for the public’s right to know. To others, she is a criminal.
“Realistically only scientists at really big, well-funded universities in the developed world have full access to published research,” said Michael Eisen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a longtime champion of open access. “The current system slows science by slowing communication of work, slows it by limiting the number of people who can access information and quashes the ability to do the kind of data analysis” that is possible when articles aren’t “sitting on various siloed databases.”
This from The New York Times:
Journal publishers collectively earned $10 billion last year, much of it from research libraries, which pay annual subscription fees ranging from $2,000 to $35,000 per title if they don’t buy subscriptions of bundled titles, which cost millions. The largest companies, like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer and Wiley, typically have profit margins of over 30 percent.