An argument that's often made is that piracy harms content creators. That music piracy impacts the revenue that artists earn through royalties, etc. The gist of the argument is "piracy hurts those who make the content you love".

Whether you believe that or not, do you know who this DOESN'T apply to?

Do you know who receive NO royalties for their published work, and in fact must PAY just to get published? Academics.

You should feel no guilt for obtaining free scientific papers. The authors are losing nothing; their research is being seen by more people than it would otherwise.

So why do they pay to get published? Reputable academic journals serve as a clearing-house. Getting your paper published in a journal is a mark of quality, indicating that your paper has been peer-reviewed and accepted as a valid contribution to science and knowledge. And I have no problem with this; people pay for certifications all the time.

What I have a problem with is that the journal, who have already been paid to publish the article, then turn around and charge the general public for access to the article. (I guess it's usually free if you're a student, but still.) Essentially the journal is taking ownership of, and restricting the dissemination of the scientific knowledge that they were paid to publish.

Publish: from the Latin publicare, "to make public". If it's behind a paywall, it's not publically available; so technically, it's not actually published.

Consider also the rise of "predatory journals", something that can only exist because of this business model. Predatory journals basically exist to scam academics into "publishing" their work in a journal that is neither peer-reviewed nor reputable. They also make money off those who want to advance an agenda; predatory journals will happily take money to publish just about any paper, including those which were outright lies or would never pass a real peer review.

The only ones who benefit financially from all of this is the journals themselves.

So, pirating academic papers may harm the journal it's published in, as they lose out on potential access fees. But the authors don't lose anything financially. And they also don't lose any value in publishing; they are paying for the legitimacy that being reviewed and published grants their work, and the journal still receives the publishing fee. And the journals will always get plenty of money flowing in from all of the universities that provide access to their students.

Who's really losing out here? Anyway, SciHub is a thing.

@TerrorBite @socketwench also, Libgen (as due to legal stuff Sci-Hub stopped archiving new articles late last year).

Also, academics know this and will send you the paper for free if you ask them politely! (E-mail the "corresponding author" whose e-mail address is given in the paper info.) Not always an option, but worth a try if you have time.

@TerrorBite @socketwench FYI, while students usually don't have to pay for access to papers directly, that's usually the case only because the school is paying a high fee for an organization license

Students are already paying for that access as part of their tuition, in other words. It's not free, the cost is just hidden

@calcifer @TerrorBite @socketwench there are countries where tuition is so low or could be considered free (compared to the living standard. i think it's around 300€/semester in Austria)

that means the tax payer is paying it

@calcifer @TerrorBite @socketwench I pay 2.5 USD cents per year as tuition and have access to Springer Math and IEEE. (Majoring in Mathematics at School of Sciences of UNAM but work as a software dev so IEEE was interesting)

@fabianhjr it’s cool that you live in a place with subsidized tuition so that you’re not paying directly. But that generally means the State is paying for that access. Which means these expensive publishing outlets are passing the cost to every taxpayer, which is still raising the cost of education and still isn’t cool.

@TerrorBite @socketwench

@TerrorBite Also, the people who do the work of reviewing papers and deciding whether or not they should get that stamp of certification? Academics. Who don't get paid for doing it. Nobody cuts me a check specifically for reviewing a paper (though I have gotten free books for reviewing proposals for textbook publishers).

You *could* argue that reviewing papers is just part of the general community-support work that an academic on a salary is expected to do with some fraction of their time. Or that I have some obligation to use my expertise to help keep the field as a whole healthy. OK. But *somebody else* is making *actual money* off that work I do.

Or rather, *did* --- I've scaled way back on the journals that I'm willing to referee for.

@bstacey @TerrorBite me too, I will no longer review for jounals that are not "diamond" open access, which sadly excludes most of my computer science subcommunity (information retrieval)


I'll bet subscription fees get factored into students tuition and/or taxpayer funding for public institutions (not to mention taxpayer funding of the original research to begin with....)

Most of the reviewing is volunteer labor too, isn't it?

These rent seeking publishers think they are the hub gmyhat holds science together... like some kind of futuristic sci-hub...

@TerrorBite I'd say it's more insidious than that - copyright of scientific papers is the mechanism that allows scientists, that would benefit from sharing their research freely, to grant exclusive rights to one of the big publishers.

@TerrorBite also most of the time just email/contact the author's directly and they'll just give you the paper

@TerrorBite speaking as a content creator, I'd be delighted if someone set up a torrent of the ttrpg books I wrote. That would be more effort put into distributing them than the publishing company ever managed.


co-op journal consisting of paid peer reviewers when

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