Alexandra Elbakyan opened her email to a message from the world’s largest publisher: "YOU HAVE BEEN SUED." The student and programmer runs Sci-Hub, a website with over 64 million academic papers available for free to anybody in the world.
After all, science depends on shared data. History’s greatest scientific discoveries have all been made and shared, as scientists often say, from atop the shoulders of giants: their scientific predecessors who shared their research. To Elbakyan, science thrives only when scientists shout their discoveries to everyone.
To Open Access activists like Elbakyan and Suber, since most research is publicly funded, paywall journals have essentially made most science a twice-paid product, bought first by taxpayers and secondly by scientists.
On the whole, scientific publishing has become a market increasingly characterized by consolidation, soaring subscription fees, and rising profit margins. As a result, plenty of scientists, students, and journalists alike have come to see an empire of academic piracy as a necessity, raising the question: what value do publishers add to any given paper?