The Science Hub
Like many in academia, I’ve come to see Elsevier and other publishing conglomerates as giants whose primary goal is making money, rather than moving science forward. I understand that businesses need to make money to stay afloat, pay staff, and keep the doors open, but these for-profit companies have large profit margins by leveraging the work of non-profits, and by restricting access rather than facilitating access to research. Such a policy inhibits scientific progress and helps to maintain educational and socioeconomic stratifications.
I came across the Science Hub (sci-hub.io), and I wanted to put out a plug for what I think is a pretty great resource.
Basically, they’re bypassing all the paywalls and restrictions to allow free access to scientific papers. You just enter in a URL or PMID, and out pops the paper.
This site does raises a number of ethical questions regarding copyright law (and the ethics of copyright). The companies would argue that someone has to pay for all those features that go into a published article, that they won’t just happen for free. Except most of it does happen for free: the federal government and private grants pay for the actual research, people like me review the manuscripts for free, and people like my boss take unpaid positions as editors of the journals. So apparently the publishing company is largely responsible creating online repositories of articles and otherwise aggressively marketing themselves.
Asking individuals to pay $40 or $50 for access to a single article is ridiculous. But without external pressure, the companies that run the scientific publishing industry have had no reason to change, because they will continue to make money hand-over-fist.