The frustrated science student behind SciHub

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Who’s downloading pirated papers? Everyone An exclusive look at data from the controversial web site Sci-Hub reveals that the whole world, both poor and rich, is reading pirated research papers My love-hate of Sci-Hub Editorial by Marcia McNutt, Editor-in-Chief, Science suite of journals It’s a Sci-Hub world data set Data set and details on Sci-Hub server Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Email Like so many of Kazakhstan’s brightest, Elbakyan left the country to pursue her dreams. First she worked in Moscow in computer security for a year, and then she used the earnings to launch herself to the University of Freiburg in Germany in 2010, where she joined a brain-computer interface project. She was lured by the possibility that such an interface could one day translate the thought content from one mind and upload it to another. But the work fell short of her dreams. “The lab activity was spiritless,” she says. “There was no feeling of pursuing a higher goal.”center_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Beyond being the founder of Sci-Hub, the world’s largest pirate site for academic papers, and risking arrest as a result, Alexandra Elbakyan is a typical science graduate student: idealistic, hard-working, and relatively poor. In 1988, when Elbakyan was born in Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union was just beginning to crumble. Books about dinosaurs and evolution fascinated her early on. “I also remember reading Soviet science books that provided scientific explanations for miraculous events thought previously to be produced by gods or magic.” She was hooked.At university in the Kazakh capital, she discovered a knack for computer hacking. It appealed to her because “unlike higher programming languages that are created by people and are volatile,” making and breaking computer security systems requires a deeper knowledge of mathematics and the primitive “assembly language” that computers use to move information.Journal paywalls are an example of something that works in the reverse direction, making communication less open and efficient.Alexandra ElbakyanRelated content: Elbakyan did find a community of like-minded researchers in transhumanism, a lofty field that encompasses not just neuroscience and computer technology but also philosophy and even speculative fiction about the future of humanity. She discovered a transhumanism conference in the United States and set her heart on attending, but she struggled to get a U.S. visa. She was rejected the first time and only barely made it to the conference. With the remainder of her summer visa, she did a research internship at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. When she got back to Kazakhstan, frustration with the barriers that scientists face would soon lead her to create Sci-Hub—an awe-inspiring act of altruism or a massive criminal enterprise, depending on whom you ask.Publisher paywalls are the bane of scientists and students in Kazakhstan, she says, and the existing solution was cumbersome: Post a request on Twitter to #IcanhazPDF with your email address. Eventually, a generous researcher at some university with access to the journal will send you the paper.What was needed, she decided, was a system that allowed that paper to be shared—with absolutely everyone. She had the computer skills—and contacts with other pirate websites—to make that happen, and so Sci-Hub was born. Elbakyan sees the site as a natural extension of her dream of helping humans share good ideas. “Journal paywalls are an example of something that works in the reverse direction,” she says, “making communication less open and efficient.”Running a pirate site and being sued for what is likely to be millions of dollars in damages hasn’t stopped Elbakyan from pursuing an academic career. Her neuroscience research is on hold, but she has enrolled in a history of science master’s program at a “small private university” in an undisclosed location. Appropriately enough, her thesis focuses on scientific communication. “I perceive Sci-Hub as a practical side of my research.”last_img read more