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Bewildering botany, free software fanaticism, reliable book reviews, 'mazing math

October 25, 2020

Want Scientific Articles? Just Use SciHub!

Elbakyan, creator of scihub

Online scientific articles are an extremely useful source of knowledge in botany or any other field. They are indispensable for getting to the bottom of obscure or precise questions; some findings are just not written about in other media [1]. In addition, looking over the methodology and conclusion sections of experimental papers gives a better picture of the validity and applicability of the experiment's results. It's easy to forget botany doesn't consist of indisputable facts that everyone but idiots are in consensus with, but consists of competing and often controversial explanations with experimental results giving credence to many sides [2]. The media frequently misrepresents the soundness and meaning of findings so hearing it from the horse's mouth is the only option.

Despite the usefulness of digital scientific articles, three-quarters of them are locked behind expensive fees or unaffordable scientific journal subscriptions. If you ever click on an article and only have access to the abstract or summary of the paper, you've hit a paywall. You could be forgiven for thinking these fees are a necessary evil that provides scientific institutions with the money needed for research. This is not the case. The money from these paywalls go to "scientific journals", businesses that collect papers from researchers, have other researchers review them, and make a killing selling them back to other researchers and other interested people [3]. Journals do serve the purpose of vetting papers and giving credibility to the "good researchers" that get published but are they worth the cost? In the face of massive journal prices, some journals have gone "open access" where they find voluntary funding from universities or charge a fee to researchers who submit a paper. They still occupy a small share of the market and may never take over as the dominant form of publishing articles.

SciHub is a radical solution to the current system of scientific knowledge being behind high-priced tolls. SciHub was a pet project started by the ideal-driven Kazakhstani scientist Alexandra Elbakyan. She keeps a database of almost 50 million scientific articles that she serves for free on her site without regard to copyright. She uses controversial means to obtain the articles: accepting donated journal logins, buying university logins, and possibly buying stolen logins [4]. It's no surprise that the journals are trying to take down SciHub, a threat to their business and proof a donation-run host for science works. The American Chemical Society succeeded in getting a US court to authorize forced blocking of SciHub by ISPs, search engines, hosting providers, domain name registrars [5]. Elbakyan has managed to keep SciHub alive against the backlash from journals by switching hosting from CloudFlare and getting new domain names when one gets blocked.

As of October 25, 2020, SciHub is accessible from sci-hub.do, sci-hub.ren, sci-hub.se, sci-hub.st, sci-hub.es.ht, and scihub.wikicn.top. LibGen, a site similar to SciHub that includes academic books, is available at [libgen.rs](http://libgen.rs/). Downloading books differs from downloading scientific articles in some of the money paid for the book actually supports the author,so this may be a different ethical issue for you. Accessing these sites may or may not be illegal in your country but prosecution for users seems to be very rare. Accessing and downloading papers through [the Tor Browser Bundle](https://www.torproject.org/download/) encrypts your web traffic's destination and prevents your ISP from seeing your activity and snitching on you [6].

Scientific articles are an essential source for learning about plants. Reading from other sources can only take you so far and can give a skewed or incorrect view of what we know. With the academic system setup so most scientific research requires payment to large publishers that provide little benefit, SciHub offers a way out. SciHub pushes us closer to a world where science is more open to everyone, regardless of how much money they have or whether they are in the academic system. Do you want to learn about something? Just use SciHub!

[1] The only way I got to the bottom of the evolution of sassafras leaves was with several scientific articles.

[2] The entire field of phylogenetics

[3] One of the "big five" scientific journals, Elsevier, posted a 36% profit margin in 2010. if that isn't a killing, than what is? source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science

[4] http://fossilsandshit.com/what-is-the-public-evidence-surrounding-the-latest-sci-hub-allegations/

[5] The fact the court gave the ACS the power to order these "internet intermediaries" to censor SciHub is frightening for free speech on the internet. luckily, the order doesn't seem to be enforced on search engines, ISPs, and some domain name registrars since I can still find SciHub with google and access it through Verizon. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/11/another-court-overreaches-site-blocking-order-targeting-sci-hub

[6] You could also use a VPN to safely access SciHub; However, Tor is free.