Shadow Libraries and You: Sci-Hub Usage and the Future of ILL

Authors : Gabriel J. Gardner, Stephen R. McLaughlin, Andrew D. Asher

Scholars have shared copyrighted material outside official channels for decades, but recent market forces, professional pressure, and novel technical exploits have allowed the large-scale automation of these practices.

As a result, millions of scholarly articles, chapters, books, and papers have been aggregated in illicit collections known as “shadow libraries,” available for free download by anyone with an Internet connection.

The best-known shadow libraries are Library Genesis (LibGen) and the associated website Sci-Hub, which uses pooled university credentials to access articles and add them to LibGen’s repository. AvaxHome and the defunct website Library. nu are two others, with numerous smaller collections scattered across the web.

Since Elsevier, in June 2015, filed a civil suit against Sci-Hub, its creator Alexandra Elbakyan, LibGen, and several John Does associated with LibGen, many articles and opinion pieces have been published on the role and possible effects of shadow libraries in the scholarly communication ecosystem.

Though they clearly violate U.S. copyright law, many scholars are quick to offer praise rather than condemnation for the site. Sci-Hub is easy to use, offering simple and fast access to full-text articles in PDF format in a manner more straightforward than many library or publisher websites.

To date, however, only a few scholars have examined the phenomenon empirically. There is a dearth of information on questions such as whether shadow libraries will reduce publishers’ revenues and disrupt the scholarly publishing industry, and whether they are affecting academic library usage or decreasing the use of interlibrary loan.

This study attempts to shed light on some of the questions facing libraries and publishers. Specifically, it examines the effects of Sci-Hub on interlibrary loan in select cities using various quantitative methods.

In addition, we explore Sci-Hub usage in the United States qualitatively along subject-based and pricing-based lines of inquiry. Other general qualitative findings of note are included in an effort to expand the literature on this relatively new and understudied topic.


Emerging trends in peer review—a survey

Authors : Richard Walker, Pascal Rocha da Silva

“Classical peer review” has been subject to intense criticism for slowing down the publication process, bias against specific categories of paper and author, unreliability, inability to detect errors and fraud, unethical practices, and the lack of recognition for unpaid reviewers.

This paper surveys innovative forms of peer review that attempt to address these issues. Based on an initial literature review, we construct a sample of 82 channels of scientific communication covering all forms of review identified by the survey, and analyze the review mechanisms used by each channel.

We identify two major trends: the rapidly expanding role of preprint servers (e.g., ArXiv) that dispense with traditional peer review altogether, and the growth of “non-selective review,” focusing on papers’ scientific quality rather than their perceived importance and novelty.

Other potentially important developments include forms of “open review,” which remove reviewer anonymity, and interactive review, as well as new mechanisms for post-publication review and out-of-channel reader commentary, especially critical commentary targeting high profile papers.

One of the strongest findings of the survey is the persistence of major differences between the peer review processes used by different disciplines. None of these differences is likely to disappear in the foreseeable future.

The most likely scenario for the coming years is thus continued diversification, in which different review mechanisms serve different author, reader, and publisher needs. Relatively little is known about the impact of these innovations on the problems they address. These are important questions for future quantitative research.

URL : Emerging trends in peer review—a survey


Developments in research data management in academic libraries: Towards an understanding of research data service maturity

Authors : Andrew M. Cox, Mary Anne Kennan, Liz Lyon, Stephen Pinfield

This paper reports an international study of research data management (RDM) activities, services and capabilities in higher education libraries. It presents the results of a survey covering higher education libraries in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK.

The results indicate that libraries have provided leadership in RDM, particularly in advocacy and policy development. Service development is still limited, focused especially on advisory and consultancy services (such as data management planning support and data-related training), rather than technical services (such as provision of a data catalogue, and curation of active data).

Data curation skills development is underway in libraries, but skills and capabilities are not consistently in place and remain a concern. Other major challenges include resourcing, working with other support services, and achieving ‘buy in’ from researchers and senior managers.

Results are compared with previous studies in order to assess trends and relative maturity levels. The range of RDM activities explored in this study are positioned on a ‘landscape maturity model’, which reflects current and planned research data services and practice in academic libraries, representing a ‘snapshot’ of current developments and a baseline for future research.


The coverage of Microsoft Academic: Analyzing the publication output of a university

Authors : Sven E. Hug, Martin P. Brändle

This is the first in-depth study on the coverage of Microsoft Academic (MA). The coverage of a verified publication list of a university was analyzed on the level of individual publications in MA, Scopus, and Web of Science (WoS).

Citation counts were analyzed and issues related to data retrieval and data quality were examined. A Perl script was written to retrieve metadata from MA. We find that MA covers journal articles, working papers, and conference items to a substantial extent. MA surpasses Scopus and WoS clearly with respect to book-related document types and conference items but falls slightly behind Scopus with regard to journal articles.

MA shows the same biases as Scopus and WoS with regard to the coverage of the social sciences and humanities, non-English publications, and open-access publications. Rank correlations of citation counts are high between MA and the benchmark databases.

We find that the publication year is correct for 89.5% of all publications and the number of authors for 95.1% of the journal articles. Given the fast and ongoing development of MA, we conclude that MA is on the verge of becoming a bibliometric superpower. However, comprehensive studies on the quality of MA data are still lacking.


Who support open access publishing? Gender, discipline, seniority and other factors associated with academics’ OA practice

Author : Yimei Zhu

This paper presents the findings from a survey study of UK academics and their publishing behaviour. The aim of this study is to investigate academics’ attitudes towards and practice of open access (OA) publishing.

The results are based on a survey study of academics at 12 Russell Group universities, and reflect responses from over 1800 researchers. This study found that whilst most academics support the principle of making knowledge freely available to everyone, the use of OA publishing among UK academics was still limited despite relevant established OA policies.

The results suggest that there were differences in the extent of OA practice between different universities, academic disciplines, age and seniorities. Academics’ use in OA publishing was also related to their awareness of OA policy and OA repositories, their attitudes towards the importance of OA publishing and their belief in OA citation advantage.

The implications of these findings are relevant to the development of strategies for the implementation of OA policies.

URL : Who support open access publishing? Gender, discipline, seniority and other factors associated with academics’ OA practice

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Resisting the Resistance: Resisting Copyright and Promoting Alternatives

Author : Giancarlo F. Frosio

This article discusses the resistance to the Digital Revolution and the emergence of a social movement “resisting the resistance.” Mass empowerment has political implications that may provoke reactionary counteractions.

Ultimately—as I have discussed elsewhere—resistance to the Digital Revolution can be seen as a response to Baudrillard’s call to a return to prodigality beyond the structural scarcity of the capitalistic market economy.

In Baudrillard’s terms, by increasingly commodifying knowledge and expanding copyright protection, we are taming limitless power with artificial scarcity to keep in place a dialectic of penury and unlimited need.

In this paper, I will focus on certain global movements that do resist copyright expansion, such as creative commons, the open access movement, the Pirate Party, the A2K movement and cultural environmentalism.

A nuanced discussion of these campaigns must account for the irrelevance of copyright in the public mind, the emergence of new economics of digital content distribution in the Internet, the idea of the death of copyright, and the demise of traditional gatekeepers. Scholarly and market alternatives to traditional copyright merit consideration here, as well.

I will conclude my review of this movement “resisting the resistance” to the Digital Revolution by sketching out a roadmap for copyright reform that builds upon its vision..


The Landscape of Research Data Repositories in 2015: A re3data Analysis

Authors : Maxi Kindling, Heinz Pampel, Stephanie van de Sandt, Jessika Rücknagel, Paul Vierkant, Gabriele Kloska, Michael Witt, Peter Schirmbacher, Roland Bertelmann, Frank Scholze

This article provides a comprehensive descriptive and statistical analysis of metadata information on 1,381 research data repositories worldwide and across all research disciplines.

The analyzed metadata is derived from the re3data database, enabling search and browse functionalities for the global registry of research data repositories. The analysis focuses mainly on institutions that operate research data repositories, types and subjects of research data repositories (RDR), access conditions as well as services provided by the research data repositories.

RDR differ in terms of the service levels they offer, languages they support or standards they comply with. These statements are commonly acknowledged by saying the RDR landscape is heterogeneous.

As expected, we found a heterogeneous RDR landscape that is mostly influenced by the repositories’ disciplinary background for which they offer services.