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


Opening Scholarly Communication in Social Sciences by Connecting Collaborative Authoring to Peer Review

Authors : Afshin Sadeghi, Johannes Wilm, Philipp Mayr, Christoph Lange

The objective of the OSCOSS research project on « Opening Scholarly Communication in the Social Sciences » is to build a coherent collaboration environment that facilitates scholarly communication workflows of social scientists in the roles of authors, reviewers, editors and readers. This paper presents the implementation of the core of this environment: the integration of the Fidus Writer academic word processor with the Open Journal Systems (OJS) submission and review management system.


Distance informationnelle scientifique : le risque d’une altérité informationnelle ?

Auteur/Author : Christian Marcon

A partir de l’hypothèse selon laquelle les chercheurs et laboratoires qui ne développent pas une politique de mise en ligne de leurs publications et données de recherche se mettent à l’écart du mouvement international d’open data scientifique en accroissant la distance informationnelle avec leurs travaux, cette communication présente les conclusions de l’étude des pratiques des laboratoires en sciences humaines de l’université de Poitiers en matière de données de recherche.


UK University policy approaches towards the copyright ownership of scholarly works and the future of open access

Author : Elizabeth Gadd


Considers how the open access policy environment has developed since the RoMEO (Rights Metadata for Open Archiving) Project’s call in 2003 for universities and academics to assert joint copyright ownership of scholarly works. Investigates whether UK universities are moving towards joint copyright ownership.


Analyses 81 UK university copyright policies are analysed to understand what proportion make a claim over i) IP ownership of all outputs; ii) the copyright in scholarly works; iii) re-using scholarly works in specific ways; iv) approaches to moral rights. Results are cross-tabulated by policy age and mission group.


Universities have not asserted their interest in scholarly works through joint ownership, leaving research funders and publishers to set open access policy. Finds an increased proportion of universities assert a generic claim to all IP (87%) relative to earlier studies.

74% of policies relinquished rights in scholarly works in favour of academic staff. 20% of policies share ownership of scholarly works through licensing. 28% of policies assert the right to reuse scholarly works in some way.

32% of policies seek to protect moral rights. Policies that ‘share’ ownership of scholarly works are more recent. The UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UK-SCL) should have an impact on this area.

The reliance on individual academics to enforce a copyright policy or not to opt out of the UK-SCL could be problematic. Concludes that open access may still be best served by joint ownership of scholarly works.


This the first large-scale analysis of UK university policy positions towards scholarly works. Discovers for the first time a move towards ‘shared’ ownership of scholarly works in copyright policies.



A ‘gold-centric’ implementation of open access: Hybrid journals, the ‘total cost of publication’ and policy development in the UK and beyond

Authors : Stephen Pinfield, Jennifer Salter, Peter A. Bath

This paper reports analysis of data from higher education institutions in the UK on their experience of the open-access (OA) publishing market working within a policy environment favouring ‘Gold’ OA (OA publishing in journals).

It models the ‘total cost of publication’ – comprising costs of journal subscriptions, OA article-processing charges (APCs) and new administrative costs – for a sample of 24 institutions. APCs are shown to constitute 12% of the ‘total cost of publication’, APC administration, 1%, and subscriptions, 87% (for a sample of seven publishers).

APC expenditure in institutions rose between 2012 and 2014 at the same time as rising subscription costs. There was disproportionately high take up of Gold options for Health and Life Sciences articles.

APC prices paid varied widely, with a mean APC of £1,586 in 2014. ‘Hybrid’ options (subscription journals also offering OA for individual articles on payment of an APC) were considerably more expensive than fully-OA titles, but the data indicate a correlation between APC price and journal quality (as reflected in the citation rates of journals).

The policy implications of these developments are explored particularly in relation to hybrid OA and potential of offsetting subscription and APC costs.


Early career researchers: Scholarly behaviour and the prospect of change

Authors : David Nicholas, Anthony Watkinson, Cherifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Jie Xu, Abdullah Abrizah, Marzena Świgon, Eti Herman

Early career researchers (ECRs) are of great interest because they are the new (and biggest) wave of researchers. They merit long and detailed investigation, and towards this end, this overarching paper provides a summary of the firstyear findings of a 3-year, longitudinal study of 116 science and social science ECRs who have published nearly 1,200 papers and come from 7 countries and 81 universities.

ECRs were interviewed in their own languages face-to-face, by Skype, or telephone. The study focused on the attitudes and behaviours of ECRs with respect to scholarly communications and the extent to which they are adopting new and disruptive technologies, such as social media, online communities, and Open Science.

The main findings include: publishing in highimpact factor journals is the only reputational game in town; online scholarly communities, and ResearchGate in particular, are gaining ground; social media are beginning to have an impact, especially in the dissemination arena; outreach activities have become more important; libraries are becoming increasingly invisible to ECRs; Open Science is not gaining traction; and more transformational ideas are being expressed, especially in the US and UK.