A Russian researcher recently pulled off one of the largest ever heists. But she wasn’t stealing diamonds or priceless art; rather she stole academic knowledge and gave it away free to every person in the world.
Those outside of the university world may be surprised to learn that accessing academic papers is a very costly proposition, and makes doing research very difficult, especially for scientists in poorer countries. Alexandra Elbakyan decided that it was unfair to keep the world’s research behind pay walls so she decided to do something about it. As she explained to Torrentfreak.com, “Payment of $32 (per paper) is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them… Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income.”
She has made 48 million papers, the majority of peer-reviewed papers ever published, available online for free. By utilizing donated passwords, Elbakyan has created a network that allows anyone to instantaneously access almost any bit of academic information ever created. This has set off a firestorm of controversy, as Elsevier, the company who owns the content is suing her. However, researchers don’t see a dime of the exorbitant fees this company charges, and even schools like Cornell and Harvard have claimed they can no longer afford these services.
For now, the site is still operating and she has no plans to shut it down, for those who are curious the website is called Sci-Hub. It has become clear that with the internet, knowledge cannot be contained, it will find a way to break free.