What are the ethical dilemmas facing researchers and the overall academic community? What would you say about the role of Sci-Hub ? Are they justified in their actions?
In my opinion there are two sides of the coin to this issue.
On the one hand, when something somebody has been working hard on gets distributed for free and was not intended to be distributed in this way, it discourages people from further efforts. For example, one of the reasons that the US popular culture is so developed (the music industry, film producation, etc.) is the self-sustaining relationship between goods and money. People pay money for the goods allowing to produce more goods. If they didn’t pay money – there would be no motivation and resources to produce more goods. The same goes for information.
On the other hand, sci-hub’s purpose was to make knowledge available to everyone, which is a virtuous goal. Science and research, in my opinion are less, so to say, egocentric. The fact that something was contributed to global knowledge is more important than who contributed. That’s why scientists are happy about somebody disproving their theories with updated data, since that means the humanity has moved forward in it’s knowledge about the world. In business, people mostly care about their personal income and, science, I think, is more altruistic in that regard.
I think that this issue has many blurred lines when it comes to copy and reserved rights. It is true that no one’s time and effort should go to waste. Yet, it seems like a small portion of the stakeholders is getting the benefit out of it; unfortunately, the authors are just a small piece of the pie.
Since the concept of right and wrong varies from a person to another, it is hard to specify a clear definition of what is a 100% clear ethical behavior. There are publishers who take the authors’ work and sell it under the exclusivity of ownership without paying the authors themselves, which I find unethical. On the other hand, websites like Sci-Hub provides an access to many articles and paperwork to its users free of charge, yet they are not paying the authors’ for their work also.
I think that the ethical issue is not with the end users and the accessibility to those studies and publications, but the ethical issue starts with the channel that provides others achievements without fairly providing a price of doing so.
When it comes to the academic community, I find what is ethical or not can be justified within the context of use, as long as the usage of those studies do not go under replica purposes or taking accreditation and ownership of others work, then they can be used to provide examples and support to studies given the citations and references to those who owned it.
I believe that many in the research world face several ethics-based dilemmas. If it is not the fact that some publishers do not pay for the work the researchers do, then it is other scholars trying to get their work without paying to get it from those publishers who pay the researchers.
Sci-Hub offers what would seem as a good source for articles, journals and research work. For many who cannot afford to purchase these items, this would be their next source of material; After all, they need the material either for class, or work. It is however important to note that this is not ethical at all and based on simple morals or the law, it is completely wrong to seemingly rob other people’s intellectual property.
However, most publishers do not pay for this intellectual property but they in turn sell the material on their website, to subscribers and others who want to use it. Once it is in the hands of the publishers, the material is now meant for purchase and anyone who accesses it or provides it for others, is then deemed as ‘unethical’.
To this regard, I believe that it is up to the academic community authorities to come up with a sort of balance where those who create research papers, are fairly compensated, while those who need access to these materials find it quite accessible, no matter one’s financial status. This will in turn clear out the blur between ethical and non-ethical.
The publishers are also not being ethical about the fact that they charge money for works done by others and don’t even pay royalties or anything like that to the authors. However it is up to us to try and make those blur lines between ethics and research by taking responsibility for our actions especially how we get access to research papers on such pirated websites or other illegal means.
In my opinion, Sci-Hub seems to offer quite helpful sources to someone who cannot afford to purchase articles. However, it is unethical in terms of law and dignity. I believe providing rewards to researchers’ immense efforts to complete their studies is important because they spend so much time and conduct honorable work. Therefore, getting their articles for free can be considered as ignoring their dignity.
Whereas providing rewards is significant, the situation that students have difficulties of obtaining academic articles will have to be changed in the future because education should be provided students equally. One of the important ways to change the world better place is to provide more opportunities to get education. I think researchers would be glad if their achievements are widely known to students in order to help people and make the world better.
Therefore, I believe that a radical change of system for supplying academic articles is strongly needed.
Philosophically speaking, there are at least two main ways of approaching an ethical dilemma: from a principles point of view and from the contextual point of view. Both approaches are grounded on moral values, which by definition are cultural and time based. The principle approach is the one that will apply the principle to whatever situation, where context or consequences are not taken into account to perform the moral action, but only the principle as a must-do (Kant). The other approach is the one the considers deliberation part of the previous process before making a decision of the course of action. Here, we do consider the consequences and the aims, as well as the means we have to attain those. Prudence is the regulative ideal to make the decision which every time should consider the right balance (Aristotle) not to fall prey of relativization.
So, bearing these in mind before making a decision in an ethical dilemma is important. Some people will identify their ethics profile with Kants` approach, other, with Aristotles`. (A good example to see this is killing. We are all agains it, but, if your life is being threatened by someone and you have the chance to defend yourself, you wont apply the key principle of Killing is not permitted).
Now, considering the Sci-Hub situation from a philosophical-ethical point of view, I personally feel that the situation compels to think about purpose. Ask ourselves these questions: What is the ultimate purpose of information and content developed by researchers? Produce knowledge. What for? To contribute to humanity´s body of knowledge, hence humans better living. What is the ultimate purpose of the publishers industries such as Elsevier and others? To guarantee rigorous and accurate research papers, act as scientific filter for reliable content. It is only fair that they get money to finance their operation of: securing peer review, coordination to match papers with reviewers, oversee deadlines, organize publication dates and classification, pay for repository space, access, software for their internal system and for the public and subscription access systems; as much as for administrative and tax expenses, legal services, or other expenses not here considered. The problem with Elsevier and other publishers seem to be that users (institutional users such as Universities or libraries; and individuals) find the prices being charged for these services way over reasonable. By reasonable one can understand that it is after taking into account the expenses the publisher has to incurre in. So, even though these questioned journals tend to respond that they only charge for the kind of efficient service they provide, the fact that their true costs and expenses are not transparent contributes to the suspicion of falling into over pricing for the service and papers; adding to that, the fact that peer reviewers are not paid for doing that job for the journals, and authors themselves are not paid for their papers nor for any kind of intelectual property or royalties; these last two could be an added and understandable pieces of the fee charged, but they are non existing since peers and editors work as a service to the community and researchers sometimes even have to pay for being published.
Therefor, taking into account these facts, I am inclined to side with Sci-Hub as a way to secure the main goal of human produced knowledge, which is to advance more and better knowledge for the human race. If a system (like Elsevier or other high priced journals) are hindering that process, we cannot stick with the formality created by these systems and be accomplice to this obstruction of knowledge. It has to be taken into account how the users of the service feel about it, and it is clear that many prestigious institutions (as Harvard, Stanford, Duke universities; as well as European institutions and governments) and individual users are questioning the overpricing of these journals, something is wrong about it and something is ought to be done to change it. The pressure of current Open Access response in the internet is a way of calling into their attention they (these journals) must review their actions to cover all three: users satisfaction, their operational costs, access to knowledge.
So, answering directly to the question posed: Is Sci-Hub justified in their actions? I will say yes, they are ethically justified. They are a sign of our internet Open Access times; they are an alert towards a system that is failing to auto-regulate itself; they are a mean and an end themselves because they are a mean for others knowledge reach to others searching for that knowledge to continue the human knowledge feedback process in a world increasingly growing in economic gaps and lack of equity. bear in mind, though, that ethics and law are not always on the same rope or side. Some thing or situations may be unethical for some, but yet still legal (Death penalty, for example); or ethical but ilegal (marihuana as medicine).
As per what are the ethical dilemmas facing researchers? I believe it is an intimate and personal decision of each researcher to choose if he/she wants to contribute to that system, publishing their papers in the overpriced journals, knowingly of the dilemma; I believe the researchers that choose to use Sci-Hub for the altruist and principled reasons of knowledge explained (and not for any commercial use, of course), have to be careful about any legal responsibility this can bring upon them, find the loops not to be subjected to unnecessary legal procedures. As per the the overall academic community, I believe their first responsibility is to discuss this important and contemporary issue and take a stand, as much as promote changes to benefit all parts equally (users, researchers and journals), not just one group.
I understand that it is both unethical and, probably at some point, illegal to access paid information for free. However, there is a moral controversy in this issue. Researchers and students, who have access to academic resources via their academic institution, have opportunity to use plenty of academic data and publications for their research and development. Those who try to study independently and develop their academic background on their own do not have this opportunity. Certainly, there is a big number of free and well-prepared information available online. Nevertheless, academic articles and publications are crucial for a researcher.
In this case, independent researcher (or a researcher, whose institution does not have access to academic journals) faces an ethical dilemma: either to pay a substantial amount of money to access journals or to use platforms like Sci-Hub. And by substantial amount of money I mean – subscription for some journals is high even by Western standards.
Here, I would apply a concept of beneficence that looks into cost-benefit relationship of the dilemma. In this particular case – there is a high probability that researcher would not have enough funds to afford an academic subscription, hence a researcher would miss an opportunity to explore specific field broader, article’s author would not be mentioned in the research, and publisher also gains nothing. If this person uses Sci-Hub to access publications for free – there is a benefit for the researcher as his/her research becomes broader and more legitimate, also article’s author is cited. Publisher still gains nothing – but given that this particular researcher still would not be able to pay for the content – there is a little cost to that. Therefore, in my opinion there are more benefits in second scenario.
After all, ethical behavior cannot be separated from context and various conditions. Ethics is philosophy of morality and we always make a moral or immoral choice. Is it ethical for a journal to prevent access to information for underprivileged groups for the sake of financial profit? Is it ethical for a student of academic institution to use free services while having access to variety of content through library? I think answering these questions honestly can help anyone to make one’s own choice.
Is Sci-Hub ethically justified in their actions? There is no clear answer. After our conversation in class and reading what others had commented I started to lean towards the idea that Sci-Hub is ethical. Claudia made an interesting point of looking at it from a philosophical-ethical point of view. Sci-Hub provides published research for free illegally, but it’s purpose is to enhance further research. Knowledge is continuously building upon itself. If access to research is limited then then the advancement of knowledge is obstructed.
Suleyman provided a caveat to Sci-Hub in his comment, the cost benefit relationship of research. If researchers are not getting paid or getting paid less than the amount of research done will decrease. How can research be available to everyone while at the same time generating revenue?
Sci-Hub sits on the blurred line of ethics. Sci-Hub, whether it is ethical or not, has questioned the current foundation of funding, publishing, and availability of research. Creations such as Sci-Hub stir the debate of ethics itself and will hopefully force a new creation that provides a wide variety of available research, yet at the same time allocating funding to researchers.
In my opinion, I couldn’t find a clear answer for Is Sci-Hub ethically justified in their actions? but I think that publishing research for free without having the approval from their authors is not ethical, Mean while the aim of making a research in the first place is to answer questions and for people to gain more knowledge and to create a new space for people to have arguments about this topic.
so creating this important space should be available for everybody especially students, so our main question is how to make that kind of information available for learners without violating any copyrights and protecting the researcher’s rights in getting credit for their research?.
I think I have a suggestion done by the biggest websites for online courses which is “coursera” .Coursera provides a different kind of paid courses ( information and knowledge ) from different universities around the world for audience and learners and for protecting the copy and ethical rights for publishers and professors they provide it for money.
But coursera have a good option and solution for this problem which is the option if you are a student or cannot afford the course price, you should submit an application for them mentioning this and they revise it back and take the approval from the course publisher,then give you the approval to accesses the course for free.
So I think this may be a suggestion to be adopted by research websites and also force a new creation that provides a wide variety of available research like quintin said.
I think since these publishers, for example, ELSIVIER or SAGE, receive the research publications or journals free of charge from the authors around the world, they should set any special condition for subscribers who are not looking for profit purposes in using those online materials. For instance, setting the lower price (affordable) for purchasers who are academic students. This practice, I think, would encourage more authors to contribute because their work has been used as references for further studies. Or, I would suggestion the community of scholars to establish the website to provide free legal accessing in completion to those profit-earn publishers. And for long-term run, community, the government, school of private company or any foundation should financially support general website operation and administrations. The standard and quality of works are competitive since the same authors are the contributors.
Moreover, I think, the legal protection age of publication should be shorter than it is now. I see that until the publication (books) have set free available (the legal protection phased out) for the public, those books are almost out of date and only limited times of their content were used for further citation. The case of Sci-Hub reflects well the situation in my country, Cambodia, where people seem don’t care much about ethics, intellectual property or copy rights. The stealing of other peoples’ invention or new creation (music, song composer, movies, electronic soft-wares, books…) is seen constantly practicing. There are lots of copied book sold on the road side in the city. The country has the intellectual property law, but it is the matter of implementation and enforcement. Only minority amount of population could afford to buy to original ones.
In my opinion, there are two sides of the coin. First, its not ethical to access documents without the consent of the publisher which means that a specific amount of money should be paid for subscription. Meanwhile, as students, we need to have access to those journals in any way possible. I agree with my claques who are stressing on the point of publishers themselves are not ethical as they charge from reading but they do not pay to writers.
My opinion is based on who is cheating!
As a best practice, it is incombent on researchers to appropriately reference their sources of research materials for authenticity sake.
It is quite clear that the road to achieving such has been slippery slope. Meaning, some researchers have been striving to fulfill the ethical conditions of research while others have been challenged to distinguish between what is theirs and what is not.
It is crystal clear that publishers like Sci-Hub has been requesting for articles from authors without paying them or giving them any for of incentive or compensation. They have, however been cheating authors in the name of contributing to the world of academia. In my honest opinion this is not enough for that your precious time to put a paper together.
One might want to wonder that if authors are not paid by publishers, why then should researchers – who are mostly students- should be paying for special articles that can aid their research.
At this point, I think there is a missing link somewhere. It is possible that there is no legal element that can be brought against sites like Sci-Hub and because of that they doing things with impunity.
Not much of a surprise if Peter Suber is alluding that a lawsuit can’t stop Sci-Hub. With this I am even tempted to challenge the sincerity and integrity of Sci-Hub.
In my opinion I have aligned myself to Maysam Rahami’s position but by asking who is cheating who, and who should really concerned about piracy or copyright or some form of payment for sourcing articles.
To my point of view, the debate about the (research) ethics is going to be the chicken and egg discussion, for it is related to many different issues and the conditions are various from one region to another.
For us coming from a place being called the developing country, the ethics concept is no where to be consider. Based on the Maslow theory, many of us could barely well survive the second or the 3rd stage of the phase. It defines the incapability to consider about the morality, copyrights as well as an ethics. As long as we can get the resource at no cost, we will go with the free and open source options to complete our eduction task or research paper. Sci-Hub, to the people like Cambodians and many more from places they couldn’t afford is the best open sources for eduction and to achieve their academic dream. On the other hand, this pirate or illegal using of the research journals by the people from the developed world shall be discussed.
First, I believe the effort of the researchers shall be respect and their rights shall be protected, for the they have spent the great amount of time for the research work and another great amount of time to get publish. At this point, the researchers deserve to receive back the hard work they did. Second, in case of the USA, due to the heavy cost on the school payment and tax, the universities shall make available to all the students to accessing all the document need to support their research papers and articles. In the meantime, the comfortable and convenient in accessing to the journal shall be there.
Personally, I believe Sci-Hub is doing a great job is supporting those unfortunate people who could not afford the high price journal and research paper to accomplish their education dream. However, we might need to consider the alternative ways to protect the rights of the researchers and their benefits.
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