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Should Sci-Hub be closed down?

 

 

sci-hub logoThere have been many comments on listservs in the past few weeks about Sci-Hub, the illegal Russian service that makes many scholarly articles available free of charge. I do not condone Sci-Hub for a moment – I have no doubt that it contravenes the publishers’ agreements with libraries, since Sci-Hub appears to be uploading articles via usernames and passwords obtained by deceit. But to believe that by eliminating Sci-Hub all pirating of scholarly content would thereby cease is unrealistically optimistic. Sci-Hub is just one of several services (others are listed here, including Library Genesis) providing access to academic articles, whether via proxies or by providing copies.

A glance at the pirate music and movie download industry suggests that book and article content will inevitably follow the same route - in fact it has already followed the same route. As fast as one pirate site is closed down, another site emerges. With a few minutes’ searching on the Web it is possible to find illegal PDF copies of pretty much any major textbook. Undergraduates admit this quite openly – one student even stated that they preferred the pirate sites to official sites since the access and download is faster!

How many answers would you prefer ?

“We find users prefer one answer.” This was the comment of Google’s Behshad Behzadi when presenting Google’s new Ultimate Assistant. In case you don’t already know, Google’s Ultimate Assistant will answer your questions, whether you key them in or (in Google’s opinion the most likely) you speak to the device. Most of Behzadi's presentation was based around his smartphone, not using the desktop at all. What kind of questions?

Some hypotheses about hypothes.is

My first response when looking at hypothes.is was uncertainty. I've seen quite a bit of publicity, lots of mentions in discussion forums about hypothes.is, but it wasn’t very clear to me on looking at the website just what was proposed. “Annotate with anyone, anywhere” doesn’t really explain very much to me. I have visions of researchers sitting in a circle and annotating together – not very likely.  

 

RefME and the principle of One Click

It is common knowledge that sales of compact digital cameras have fallen in recent years.  A fascinating graphic on PetaPixel shows clearly how digital cameras first replaced the analogue camera market, but then in turn have seen sales falling since around 2009 – by some accounts falling by two thirds between 2009 and 2014. Most likely this was caused by the dramatic rise of the smartphone during the same period. Why did Smartphones eat into the market for digital compact cameras?

 

Books versus journals

 

"Users’ expectations are different for these two. When you search books you expect an answer; when you search journal articles, a scholar expects a list of things to read. A book represents late-stage work, not the early-stage work of journal articles."

 

Thus Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, on different kinds of reading, at the ALPSP Annual Conference in October 2015 (a presentation helpfully summarised by John Sacks in a Scholarly Kitchen post).

 

“You can easily see the difference between these two modalities. Do a search in Google for “San Francisco weather” and the answer pops up: the current temperature and conditions, and the forecast. But for the “weather scholar” there is also a list of sites below the forecast that you can go to if you want to study the topic by reading web pages about San Francisco weather.”

The secrets of consulting - still a classic?

Secrets of Consulting -  cover

At around one joke or witty rule per page, this is a wonderfully entertaining read.  Any book that gathers 1994 ratings on Goodreads is worth looking at. In fact, The Secrets of Consulting gets a higher rating on Goodreads than Moby-Dick or Wuthering Heights (This may tell you something about the folk who rate things on Goodreads). So it this 1985 classic title still a good read? 

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