Let’s discuss the 3 Sci-Hub ideas

The site http://sci-hub.io/ has a part called “Sci-Hub ideas”. I have not seen any discussion about this in the commercial social networks, where almost everybody is a lawyer, apparently.
What if we look at these ideas, a bit more?

Screenshot from 2016-02-28 01:23:34


Further are my opinions about those:

1. Knowledge to all. I totally support this idea. That is why I always supported Green OA and not Gold OA. Open Science, which is a far more general and future oriented concept than OA, proposes the same, because the only scientific knowledge is the one which can be independently validated. This is not possible if there are walls around knowledge.

A more sensible point is the “inequality in knowledge access across the world”. This inequality has to be recognized as such and we should fight it.

2. No copyright for scientific and educational resources. It is very convenient to forget that the copyright has been a barrier for progress, several times in the past. Aviation and PC hardware are two examples. Some people understand that: “All our Patents are Belong to You”.

3. Open access. The most puzzling reaction against Sci-Hub, at least for me, was the one coming from some of the proponents of OA. I agree that Sci-Hub is not a solution for OA publishing of new articles. It is not a OA publishing model. OK. But OA itself is a very murky thing. Is arXiv.org OA? According to many OA advocates, it is not, is only an open repository. However, arXiv.org was a real solution for publishing, i.e. fast dissemination of knowledge. People used arXiv.org (and they use it now as well) in order to learn and communicate, via scientific articles, open and fast. There was no publishing revolution, just people using a better system than what the legacy publishers proposed. Likewise, Sci-Hub responded to a big need of many researchers, as witnessed by the fact that the site is heavily used. I think the support of Sci-Hub for OA is only lip service, what they really want to say is that they created a solution for a real problem which is not solved by OA.

SciHub and patent wars

The Wright brothers used their patents to block the building of new airplanes. The historical solution was a pool of patents, eventually. Now everybody can fly.

We all have and use PCs because the patent wars around computer hardware were lost by those who tried to limit the production of it.

Elon Musk announced in 2014 that All Our Patent Are Belong To You.

These days publishers  complain that SciHub  breaks their paywalls. They have the copyrights for the  research works which are publicly funded mostly.

This is a new version of a patent war and I believe it will end as others in the past.

Sci-Hub is not tiny, nor special interest

“Last year, the tiny special-interest academic-paper search-engine Sci-Hub was trundling along in the shadows, unnoticed by almost everyone.” [source: SW-POW!, Barbra Streisand, Elsevier, and Sci-Hub]

According to the info available in the article Meet the Robin Hood of science, by Simon Oxenham:

[Sci-Hub] “works in two stages, firstly by attempting to download a copy from the LibGen database of pirated content, which opened its doors to academic papers in 2012 and now contains over 48 million scientific papers.”

“The ingenious part of the system is that if LibGen does not already have a copy of the paper, Sci-hub bypasses the journal paywall in real time by using access keys donated by academics lucky enough to study at institutions with an adequate range of subscriptions. This allows Sci-Hub to route the user straight to the paper through publishers such as JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier. After delivering the paper to the user within seconds, Sci-Hub donates a copy of the paper to LibGen for good measure, where it will be stored forever, accessible by everyone and anyone. ”

“As the number of papers in the LibGen database expands, the frequency with which Sci-Hub has to dip into publishers’ repositories falls and consequently the risk of Sci-Hub triggering its alarm bells becomes ever smaller. Elbakyan explains, “We have already downloaded most paywalled articles to the library … we have almost everything!” This may well be no exaggeration.”

Is that tiny? I don’t think so. I have near me the comparisons I made in
ArXiv is 3 times bigger than all megajournals taken together and, if we would trust the publicly available numbers, then:

  • Sci-Hub is tiny
  • arXiv.org is minuscule with about 1/40 of what (is declared as) available in Sci-Hub
  • all the gold OA journals have no more than 1/100 of the “tiny” baseline, therefore they are, taken together, infinitesimal

Do i feel a dash of envy? subtle spin in favor of gold OA? maybe because Alexandra Elbakyan is from Kazakhstan? More likely is only an unfortunate formulation, but the thing is that if this info is true, then it’s huge.

UPDATE: putting aside all legal aspects, where I’m not competent to have an opinion, so putting aside these, it appears that the 48 million collection of paywalled articles is the result of the collective behaviour of individuals who “donated” (or whatever the correct word should be used) them.

My opinion is that this collective behaviour shows a massive vote against the system. Is not even intended to be a vote, people (i.e. individual researchers) just help one another. Compare this behaviour with the one of academic managers and with the one of all kinds of institutions which a) manage public funds and negociate prices with publishers, b) use metrics which are based on commercial publishers for distributing public funds as grants and promotions.

On one side there is the reality of individual researchers, who create and want to read what others like them created (from public funds basically) and on the other side there is this system in academia which rewards the compliance with this obsolete medium of dissemination of knowledge (presently turned upside down and replaced with a  system which puts paywalls around the research articles, it’s amazing).

Of course, I am not discussing here if Sci-hub is legal, or if commercial publishers are doing anything wrong from a legal point of view.

All this seems to me very close to the disconnection between politicians and regular people. These academic managers are like politicians now, the system ignores that it is possible to gauge the real opinion of people, almost in real time, and instead pretends that everything is OK, on paper.



Neurons rewrites

A real neural network is a huge cascade of chemical rewrites. So I can try my chemlambda with that task. From a programming point of view, the problem is to understand neural networks as a graph rewrite model of computation, together with a (yet undiscovered) discipline of using them.

Further are some pretty images showing the first tries. They are all made by filming real simulations obtained with chemlambda.

Before giving them, I tell you that this task seems hard and now I believe that an easier one would be to use the ideas of chemlambda in the frame of quantum computing. (Do I have to add that in a new way, different from what was proposed in the many graphical formalisms associated to category theory? Probably! All those formalisms fall into the family: topological changes do not compute. Wait and see.)


Open peer review is something others should do, Open science is something you could do

This post follows Peer review is not independent validation, where it is argued that independent validation is one of the pillars of the scientific method. Peer review is only a part of the editorial process. Of course that peer review is better than nothing, but it is only a social form of validation, much less rigorous than what the scientific method asks.

If the author follows the path of Open science, then the reader has the means to perform an independent validation. This is great news, here is why.

It is much easier to do Open science than to change the legacy publishing system.

Many interesting alternatives to the legacy publishing have been proposed already. There is green OA, there is gold OA (gold is for $), there is arXiv.org. There are many other versions, but the main problem is that research articles are not considered really serious unless they are peer reviewed. Legacy publishing provides this, it is actually the only service they provide. People are used to review for established journals and any alternative publishing system has to be able to compete with that.

So, if you want to make an OA platform, it’s not serious unless you find a way to make other people to peer review the articles. This is hard!

People are slowly understanding that peer review is not what we should aim for. We are so used with the idea that peer review is that great thing which is part of the scientific method. It is not! Independent validation is the thing, peer review is an old, unscientific way (very useful, but not useful enough to allow research finding to pass the validation filter).

The alternative, which is Open science, is that the authors of research findings make open all the data, procedures, programs, etc, everything they have. In this way, any other group of researchers, anybody else willing to try can validate those research findings.

The comparison is striking. The reviewers of the legacy publishing system don’t have magical powers, they just read the article, they browse the data provided by the very limited article format and they make an opinion about the credibility of the research findings. In the legacy system, the reviewer does not have the means to validate the article.

In conclusion, it is much simpler to do Open science than to invent a way to convince people to review your legacy articles. It is enough to make open your data, your programs, etc. It is something that you, the author can do.

You don’t have to wait for the others to do a review for you. Release your data, that’s all.

Peer review is not independent validation

People tend to associate peer review with science. As an example, even today there are still many scientists who believe that an arXiv.org article is not a true article, unless it has been peer reviewed. They can’t trust the article, without reading it first, unless it passed the peer review, as a part of the publishing process.

Just because a researcher puts a latex file in the arXiv.org (I continue with the example), it does not mean that the content of the file has been independently validated, as the scientific method demands.

The part which slips from the attention is that peer review is not independent validation.

Which means that a peer reviewed article is not necessarily one which passes the scientific method filter.

This simple observation is, to me, the key for understanding why so many research results communicated in peer reviewed articles can not be reproduced, or validated, independently. The scale of this peer reviewed article rot is amazing. And well known!

Peer review is a part of the publishing process. By itself, it is only a social validation. Here is why: the reviewers don’t try to validate the results from the article because they don’t have the means to do it in the first place. They do have access only to a story told by the authors. All the reviewers can do is to read the article and to express an opinion about it’s credibility, based on the reviewers experience, competence (and biases).

From the point of view of legacy publishers, peer review makes sense. It is the equivalent of the criteria used by a journalist in order to decide to publish something or not. Not more!

That is why it is very important for science to pass from peer review to validation. This is possible only in an Open Science frame. Once more (in this Open(x) fight) the medical science editors lead. From “Journal Editors To Researchers: Show Everyone Your Clinical Data” by Harlan Krumholz, a quote:

“[…] last Wednesday, the editors of the leading medical journals around the world made a proposal that could change medical science forever. They said that researchers would have to publicly share the data gathered in their clinical studies as a condition of publishing the results in the journals. This idea is now out for public comment.

As it stands now, medical scientists can publish their findings without ever making available the data upon which their conclusions were based.

Only some of the top journals, such as The BMJ, have tried to make data sharing a condition of publication. But authors who didn’t want to comply could just go elsewhere.”

This is much more than simply saying “peer review is bad” (because is not, only that it is not a part of the scientific method, it is a part of the habits of publishers). It is a right step towards Open Science. I repeat here my opinion about OS, in the shortest way I can:

There are 2 parts involved in a research communication:   A (author, creator, the one which has something to disseminate) and R (reader). The legacy publishing process introduces a   B (reviewer).  A puts something in a public place, B expresses a public opinion about this and R uses B’s opinion as a proxy for the value of A’s thing, in order to decide if A’s thing is worthy of R’s attention or not.  Open Access is about the direct interaction of A with R, Open Peer-Review is about transparent interaction of A with B, as seen by R and Validation (as I see it) is improving the format of A’s communication so that R could make a better decision than the social one of counting on B’s opinion.

That’s it! The reader is king and the author should provide everything to the reader, for the reader to be able to independently validate the work. This is the scientific method at work.