‘Legal Sci-Hub’ journal access tool set for major expansion
A new online platform dubbed the “legal Sci-Hub” is set for major expansion, promising to offer academics “one-click access” to millions of journal articles and research papers.
Kopernio, an artificial intelligence tool developed by the co-founders of research sharing platform Mendeley and media monitoring service Newsflo, automatically detects what individual or institutional subscriptions a user already has access to, and facilitates instant access to the article that they are searching for. It aims to reduce academics’ frustration as they struggle to remember passwords or have to go through circuitous routes to access papers, even if their organisation has legitimate subscription access.
Where a researcher does not have access to a paywalled paper, the tool will suggest free, alternative legal versions – for instance preprints – of the content that already exist through open access platforms.
On 10 April Clarivate Analytics announced that it had acquired Kopernio, meaning that the tool will be able to function in combination with the company’s Web of Science citation index. Clarivate said that it intended to “invest in and scale up” Kopernio.
Co-founder Ben Kaube, who will
join Clarivate as Kopernio’s managing director, said that the tool could dramatically improve academics’ research efficiency as well as lighten their workloads.
“There are 10 million academic researchers out there and every year they each try to access around 250 research articles. That means that every year there are about 2.5 billion opportunities for researchers to get frustrated trying to access literature,” he told Times Higher Education.
Together with co-founder Jan Reichelt, Mr Kaube formulated Kopernio as an application that can be downloaded and installed as a free add-on to users’ internet browsers. The tool saves all possible subscription passwords and continues to work automatically with the user’s search engine.
“This will reduce some of that research frustration, and help illuminate some of the inefficiencies currently plaguing research workloads,” he said. “Thereby we can improve global access to scientific knowledge.”
Mr Reichelt, who will join Clarivate as managing director of Web of Science, said that the existence of piracy sites such as Sci-Hub that offer illegal access to closed subscription papers showed that there was “unmet demand” that Kopernio could cater to.
“A large user base of Sci-Hub actually [already] has access to the subscription content via their institutions,” he added. “So the question here is not necessarily ‘can I get the PDF’…it’s the issue of convenience.”
A 2016 study by Utrecht University found that as many as 75 per cent of the articles that had been downloaded illegally through SciHub by Utrecht researchers could have been fulfilled by the institution’s paid subscriptions. This highlighted lack of ease as a main barrier to researchers’ productivity.
Kopernio’s founders also hope that the tool will assist institutions in their choice of journal subscription by highlighting which journals are used most or not at all.
“Publishers also want to make sure that the content they are selling is used,” Mr Reichelt said. “Traditionally they strike contracts between institutions and themselves and the researcher gets almost ignored. By redirecting downloads from the publisher to the institution…everyone can benefit.”
Both Mendeley and Newsflo are now owned by Elsevier, one of Clarivate’s rivals.