‘Le­gal Sci-Hub’ jour­nal ac­cess tool set for ma­jor ex­pan­sion

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - Rachael.pells@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

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.

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