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Access to scientific works is so expensive nowadays that even the Harvard University has no enough money for that. 

15,000 academics recently signed a petition, in which they urged to boycott Elsevier academic publishing company for charging exorbitantly high prices for scientific works. 

The income of the company is over billion dollars, while the academics get nothing for their publications. Often they don’t even have access to their own works, since their universities might not be subscribed.

Thus, to publish an open access work in Cognition journal, the researcher must pay over 2,000 dollars.

And without publications in an authoritative journals it’s impossible to make a career in the scientific world, this resulting in a catch-22 situation, Meduza writes.

Consequently, the academics have to find different ways to get access to the necessary works.

For instance, they have created a special forum, where they ask a colleague to forward certain work. A “professional” Twitter hashtag - #icanhazpdf – also serves this end.

Alexandra Elbakyan, who studied at Kazakh National Technical University, also faced the situation where she couldn’t afford buying expensive articles. And thus she made up her mind to struggle. In 2011, Elbakyan created the website Sci-Hub. It works as follows: After the query is entered, the system checks whether the needed work is in the database of another pirate website LibGen. If not, the algorithm gets round the paywall on the website of the publishing company or the necessary journal.

The access keys are provided by the academics whose universities are linked to a certain database. The article requested for the first time is every time added to LibGen database. During the next query, Sci-Hub must take it from there.

In November 2015, the New York court ruled to discard the domain LibGen’s domain was also discarded.  Elsevier assured the court that thousand of works were downloaded from them every day via Sci-Hub.

Elbakyan says that if all publications and journals are considered, the number of downloaded articles will reach hundred and thousands. The websites, however, get more independent with each downloaded work: they need to take the document only once.

Elsevier assessed its losses in $750-150 000 for each downloaded work, i.e. a total of billion dollars of losses may be involved.   

However, most probably nobody will appear in the American court, since Sci-Hub and LibGen servers are in Russia and the Netherlands, whereas the websites already work by other domains.

Alexandra Elbakyan stands for the freedom of disseminating information. In a letter to the American court, she slammed Elsevier for charging money from academics. 

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