Thursday, April 28, 2016

So which one of you is it?

John Bohannon is an interesting character who always seems to get a good story. Here he is in Science, having somehow gotten SciHub's Alexandra Elbakyan to give him all of SciHub's downloading data. You gotta read this article, and then come on back here for my weird question: 
...The intense Sci-Hub activity in East Lansing reveals yet another motivation for using the site. Most of the downloads seem to be the work of a few or even just one person running a “scraping” program over the December 2015 holidays, downloading papers at superhuman speeds. I asked Elbakyan whether those download requests came from MSU's IP addresses, and she confirmed that they did. The papers are all from chemistry journals, most of them published by the American Chemical Society. So the apparent goal is to build a massive private repository of chemical literature. But why? 
Bill Hart-Davidson, MSU's associate dean for graduate education, suggests that the likely answer is “text-mining,” the use of computer programs to analyze large collections of documents to generate data. When I called Hart-Davidson, I suggested that the East Lansing Sci-Hub scraper might be someone from his own research team. But he laughed and said that he had no idea who it was. But he understands why the scraper goes to Sci-Hub even though MSU subscribes to the downloaded journals. For his own research on the linguistic structure of scientific discourse, Hart-Davidson obtained more than 100 years of biology papers the hard way—legally with the help of the publishers. “It took an entire year just to get permission,” says Thomas Padilla, the MSU librarian who did the negotiating. And once the hard drive full of papers arrived, it came with strict rules of use. At the end of each day of running computer programs on it from an offline computer, Padilla had to walk the resulting data across campus on a thumb drive for analysis with Hart-Davidson.
All right, which one of you is downloading all of ACS' articles? 


  1. I understand why someone would use SciHub to download massive amounts of papers even when the institution has access. Wanting to prepare for a couple weeks away from grad school but with annoying inlaws, I downloaded hundreds of papers referenced in a particularly thorough review I found. I did this by downloading all of the references from Wed of Science and then inputing them into Endnote, and then I told Endnote to find the pdfs for 800 or so papers. A couple days later I found I didn't have any access to ACS journals. I contacted the library and they explained there is no way I downloaded them so quickly by hand (I didn't) so the ACS knew I was using a program to download their papers (I did), and that is somehow against their policies so I got booted. I had to tell them I was sorry and that I would never do it again to get my access back.

    And then on my vacation I didn't read anything. Looking over the papers now tell me it would have been a colossal waste of time and there's a reason why reviews exist. Oh well. I wasn't very smart.

  2. 19000 downloads from Columbus, Ohio. CAS? ;-)

  3. It's probably CAS

  4. Thank goodness for SciHub. If it weren't for Ms Elbakyan, then I would have been stocking shelves at Home Depot a year back. Would she be a candidate Nobel Laureate or at least a nominee for the Ig Nobel?

    And yes, I'm over 50. The anonymity of the internet reveals just how prevalent age discrimination really is. So thanks to SciHub, I am now looking into making my own job, i.e., initiating a start-up.

  5. Hi AnonymousApril 30, 2016 at 3:29 AM ... really pleased to read your note. Agree with you about our Heroin (the Russians always seem to be in the vanguard when it comes to the fight against fascism, don't they?), as to your other point. I ran a business for a few years before the Endarkment; I used to go to my local University library every night (and Sunday mornings) and do all my literature work. At that time the doors were open and everything was paper based. Towards the end, everything went electronic and you needed a pass to get into the library (I can't believe that last part when I re-read it); this was a substantial factor in my decision to close the business.