Vatican Library

The Research Pirates of the Dark Web

There’s a battle raging over whether academic research should be free, and it’s overflowing into the dark web.

Most modern scholarly work remains locked behind paywalls, and unless your computer is on the network of a university with an expensive subscription, you have to pay a fee, often around 30 dollars, to access each paper.

  • BillyHW

    They hide it behind paywalls because most of it is crap.

  • “Paying upwards of 30 dollars to access a paper is “insane,” she wrote, when researchers regularly need to access tens or even hundreds of articles. Elbakyan says free access to academic research also helps promote researchers’ independence. “Today, subscription prices are very high; an individual person cannot pay them,” she wrote to me in an email. “You need to join one of the few available research institutions, and for that you need to conform to … standards that suppress creativity.””

    My own work, by the way, is available for free at All academic writers should do the same, i.e. post their work for free on the Internet. But they are insecure (often rightly) – they want some “authorities” to rubber stamp their work. The publishers profit from this insecurity.

    • David Murrell

      I agree that, in an age f electronic media, e-mails and typing — when the cost of journal production are low — that charging for paper submissions and very-high subscription fees is something of a scam, More and more I try to publish my work with conservative think tanks (e.g. Frontier Institute), which helps them out and cuts through the red tape. In economics, where I publish, academic departments have “working paper series”, which post the research for free.

      • The ideal future is when all knowledge is available on the web free, or very cheaply. We’re getting there, but still some way to go.

  • Justin St.Denis

    Interesting article. And many valid points are raised therein. However, it should also be noted that much academic research today is total crap. I have made major $$$ in my time “ghosting” for academics (among many others) who cannot cobble a declarative sentence together. There are entire “areas on enquiry” today which have absolutely no place in academia per se.

    Learning how to “access” stuff online really is essential to virtually everyone’s learning curve today. Ensure that your children learn how to hack safely and for the right reasons…

    • I agree. Lots of worthless material is peddled through journals. Peer group review is often done by people who themselves haven’t a clue.