Now here is an interesting twist on things, and yet if you think about it, not really a surprise. There now exist websites that provides free access to scientific articles that normally reside behind paywalls, and so the official publisher, Elsevier, has responded by filing a complaint at a New York district court against Library Genesis (LibGen) and Sci-Hub.org(currently at this URL http://www.sci-hub.club, but usually at http://www.sci-hub.org).
Are these your normal pirates?
Well that is where things get interesting, because things are not quite as you might expect and that makes it all very debatable.
On the surface it sounds like pirating …
This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for: (1) copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.); and (2) violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18.U.S.C. § 1030, based upon Defendants’ unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of Elsevier’s copyrighted works.
.. oh but wait a second, these “works” are scientific papers, that have quite often been created by public funds and then appear within peer-reviewed journals that are peer-reviewed by volunteers who do not get paid, so essentially the only service provided by Elsevier is to lock it all behind a paywall and then demand crippling fees that only large rich academic institutions can afford and thus everybody outside is locked out.
Technically, in a legal sense, Elsevier has the law on their side, but they have very few friends in this game, because over at “The Cost of Knowledge” over 15,000 academics have an on-going protest against Elsevier. Their specific objection to Elsevier is that …
- They charge exorbitantly high prices for subscriptions to individual journals.
- In the light of these high prices, the only realistic option for many libraries is to agree to buy very large “bundles”, which will include many journals that those libraries do not actually want. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting the fact that some of their journals are essential.
- They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA and the , that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.
Why are so many hostile to Elsevier?
In addition to locking many out with excessive fees, we also live in a world where Elsevier has managed to greatly piss-off the community that creates their content by issuing take-down notices against those very same academics for their own research when they have made it available on sites like Academia.edu.
Meanwhile over at Torrent Freak, Alexandra, the founder of sic-hub,org, talks about how she setup the site …
“When I was working on my research project, I found out that all research papers I needed for work were paywalled. I was a student in Kazakhstan at the time and our university was not subscribed to anything,” Alexandra tells TF.
After Googling for a while Alexandra stumbled upon various tools and services to bypass the paywalls. With her newly gained knowledge, she then started participating in online forums where other researchers requested papers.
When she noticed how grateful others were for the papers she shared, Alexandra decided to automate the process by developing software that could allow anyone to search for and access papers. That’s when Sci-Hub was born, back in 2011.
“The software immediately became popular among Russian researchers. There was no big idea behind the project, like ‘make all information free’ or something like that. We just needed to read all these papers to do our research,” Alexandra.
“Now, the goal is to collect all research papers ever published, and make them free,”
So in essence, when it comes to such publications there are now two audiences. We have the academics within large institutions that will pay up anyway, and then we have a vast community outside who do not have funds to pay … ever … and so no matter how much legal pressure is deployed, that financial reality will not change.
Elsevier will probably win their case in New York in the long run, but then what? Sic-Hub is operated out of St Petersburg, Russia, and LibGen is in Amsterdam (so might be an easier target), but neither will have much interest to going to court in the US, and will happily ignore any judgements. Yes, domain names can be blocked, but such blocks are easily circumvented.
This is perhaps one more step on the road to the inevitable demise of Elsevier. In addition to this, Elsevier also need to contend with the rising tide of Open Access. More and more funding is now being linked to a requirement that results must be published freely in Open Access journals, so clearly they are indeed under an increasing amount of pressure.
Rather ironically the one big impact that the court case will now have is that huge numbers of people who did not previously know about Library Genesis (LibGen) or Sci-Hub.org, now do, and so perhaps both of those sites will be thanking Elsevier for all the free advertising.
While armed confrontation between rebels and elements of the incumbent regime are often the most visible face of rebellion, rebels also have a complicated relationship with the civilian population. The nature of this relationship varies wildly—from extremely coercive, to one characterized by service provision—in ways that have a profound impact on the human experience in these areas.
Ongoing research focuses on how rebel groups build domestic power while balancing their own internal ideological preferences, and the preferences of both international and domestic supporters. I study these phenomena in the context of the three faces of the Moro liberation movement in Mindanao (in the south of the Philippines): the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). I have undertaken extensive archival, interview, and survey work during approximately twenty-one months of field research in conflict-affected Mindanao.
States Within States: How Rebels Rule
Rebellion is more than a military contest. While armed confrontation between fighters and soldiers is often the most visible aspect of rebellion, rebels also have an ongoing relationship with the civilian population they purport to represent. This relationship varies—some rebels provide services and pursue policies civilians find attractive, while others extort resources from the populace and adopt unpopular positions. In short, rebels govern civilians. The question becomes how and why rebels govern the way in which they do.
The book outlines a general theory of rebel governance, tested using a series of natural quasi-experiments in Mindanao. The text explores the governance practices of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group and their evolution over time. These data describe the groups’ efforts to balance their own internal preferences with the interests of civilians and a variety of international sponsors. Analysis draws on extensive fieldwork and unique access to the communities in which these groups operate.
This project contributes not only to our understanding of the nature and drivers of non-state armed groups’ behavior that directly affect civilians’ wartime experience, but also has implications for the impact of interdiction and humanitarian efforts on these populations, and possibilities for post-conflict stabilization.
Shadow States: The Structure of Rebel Rule (under review)
This paper argues that rebels rule with more services and less coercion the closer their ideological position (and that of any foreign sponsors) is to civilians’, and the more their donors provide them with humanitarian rather than military aid. The paper compares the governance behavior of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group, leveraging key points of variance among these groups that otherwise have much in common. The paper draws extensively on an original survey of 1,430 civilians in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.
Statebreakers to Statemakers: A Model of Rebel Rule (with Branislav L. Slantchev, under review)
This paper develops a formal model of how and why rebels govern using a mix of three tools: coercion, service provision, and ideological positioning. This governance mix is shaped by how far rebels’ ideological preferences are from civilians’ (and rebels’ willingness to compromise on this position). The formal model highlights the mechanics of rebels’ efforts to exert authority over civilians, and identifies the tradeoffs and choices rebel rulers face in doing so.
The Role of Foreign Sponsors in Rebel Rule: The Abu Sayyaf Group (working paper)
This paper takes an in-depth look at the role of foreign support in shaping rebel rule, leveraging exogenous variation in Abu Sayyaf’s foreign support package in a longitudinal study. Theoretically, the paper shows how foreign sponsors shape rebel rule and the tradeoffs they face in doing so, even if they have only indirect influence over rebel partners. Substantively, the paper provides a new perspective on one of Southeast Asia’s most notorious rebel groups.
Ungoverned Spaces and Hybrid Governance
Conflict is not devoid of collaboration, nor are ungoverned spaces as un-ordered as colloquially assumed. These spaces are populated with a range of actors who exert authority. Moreover, even rival actors (e.g. states and rebels) can share authority in varied and sometimes seemingly counter-intuitive ways—in some areas, this relationship is hostile, but others are characterized by tacit or even explicit arrangements to share or divide authority—apportioned geographically and substantively.
This work focuses on two questions. First, what drives shared sovereignty—that is, why are rebels and incumbents sometimes parallel or rival authorities and other times form hybrid regimes? Second, how is shared rule actually structured—in other words, who does what, and under what circumstances?
Conflict and Development
In conflict and post-conflict areas, civilians’ experience with governance, human rights, and development are affected by the behavior of non-state armed groups in addition to the formally recognized state. Furthermore, authority dynamics in contested spaces are inextricably entwined with aid efficacy. Such dynamics simultaneously define areas that most need development assistance and in which such aid is most challenging to provide. These dynamics shape the forms and extent of services that reach the ground: rebels, warlords, and criminals (in addition to the state) successfully exercise authority by extending economic benefits to the populace. Moreover, the fact that such actors exercise authority, and realize services as a tool in doing so means they are sensitive to outside efforts to provide aid—efforts which may perversely fuel conflict, by providing greater and more contestable resources, or by threatening to shift the status quo.
In pursuing these issues, I am also bringing my understanding of conflict dynamics to bear in mapping and analyzing challenges such as corruption that complicate international development aid programming in these areas.