Scientists have complained about their inability to access certain key articles because the lack of a subscription for a long time. They say that forcing researchers to obtain a subscription for every major academic journal slows down science.
Now, scientists are fighting back with a Twitter hashtag to help receive assistance in pirating scientific research papers.
The “I can haz PDF” hashtag was invented by writer and cognitive scientist Andrea Kuszewski.
The hashtag is a play on words, combining the popular “I can haz cheezburger” cat-themed internet meme with the common online file format known as PDF files.
Kuszewski took the time to explain the process of the hashtag.
"Basically you tweet out a link to the paper that you need, with the hashtag and then your email address. And someone will respond to your email and send it to you," she said.
After a person with access to the desired article helps the individual in need, the original tweet is deleted so that there is no public record of the exchange. Kuszewski and other scientists say that the method is extremely useful when it comes to obtaining the latest scientific research.
Other researchers say that it is great for scientists in developing countries who might not otherwise be able to access such valuable information.
However, the process is drawing the criticism of the publishers of the papers who rightfully claim that the paper-sharers are breaking the law.
They also say that if the process continues, it could lead to a trickle-down effect. If less people subscribe to scientific journals, the journals won’t be able to pay the scientists, and if the scientists are not compensated for their research, they will stop conducting such research, eventually leading to a slowdown of scientific innovation.
However, Kuszewski says that the current methods for publishing and accessing scientific papers needs to be changed.
She says, “If we keep finding workarounds to get research to people for free and enough people are doing it, and it causes enough of a ruckus, eventually something will happen to change it.”
Meanwhile, certain piracy websites have also worked to make academic papers freely available. These websites have attracted legal attention in the past.
But with subscriptions to scientific journals often extremely expensive, it’s no surprise that some cash-strapped scientists would try and find ways around the current system.
It just goes to show that if people can obtain a commodity for free, they will certainly do it. And there’s no slowing down the march of science.