College students have long been criticized for stealing music online, but now they’re pirating academic journals.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, file-sharing sites have expanded their coverage to cater to students, professionals and researchers.
Scholarly journals fit into two categories: open access (OA) and non-open access (NOA). OA’s content is considered free for everyone, and publishers and authors do not expect compensation. NOA journals, however, require a subscription to access.
Students and professionals should consider stealing protected content a violation of academic ethics, yet thousands of NOA journals are downloaded every year.
A study published in the Internet Journal of Medical Informatics focused on one unnamed site that targeted medical professionals and students. The study monitored a section of the site where registered users requested specific NOA journals from May to November 2008.
The study found that the site’s 127,626 users submitted requests for 6,587 articles. Users who had access to these journals posted 5,464 articles, an 82.9 percent success rate.
The study estimated that the total value of the stolen content over six months was more than $700,000 – nearly $1.4 million in a year.
This cost was spread among 2,867 journals and conference proceedings, but since the study focused on just one site, the true cost to NOA journals is unknown.
Cost aside, there is still the ethical issue. Should future or current doctors be breaking the law and stealing the intellectual property of others?
Some argue that all scholarly articles should be OA, but the report notes that sometimes the author covers OA publishing costs. This could possibly harm researchers in developing countries.
Still, the fact remains that NOA journals are legally protected. Students who pirate articles are not only engaging in questionable ethics, but are also being lazy.
University and even community libraries offer free online access to thousands of scholarly papers and articles. USF students can access these databases through the Library’s Web site.
Science and Nature were the two journals most requested on the file-sharing site, and both are available through the Library.
USF students can access every issue of Nature since 1995 and every published issue of Science, all the way back to Volume 1, Issue 1 from 1880.
Libraries across the country have similar resources. Pirating academic journals is unethical and inexcusable.