|Sci-Hub use in The Netherlands is not limited to|
the academic research cities. Harlingen is a small
harbor town where at best a doctor lives and
one or two students who visit parents in the
weekend. The nature of the top downloaded
paper suggests it is not a doctor :)
Data from Bohannon and Elbakyan.
The changes are not only technical, but also social. Several publishers still believe we live in a industrial area, where the world has moved on into a knowledge era. More people are mining and servicing data than there are making physical things (think about that!). Access to knowledge matters, and dealing with data and knowledge stopped being something specific for academic and other research institutes many, many years ago. Arguments that knowledge is only for the highly educated is simply contradicting and bluntly ignore our modern civilization.
This makes access to knowledge a mix of technological and social evolution, and on both end many publishers fail, fail hard, fail repeatedly. I would even argue that all the new publishers are improving things, but are failing to really innovate in knowledge dissemination. And not just the publishing industry, also many scientists. Preprint servers are helpful, but this is really not the end goal. If you really care about speeding up knowledge dissemination, stop worrying about things like text mining, preprints, but you have to start making knowledge machine readable (sorry, scientist) and release that along or before your article. Yes, that is harder, but just realize you are getting well-paid for doing your job.
So, by no means the success of Sci-Hub is unexpected. It is not really the end goal I have in mind, and in many ways contradicting what I want. But the research community thinks differently, clearly. Oh wait, not just the research community, but the current civilization. The results of the Bohannon analysis of the Sci-Hub access logs I just linked to clearly shows this. There are so many aspects, and so many interpretations and remaining questions. The article rightfully asks, is it need or convenience. I argued recently the latter is likely an important reason at western universities, and that it is nothing new.
This article is a must read if you care about the future of civilization. Bonus points for a citable data set!