Sci-Hub downloads show countries where pirate paper site is most used

Sci-Hub library seen on the screen of laptop and a student in front of it.

Researchers worldwide have used Sci-Hub to entry thousands and thousands of papers. Credit score: Alamy

Obtain figures for Sci-Hub, the favored however controversial web site that hosts pirated copies of scientific papers, reveal the place persons are utilizing the positioning most. The statistics present that customers accessing Sci-Hub from China are by far probably the most lively — and that with greater than 25 million downloads, utilization in China outstrips the remainder of the highest ten international locations mixed (see ‘International useful resource’).

Maybe surprisingly, the figures additionally present that america, in second place, has about one-third as many downloads, at 9.3 million. “There’s a widespread opinion that Sci-Hub is of no use in america, as a result of universities have cash to pay for subscriptions, however that isn’t true,” says Alexandra Elbakyan, the positioning’s founder.

The statistics are up to date every day and present the variety of downloads from every nation over the previous month — however they aren’t normalized for the scale of the analysis inhabitants.

GLOBAL RESOURCE. Graphic showing articles downloaded from Sci-Hub in the last month. Data correct as of 24th February 2022.

Supply: Sci-Hub

The info additionally counsel that researchers in international locations whose universities lack the sources to pay for bulk subscriptions are making heavy use of the service. Many countries with fewer scientific sources seem in within the high 20, together with Brazil (2.8 million downloads), Mexico (750,000) and Colombia (375,000). That doesn’t shock Juan Carlos Correa, an information scientist on the Prague College of Economics and Enterprise. “Latin America shouldn’t be a area the place scientists get pleasure from aggressive remuneration in contrast with different areas,” he says. “Most establishments in Latin America lack sources to pay subscription-based companies similar to these supplied by massive editorial corporations.”

Limiting components

The info include a number of essential caveats. The figures embody solely downloads from authentic Sci-Hub web sites, not any reproduction or ‘mirror’ web site, which might have excessive site visitors in locations the place the unique area is banned. And digital non-public networks (VPNs), which are sometimes used to avoid bans in international locations similar to the UK, can skew the outcomes by making it seem that customers are in a special nation. That is most likely why the Seychelles sometimes seems amongst Sci-Hub’s high 20 international locations — the tiny island nation hosts a number of in style VPN companies. And an ongoing authorized battle in India might be affecting use among the many nation’s researchers. With 1.8 million downloads, India is in fifth place on the record, regardless of having the second-highest variety of particular person customers, in response to Elbakyan.

Juan Pablo Alperin, co-director of the Scholarly Communications Lab at Simon Fraser College in Vancouver, Canada, cautions in opposition to studying an excessive amount of right into a single month’s knowledge. “On the very least, I’d have a look at a 12 months of information, the place there may be some correction for the totally different tutorial calendars. For instance, a lot of South America takes holidays in January and February, so these numbers are most likely considerably depressed,” he says. Normalizing for inhabitants, analysis funding or variety of printed outputs would additionally present extra helpful comparisons, he provides.

Regardless of these limitations, Correa says it’s clear from the info that Sci-Hub is fulfilling a necessity in lots of elements of the world. “Sci-Hub has highlighted how a really passionate group in direction of scientific endeavours exploits various mechanisms to entry scientific literature,” he says.