Kazakhstan born Robin Hood of the science


by Mehmet Somel, May 23, 2016

A young scientist supports scientists of the poorest countries with Sci-Hub database and challenges the monopolies.

Alexandra Elbakyan was born in Kazakhstan in 1988, while USSR was on the edge of falling apart. She was interested in science since childhood because of Soviet science books which she described with her own words “expository the miraculous events as scientific way with breaking down the superstitions”. She studied computer science and neuroscience, at this time she developed a interest in to be hacker.

Elbakyan knew the difficulties of doing scientific research in Kazakhstan, that is not in a Western country. So, she knew the answer that is given to a gradute student in Kazakhstan, Turkey, or in Kenya, Mexico, when this student achieves to the article which looks forward to read: “You have to pay $ 30 to read this article.”

Whereas, it is possible to access to these articles through university libraries of Western countries. Thereby the scientists in many poor countries, they had to ask for these articles from their acquaintances in rich countries with request and gratitude.


Elbakyan knew both the problem and the solution. After a while, she worked in a computer security company in Moscow, after she worked in a neuroscience project in Freiburg (Germany), then she was in Atlanta (USA). And when she returned to Kazakhstan in 2011, she had decided to Sci-Hub project that will shake the academy.

She began to copy the e_articles and books to her creation Sci-hub database with the ways which she kept in secret. Through this database, which can be easily searched, researchers and scientists anywhere in the world could have limitless access to the articles.

Elbakyan is describing this database with these words:

“We are fighting against inequalities in access to information in the world.”

Elbakyan against the Elsevier giant

As long as Sci-Hub came to be known, the world scientific publications monopolies began to grumble. As a result of the lawsuits filed by Elsevier which is biggest and aggressive one of them, in 2015 at US, sci-hub.org address was closed. But Elbakyan was prepared for this. The database has been moved to sci-hub.io. Currently it continues to serve on web page, sci-hub.bz.

According to a news which was published last month in the journal Science, Sci-Hub currently contains 50 million scientific sources. Its daily downloading average is 200 thousand.

If the searching source is not in the database, it can be brought through the interfaces which are accessed by Sci-Hub.

Tehran is the city where most downloading made. There is highly demand Sci-Hub from the scientists in the countries which have limited resources of libraries but many researchers are trained, like Iran. Due to the database of Sci-Hub, it is possible to guess that many researchers life becoming easier.


Interesting thing is, there is highly rate downloads from the US and Europe. For the possible reason of this, it is stated that the Sci-Hub is the ease of downloading when it compared to download the article on the university library sites.

Elsevier and other companies, clearly blame to Elbekyan with being theft and hacker. They claim that she stole the articles from the libraries of Western countries with fake email addresses.


Elsevier is pushing for bringing her to the United States and she trails in here for the hacking crimes. The young scientist, was forced to hide address due to these threats. Also she has to a break her neuroscience researches in this case.

Threats are not taken lightly: Three years ago, again for the reason of sharing scientific resources, an American hacker Aaron Schwartz was asked 35 years imprisonment. Schwartz had put an end to his life in 2013.

However Elbakyan is satisfied. Despite all the slanders Sci-Hub is tremendously popular into scientific community. 88% of the respondents who joined to a survey within the scope a published news in the journal Science said that they support to Sci-Hub. Even over 50 years old readers who never used the Sci-Hub database, have indicated their supports at similar rates.

Elbakyan also says that the servers of Sci-Hub are in safe with the financial supports that she gets. She is sure that the project will continue even if she would be imprisoned.

She opposes the likening to Robin Hood and she says:

“What Robin Hood made was illegal. To share the books and articles can not be illegal.”

News sources:

Michael S. Rosenwald, 30 March 2016, The Washington Post, “This student put 50 million stolen research articles online. And they’re free.”

John Bohannon, 28 April 2016, Science News, “The frustrated science student behind Sci-Hub”

John Bohannon, 28 April 2016, Science News, “Who’s downloading pirated papers? Everyone”

John Travis, 6 May 2016, Science News, “In survey, most give thumbs-up to pirated papers”

“Universal Science”

“Science is universal and for all mankind” is a popular claim. If any student who stepped into the research life in Turkey realizes that it is a clearly lie: You can not access freely to scientific articles as electronical enviroinment.

If your university library has rich sources or the article that you wanted to read has been published in “open access” journal, you are in luck. Otherwise, you have to pay tens of dollars to access to the article.

In this case, most of people begs to the author of article or colleagues in a rich country for sending pdf or the article, or gives up to read.

The sad side of this, the scientific studies are being carried out by high incidence of public support in the world. But it comes to the sharing and publishing of the results of the researches, the things are changing. In here there are a number of monopolized companies like Elsevier, Springer, Wiley etc. They work with incredible profit margins up to 40%.

If the aim of science had been really to serve to all mankind, the scientific publishing would have been carried out by public institutions without profit making purpose. This is a simple solution for humanity, but bad solution for capitalism.

This article was quoted from Turkish journal bilimsol.org (bilimsol is translated in English as scienceleft)

its link: