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Opinion
Mark Buchanan

Making Knowledge Free Can Cost You Your Freedom

The fate of a young researcher reflects poorly on the state of scientific publishing.
Piracy?

Piracy?

Screenshot: Mark Whitehouse
Updated on

Seven years ago, a Kazakhstani graduate student named Alexandra Elbakyan started a website with a seemingly innocuous goal: Make most of the world’s research freely available to anyone with internet access. It’s a sad reflection on the state of scientific publishing that she is now a fugitive hiding in Russia.

Most people agree that if the public funds scientific research, it should also have free access to the results. This is more than just a matter of fairness: The unhindered flow of knowledge is crucial to the technological innovation that helps drive economic growth.