Over 5,000 coronavirus studies archived in online directory

Victor Barreiro Jr.
Over 5,000 coronavirus studies archived in online directory
While possibly illegal, the people responsible for the archiving project say there's a 'moral imperative' to make this information freely accessible rather than being paywalled

MANILA, Philippines – Digital archivists have set up a directory of more than 5,000 studies related to coronaviruses, making these studies available to read, study, and download without requiring people to pay for them.

Vice reported the open access data initiative was set up on The-Eye, an online archival project run by Reddit user -Archivist. 

Reddit user shrine, meanwhile, organized the archive and told Vice that paywalled research “is an immoral situation, and it’s an ongoing tragedy” as scientific research was “always written to be shared with as many people as possible.”

Shrine added the solution to making more coronavirus research readily available was by going through a scientific research repository known as Sci-Hub, which has also been dubbed the “Pirate Bay of science.” 

Shrine and those working with him looked for research material from 1968 to 2020 whose titles or abstracts referenced coronaviruses, leading to about 5,200 research papers. It’s this material which -Archivist uploaded onto The-Eye.

Sci-Hub collects its material and provides free access to over 78 million research articles by downloading HTML or PDF pages off the web and bypassing paywalls in some instances. This has led to some legal battles wherein the rights holders have sued Sci-Hub for copyright infringement.

Because the coronavirus archive PDFs come from Sci-Hub, the content may also be illegal.

Despite this, shrine said, “It’s illegal, but it’s also a moral imperative.”

When to lower barriers

A number of scientific publishers have already taken down their paywalls on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in late January, with work being done to ensure open access to 2,400 research articles on the multiple coronavirus strains through the ScienceDirect database – a database which usually needs a subscription to access. 

To this, shrine questioned the timing of the dropping of the paywall, even as he respects the decision to lower the barrriers to access. Said shrine, “You have to wonder – what would’ve been possible if they had done this earlier?”

Meanwhile, -Archivist said the archive is meant to help those who don’t have subscriptions or ready access to scientific journals, such as researchers and scientists from less-developed regions. Shrine added to this by pointing out researchers, students, and the general public could take use the archive to help contribute useful and productive findings to science.

The World Health Organization has currently classified the 2019-nCoV as an international emergency.  – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.