In the decade since Alexandra Elbakyan founded Sci-Hub, science’s so-called “pirate queen” has amassed more than 85 million full-text research articles, which she’s made available, for free, to anyone who can track down her custom search engine.
Sci-Hub uses myriad techniques, including shared passwords and bugs on publisher websites, to rip copyrighted papers, and share them for free. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of researchers, students, educators, and journalists from relying on the site for instantly-accessible scientific information.
Sci-Hub launched in 2011, when Elbakyan was a 22-year-old in Kazakhstan. “Before Sci-Hub there was no way to easily check if some scientific fact was actually true, because you need to check actual research journals that publish peer-reviewed information,” she told VICE via email. After Sci-Hub, you could check just about anything with the (unlawful) click of a button.