History of Scientific Women

Main achievements: The creator of Sci-Hub

Alexandra Asanovna Elbakyan is a Kazakhstani graduate student, computer programmer, internet pirate in hiding, and the creator of the site Sci-Hub. Nature has listed her in 2016 in the top ten people that mattered in science and Ars Technica has compared her to Aaron Swartz and the New York Times has compared her to Edward Snowden.

Elbakyan was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 6 November, 1988. She is of Armenian, Slavic and Asian descent. Elbakyan undertook university studies in Almaty, where she developed skills in computer hacking. A year working in computer security in Moscow gave her the money to proceed to Freiburg in 2010 to work on a brain–computer interface project, and she developed an interest in transhumanism, which led her to a summer internship at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, where she studied "Neuroscience and Consciousness". In 2009 she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the Kazakh National Technical University, specializing in information security.

She began Sci-Hub on her return to Kazakhstan in 2011, characterized by Science as "an awe-inspiring act of altruism or a massive criminal enterprise, depending on whom you ask". Following a lawsuit brought in the US by the publisher Elsevier, Elbakyan is presently in hiding due to the risk of extradition; Elsevier has been granted a $15 million injunction against her. According to a 2016 interview, her neuroscience research is on hold, but she has enrolled in a history of science master's program at a "small private university" in an undisclosed location. Her thesis focuses on scientific communication. In December 2016, Nature Publishing Group named Alexandra Elbakyan as one of the 10 people who most mattered in 2016.

Elbakyan and Sci-Hub were again involved in a lawsuit in 2017, this time with the American Chemical Society. ACS sued the site for copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, and conversion. Later that year, the court ruled in favor of ACS, fining Sci-Hub $4,800,000 in damages.

Elbakyan has stated that she is inspired by communist ideals, although she does not consider herself a strict Marxist. She has stated that she supports a strong state which can stand up to the Western world, and that she does not want for "the scientists of Russia and of my native Kazakhstan to share the fates of the scientists of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, that were 'helped' by the USA to become more democratic".

In particular, Elbakyan is strongly critical of the former Dynasty Foundation and its associated figures, believing that the foundation was politicized, tied to Russia's liberal opposition, and fit the legal definition of a "foreign agent"; Dynasty's founder, in her opinion, financed those researchers whose political views agreed with his own. Elbakyan states that after she began to investigate the foundation's activities and published her findings online, she became the target of a cyberharassment campaign by Dynasty's supporters.

In 2017 a species of parasitoid wasps discovered by Russian and Mexican entomologists was named after Elbakyan. Elbakyan was offended by this, writing "If you analzse the situation with scientific publications, the real parasites are scientific publishers, and Sci-Hub, on the contrary, fights for equal access to scientific information". Following this event, and in the context of her long-running tense relations with the liberal, pro-Western wing of the Russian scientific community, she blocked access to Sci-Hub for users from the Russian Federation. Sci-Hub access was later restored to Russia and Elbakyan said in an interview that many fans contacted her and convinced her "that the opinion of the so-called 'science popularizers' who attacked me on the Internet cannot be considered the opinion of the scientific community." The Russian entomologist responsible for naming the wasp stated that he supports Sci-Hub, and that in any event, the naming was not an insult, in particular because parasitoids are closer to predators than to parasites.

Elbakyan is a strong supporter of the Open Access movement and claims that Sci-Hub's mission falls perfectly in line with the movement. She argues that websites like Sci-Hub is the goal that proponents of Open Access are striving towards. Elbakyan believes that by this Open Access movement that citizens can become more informed.

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