Breach of academic values and digital deviant behaviour: The case of Sci-Hub

Giulia Rossello & Arianna Martinelli


This paper bridges the organisational psychology and the economics of science literature to examine the role of ideology-based psychological contract breach in eliciting mild deviant behaviour in academia. We provide empirical evidence of how the deterioration of academic values related to the diffusion of the “publish or perish” paradigm sparkles copyright violations through Sci-Hub. Based on a representative sample of 2849 academics working in top institutions in 6 European countries, we find that ideology-based psychological contract breach explains Sci-Hub usage, also when controlling for other trivial motivations. The magnitude of the effect depends on contextual and demographic characteristics. Females, foreign and tenured scholars are less likely to respond with digital piracy when experiencing a contract breach of academic values. Our results contribute to prevention policy design, highlighting how policies restoring academic values might also address academic piracy.

Keywords: Academic Values, Digital Piracy, Deviant Behaviour, Psychological Contract Breach, Sci-Hub

JEL Classification: D23, L86, O34

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