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Tearing down barriers to accessing research, one click at a time
November 22, 2013 9:21 AM   Subscribe

"People are denied access to research hidden behind paywalls every day. This problem is invisible, but it slows innovation, kills curiosity and harms patients. This is an indictment of the current system. Open Access has given us the solution to this problem by allowing everyone to read and re-use research. We created the Open Access Button to track the impact of paywalls and help you get access to the research you need. By using the button you’ll help show the impact of this problem, drive awareness of the issue, and help change the system. Furthermore, the Open Access Button has several ways of helping you get access to the research you need right now."

Scroll down the front page to see the paywalls reported by Open Access Buttons shown on a world map, read more detailed instructions of use here, or follow the project blog.
posted by daisyk (13 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Similar, for law docs.
posted by odinsdream at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2013


I get that they're trying to grow their mailing list but there's something ironic about requiring people to sign up before they can use this tool.

I wonder what the conversion rates are like. The total amount of people who are cognizant of this issue - ex-academics? - cross the number of people savvy enough to use a bookmarklet to make a point must be small enough without putting up further barriers to conversion.

A better ux would be for the bookmarklet to prompt you with registration upon use. I was excited to try it but closed the tab when I saw it wanted my email; had it prompted me after clicking on the bookmarklet I probably would've gone through.

That said, I was initially excited that this was something else entirely: about 80-90% of the time, for papers published in the last decade or two, if you google the paper title and author name you'll find a pdf conveniently hosted on their personal site. A bookmarklet for that would be neat.
posted by pmv at 10:16 AM on November 22, 2013


pmv, the Open Access Button does that as well. When you hit a paywall, you click the bookmarklet to register it with the project. You then get the option of publicising it via Twitter, and buttons to search Google Scholar by DOI and by title.

Sadly, the paper I just looked for was not available that way, but maybe next time!

(I have an email address that I use just for this kind of mailing list, so I didn't mind giving them that information. Others may feel differently, I know.)
posted by daisyk at 12:08 PM on November 22, 2013


- ex-academics? -

Or people like me working in industry at smaller companies who can't afford the subscriptions (though I'm not sure why it can't be written off at the end of the year). It's extremely frustrating how often I come across the abstract for a paper that could be useful only to slam in to a paywall. Happens at least once a day. Don't know about installing something like this on my work machine, though, or about the ethics of circumventing the paywall with Google Scholar for commercial reasons.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:53 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yep, I used to work at a company where this was a problem as well. My boss mentored a PhD student and officially got access to his university's subscriptions, but only until he graduated.

I'm under the impression that when authors host PDFs of their papers on their own sites, this has usually been negotiated with the journal that published the work, so it should be okay to use them. Would commercial use negate this?
posted by daisyk at 2:03 PM on November 22, 2013


I like this a lot. Thank you. I run into this constantly. My university only subscribes to medical and related scientific journals, not any of the journals for my area or for the liberal arts faculty at all. I've purchased individual articles when I really had to, but if I did it often, I'd go broke. Sometimes I email friends who have access and ask them for one or two articles, but that gets old fast.
posted by Gotanda at 4:05 PM on November 22, 2013


I'm not so sure. I understand the desire, but I'm not sure there's any solution here to the basic issue, which is one of funding models for doing, and then publishing, and then indexing research. There's no reason to think that because of its own merits, research, which is costly to do, should be available for free.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on November 22, 2013


“There's no reason to think that because of its own merits, research, which is costly to do, should be available for free.”

None of the cost of research is paid for by their publishers. In fact, publisher don’t pay for the research, the editors, nor the reviewers. All they do is distribute at idiotically high profit margins.

Further, much research is carried out and funded by public universities and public grants, which are paid for with public dollars. The idea that we pay for research and then have no access to it is ridiculous.
posted by thebestsophist at 12:28 AM on November 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand publishers don't pay directly for research, but they provide the platform via which it is disseminated, and in fact there is often remuneration for the editors, at least, and sometimes stipends or in-kind payment for other kinds of writers and reviewers.

Also, there is still proprietary interest in much scholarly work (for instance, I do it, and I'm not in a public university, so I need to use it to make a living). It's also not true that research is always paid for by public dollars - even in universities, which have mastered the art of sequestering private funding in research centers.

There is a good argument that publicly funded research should be made available - but oftentimes it is available, just difficult to find, available only on university-administered or library web pages or in printed journal and thesis collections in physical libraries.

The publishers are providing a valuable and expensive service in selecting, organizing and disseminating work, and online databases are providing a valuable service in indexing it and rendering it searchable. It is fair for them to charge money for this labor.
posted by Miko at 5:38 AM on November 23, 2013


The publishers are providing a valuable and expensive service in selecting, organizing and disseminating work

Valuable, yes. Expensive: no. They neither select, nor organize the works. That is done by the editors and reviewers, who are not paid at all. Their only role is printing and mailing (which yes, involves layout and such, but that’s a laughably low cost now), or posting online (and servers are cheap). Their APIs for indexing are shitty and expensive, the metadata: lackluster, and the search: useless. There is a reason many researchers depend on third-party databases to index all the research in their fields (such as PubMed for medicine), the publishers aren’t doing it. (I’ve been trying to build a unified research/search tool based on their various APIs for the last few years and it’s basically impossible for an independent developer.) The major publishers (such as Elsivier, Springer, and Wiley) have been making consistently making 30 to 45% profit every year for a product they have almost no hand in producing.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:20 AM on November 23, 2013


They neither select, nor organize the works. That is done by the editors and reviewers, who are not paid at all.

That's...just not true.

I think we're in the "this is no longer a serious discussion" zone.
posted by Miko at 8:18 PM on November 23, 2013


That's...just not true.
I think we're in the "this is no longer a serious discussion" zone.
It would seem like it’s not true, but neither the referees, editorial board, and authors are not paid at all:
The scholar who submitted the article customarily had a grant or salary that funded the research, and there was never an expectation that the journal would pay the scholar for the article (as opposed to a commissioned article in a magazine like The Atlantic or similar). The journal editor generally works without additional remuneration - the honor of being editor of an important journal in that field - and the reviewers (also unpaid) similarly view their activities as part of their academic duties, to advance the field. Read This Academic Journal Article, but Prepare to Pay, Julian Fisher
and…
When I look at the work I do as an academic social scientist and the remuneration I receive, I see a pattern that makes little sense. This is especially the case with regard to publishing. If I review a book for a newspaper or evaluate a book for a university press, I get paid, but if I referee an article for a journal, I do not. Want to Change Academic Publishing? Just Say No, Hugh Gusterson
posted by thebestsophist at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2013


Many authors are indeed paid - in the form of the paycheck that supports their research.

If I review a book for a newspaper or evaluate a book for a university press, I get paid

Exactly. Also, every time I take on a project related to a scholarly journal, I do it to enhance my stature and put me into better negotiating positions for other kinds of material goods.
posted by Miko at 9:13 PM on November 30, 2013


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