A legal alternative to academic publishing paywalls
April 12, 2017 1:40 AM   Subscribe

Unpaywall is a web browser extension which finds free versions of paywalled or fee-to-view articles. Launched in early April, it provides an interface to a database of 86+ million digital object identifiers (DOIs). When an Unpaywall user lands on the page of a research article, the software scours thousands of institutional repositories, preprint servers, and websites like PubMed Central to see if an open-access copy of the article is available. If it is, users can click a small green tab on the side of the screen to view a PDF. The developers say Unpaywall doesn't ask for, track or store any personal information. Developed by Impactstory and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Alternatives are available...

Some other sources of, or methods for, obtaining free academic content include:

* DOAJ: the Directory of Open Access Journals.
* OpenDOAR: the Directory of Open Access Repositories.
* DOAB: the Directory of Open Access Books.
* Google Scholar, where some results include a link to a free PDF.
* Of legal dispute, Sci-Hub, an online search engine with over 58 million academic papers and articles available for direct download, bypassing publisher paywalls.
* Similarly, Library Genesis offers access to more than 52 million articles from about 50,000 publications.
* The Open Access Button.
* Preprint archives, such as arXiv for mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance, and bioRxiv for the biological sciences.
* Social networking sites which focus on paper sharing, such as academia.edu or researchgate.net (some are spam or legally problematic).
* JURN: a free and no-ad online search tool for the finding and downloading of free full-text scholarly works.
* Various online search engines e.g. FreeFullPDF of variable quality.

* Emailing the article/paper author, politely asking if they know of an alternative or free location where you can obtain the work.
* Tweeting ICanHazPDF (note: makes it public that you may be engaging in illegal activity).
* Asking your friendly local librarian (academic or public) who may have knowledge of other techniques or sources.

- Association of American Publishers Pick on Wrong Librarian
- "All human knowledge is there—so why can’t everybody access it?"
posted by Wordshore (10 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
Absorbing derail: if you are interested in how MetaFilter has been studied in academia over the years (if you're a prolific commenter on here you may find your actual words turning up in the data), then click on that google scholar link below the fold and flick through some of the pages of downloadable results.
posted by Wordshore at 2:26 AM on April 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

As someone at a small institution with limited electronic subscriptions: THANK YOU.
posted by BrashTech at 5:30 AM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is fantastic. Thanks!
posted by ropeladder at 6:12 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

A notable thing here is Unpaywall is finding articles that you probably have a license to actually download. That were intentionally published for open access. (They call this "legal", as opposed to "illegal"). The fantastic scientific library at Sci-Hub contains a mix of things that are licensed and unlicensed, so you're never quite sure if you have the right to read the thing you find there. Not that any working academic should give a shit about, say, Elsevier's license terms. But making it easy to access licensed copies is great.

The delivery as a Chrome extension reminds me of Library Extension, which adds links to Amazon product pages for borrowing something for free from your local library.

The Economist had a great article last week on open science publication: The findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly. The Gates Foundation is demanding that their grant recipients publish results in the open.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Browser extension added; many thanks!
posted by languagehat at 8:43 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

We'll be discussing this next week at the Open Scholarship Initiative conference in DC.
posted by doctornemo at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I wrote about this the other day! (my article is in the FPP) It's a great tool and I installed it right away. Super handy.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:08 AM on April 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nelson: "The Gates Foundation is demanding that their grant recipients publish results in the open."

Wow. Really? That's great. That's one of the best things I've ever read about the Gates Foundation. Thanks for sharing that.
posted by kristi at 12:08 PM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Unpaywall has been useful for me already in finding one of my own papers, a copy of which I carelessly did not keep and which the publisher would only sell back to me for 35 bucks. That's the content I researched, wrote and created, and gave to them for free, which they've already made profits off [insert stream of profanities here]. Google scholar didn't link to a free copy, but unpaywall found one.

A few additional methods:

* PubMed Central (PMC) is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine. 4.3 million articles currently archived.
* PLOS (for Public Library of Science) is a nonprofit open access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of open access journals and other scientific literature.
* CiteSeerX is a public search engine and digital library and repository for scientific and academic papers primarily with a focus on computer and information science.
* Reddit Scholar is a place where you can request papers.
* Wikipedia has a (small) list of Open Access journals.

Also, Hinari provides free or very low cost online access to some journals in biomedical and related social sciences to local, not-for-profit institutions in developing countries.

Related and new: the Initiative for Open Citations I4OC is a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data.
posted by Wordshore at 6:26 AM on April 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Google Scholar button has been around since 2015, but I'd manage to be unaware of it. It highlights papers (that are in the Google database) as you browse. The Firefox and Chrome extensions.
posted by Wordshore at 7:47 AM on April 16, 2017

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