Find Open Access Articles Faster with UnPayWall

Fort Damaged Wall

Have you heard of Unpaywall? It is a free Chrome/Firefox extension that helps you quickly find open access versions of articles you’re searching for. One of the problems of Green Open Access is that if you go to the subscription journal site, you won’t be able to see if there are open access versions of the article available. However, open access versions might exist on authors’ own websites, or institutional and subject respositories. Now, Google and Google scholar can often find those without help, but that’s not always going to be the case, and sometimes you’re already on the article – and Unpaywall then saves you an extra couple of steps.

I just tried it and it installs in a second.  The idea is that when you search for an article, the Unpaywall icon turns “green” if there is an OA version available (and you can even set it up to turn yellow if the OA version is gold OA, if you’re curious). And otherwise, it turns grey.  One thing that confused me initially is that the bookmarklet itself is always green. The icon that changes color is in the middle right of your screen, and not very conspicuous unless you know to look for it.

Unpaywall promises to find the open access version of an article 50% of the time, and this librarian (blogging as liddylib) tested it and found it to be so. I suspect this will improve over time as this is just the pre-release version.

So it’s still in the early stages and definitely worth trying, even though it has these limitations:

  • Not all repositories are on there yet. For example, my institution’s isn’t. But I contacted them and they responded immediately to troubleshoot why it wasn’t appearing and sent us instructions on how to add it in. If we all did that, we would ensure more repositories get on there.

  • It doesn’t pull from Academia or ResearchGate yet because they don’t make their content openly available to indexers/search engines.

  • It will only find legal open access versions of the article. I don’t think they see that as a problem, though.

If you’re interested in a list of strategies to find unpaywalled content, check out this post by Frances Bell, and check out the comment thread as well.

What do you do to find open access articles? How does that compare to Unpaywall? Tell us in the comments!

Featured image Fort Damaged Wall by NShivaa shared under CC-BY-SA license via Wikimedia Commons

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