Friday, 27 July 2018

Bypassing the paywall, legally

I've recently come across unpaywall, a web browser plug-in that spots when you are looking at the abstract of an academic article on a scholarly journal's website and adds in a link to a free version of the article, if one is available legally somewhere online. 

Many if not all journals which publish academic articles (and charge for them) allow authors to put copies of the articles (perhaps in some pre-publication format) up on their own websites or on institutional repositories.  At the University of Surrey, we have such a repository, and I thought I'd check to see if unpaywall will pick up articles that we've put there.

So, picking not quite at random an article of mine which is available free from our institutional repository here, I go to the Nuclear Physics A page where my article is published

Lo, with the unpaywall plug-in installed, I see a little green unlocked padlock logo on the right of the page, that is not usually there:

If I click on the logo, I get a pdf copy of my paper from the Surrey ePubs website.  This is handy!  For me, it will be most useful while travelling, since in my office I can download the journal articles through my institution's subscription for journals where they have one, which is most of the journals where I publish.  This is automatically detected through my computer's University IP address.  On the road, I have to rely on some sometimes clumsy methods of getting the University subscription recognised on a per-journal basis.   

Of course, it only works if there is a legal and free version of the paper somewhere online, and unpaywall has found it,  but I'll keep it installed.  The only downside I can see is that it doesn't work on the default browser on the Mac, Safari, so I'll have to switch to Firefox or Chrome.  That's a drag, but I'm not a browser zealot.  I save that for Emacs.

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