Monday, April 10, 2017

Free access to academic papers

It's not just fake academic journals which prey on academia. Too many of the legitimate ones are published by profit seeking publishers, increasingly few in number and facing little competition, allowing these publishing outfits to routinely jack up prices skyward.

But now there is a new lemonade stand in town, serving customers for free.
(L)ibrarians attending the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in March were glad to hear that the Open Access Button, a tool that helps researchers gain free access to copies of articles, will be integrated into existing interlibrary-loan arrangements.
Another initiative, called Unpaywall, is a simple browser extension, but its creators, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar, say it could help alter the status quo of scholarly publishing.
"We’re setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers’ lemonade stand," says Mr. Priem. "They’re charging $30 for a glass of lemonade, and we’re showing up right next to them and saying, ‘Lemonade for free’. It’s such a disruptive, exciting, and interesting idea, I think."
Like the Open Access Button, Unpaywall is open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving access to scholarly research. The button, devised in 2013, has a searchable database that comes into play when a user hits a paywall.
Unpaywall, by contrast, has focused on creating a browser extension. "We want to do just one thing really well: instantly deliver legal, open-access, full text as you browse," says Mr. Priem, who also started the altmetrics site Impactstory with Ms. Piwowar.

“We're setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers' lemonade stand.”
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. "We’re able to deliver an OA copy to users more than half the time," says Mr. Priem.

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