How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Open-access advocates have had several successes in the past few weeks. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started its own open-access publishing platform, which the European Commission may replicate. And librarians 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.”

. . . .

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.

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. “We’re really excited about that, because that’s when you start hitting critical mass. That’s when people start thinking, Hey, why are we paying millions of dollars to subscribe to tens of thousands of journals when our researchers have about a better-than-even chance of reading an article with no subscription at all?”

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

1 thought on “How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing”

  1. I like the sound of Unpaywall. I was doing some research a couple of days ago and came across an article at the Wiley Online Library site that I wanted to read. The first page of the thirteen page PDF was clear as a preview and the rest blurred beyond legibility. For $10 I could read the rest. At the bottom of the legible first page was the text, “This article is not subject to US copyright. Published in 1994 by the American Geophysical Union.” I looked up the AGU and copyright, and a lot of their material falls under publicly funded therefore publicly available.

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