Paywall browser extension lets users read some paywalled papers for free

April 6, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: unpaywall.org

(Phys.org)—A group calling itself Impactstory, a nonprofit team whose mission is to make science more accessible to everyone, has released a free Chrome/Firefox extension called Unpaywall that allows users to access some research papers that lie behind a paywall without having to pay to access the paywall site. The official release date was April 4, but users have been able to download and use it for several weeks.

A , of course, blocks unpaid access to articles published by a website. Those who do not pay can generally read an abstract but not the full text. Researchers are eager to have their work published on such journal sites, because publication offers prestige and some degree of assurance to readers that the work has been peer reviewed. But because of the way are written, they quite often wind up on the internet where they can be read for free before they are accepted by one of the established journals. The prepress site arXiv, run by Cornell University Library, for example, allows researchers to post their work for review by others before they submit to a journal. Many people who wish to access papers behind paywalls have discovered that they can often find them for free elsewhere, but it takes a lot of work. That is where Unpaywall comes in—it does the work for you.

Users who download and install the Unpaywall find that a grey or green tab appears on their browser when they visit a paywall site—a grey tab means the extension was unable to find a , while a green one means that it has found one. Users click on the "unlock" sign to access it.

Unpaywall does its work by accessing a database of what are known as digital object identifiers (DOIs). Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar, co-founders of Impactstory, created the basis of the extension by developing an API called oaDOI to search for relevant DOIs. They claim that their extension is able to find a free version of a paywalled approximately 30 percent of the time.

Explore further: Study shows more than half of peer-reviewed research articles published during 2007-2012 are now open access

More information: unpaywall.org/

Related Stories

Murdoch's Sun tabloid to go behind paywall

March 27, 2013

Britain's top-selling newspaper The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is to start charging readers for access to its website, a spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Clues to ancient past—baby mummy, dinosaur skulls scanned

September 22, 2017

The mummified remains of a 7-month-old baby boy and pieces of skull from two teenage Triceratops underwent computed tomography (CT) scans Saturday, Sept. 16, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in hopes ...

Neanderthal boy's skull grew like a human child's: study

September 21, 2017

The first analysis of a Neanderthal boy's skull uncovered in Spain suggests that he grew much like a modern boy would, in another sign that our extinct ancestors were similar to us, researchers said Thursday.

Early trilobites had stomachs, new fossil study finds

September 21, 2017

Exceptionally preserved trilobite fossils from China, dating back to more than 500 million years ago, have revealed new insights into the extinct marine animal's digestive system. Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bart_A
5 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2017
Many people who wish to access papers behind paywalls have discovered that they can often find them for free elsewhere, but it takes a lot of work.


I have found that it doesn't take a lot of work. Google works pretty fast. And I think I have had at least a 30% success rate--maybe better than this software. Thanks, Google.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Apr 06, 2017
Hm...I'll definitely give this extension a whirl.

Note that the article on arxiv etc. are always slightly different than the ones published in the journals (for legal reasons). In almost all cases this doesn't make any difference content-wise, but one should be aware of this.
EarthlingToo
5 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2017
Excellent find, thanks Bob.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 06, 2017
Excellent find, thanks Bob.

A group calling itself Impactstory, a nonprofit team whose mission is to make science more accessible to everyone, has released a free Chrome/Firefox extension called Unpaywall that allows users to access some research papers that lie behind a paywall without having to pay to access the paywall site
see also: http://unpaywall.org/

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2017
Installed it at home. Works fine. Google scholar finds about the same articles. I guess they are making a combination search of subject, keywords and authors (and maybe institute affiliations)
cardzeus
Apr 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
akvadrako
not rated yet Apr 08, 2017
Sci-Hub gets them all

And they just released a Firefox extension: https://addons.mo...-hub-it/
baudrunner
not rated yet Apr 08, 2017
You can achieve the same results often just by using the "select an element to hide" option, which is an addition to Adblock Plus. I get into the Forbes site that way.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.