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Browser Extensions for Point-of-Need Open Access

How often have you run across a paywalled journal article and then either taken a detour to Google Scholar to see if there’s a freely available version or just shrugged and decided not to pursue that article?

No matter your role at CUNY (or elsewhere), I’m guessing pretty often.

Did you know there are two browser extensions that make it easier to find legally available open access (OA) versions of articles…and harder to shrug and give up? Unpaywall and Open Access Button: learn a bit about them below and then add them to your browser!

Unpaywall

Unpaywall detects when you’re looking at a paywalled journal article and adds a small color-coded tab to the right side of the page.

Green Unpaywall tabA green tab with an image of an unlocked lock means that Unpaywall can connect you to an OA version of the article. Want the article? Just click the green tab, and it’ll lead you to the OA version. A simple, single click, and you’re there.

(Do you consider yourself an OA nerd? If so, you can select “OA Nerd Mode” in the extension settings to have the unlocked tab display in different colors: green if the article is “green OA” (i.e., posted in an open access repository), gold if the article is “gold OA” (i.e., openly licensed on the publisher’s site), and bronze if the article is “bronze OA” (i.e., free to read on the publisher’s site but not openly licensed). Interestingly, bronze OA seems to be the most common “flavor” of OA.)

Grey Unpaywall tabA grey tab with an image of a locked lock means that Unpaywall can’t connect you to an OA copy. Either there is no legal OA version, or, if there is, Unpaywall isn’t aware of it (i.e., if none of its data sources include it).

Once Unpaywall is installed, the tab automatically appears when you’re on a publisher’s site — no need to do anything to check the status of a given article. It’s there when you need it and easy to ignore when you don’t.

Open Access Button

Open Access Button iconThe Open Access Button is a very similar extension, with three key differences from the user’s perspective:

  1. The extension adds a button to your browser’s toolbar, and you need to click it when you want to check for an OA version of an article. In this way, the Open Access Button is slightly less convenient than Unpaywall — you have to make the (extremely small!) effort to click the button.
  2. The Open Access Button’s data sources include the Unpaywall database but also numerous others (e.g., SHARE and CORE). This means that the Open Access Button is more likely to be able to connect you to an OA version of the article you seek.
  3. If the Open Access Button can’t find a legal OA version of an article you want, it can send a request to the article’s author. It makes sending an email to the author quicker and easier than it would otherwise be, and gives the author easy-to-follow instructions for how to proceed in making the article OA. In other words, it lowers the barrier to act for both the researcher and the author!
Screen when Open Access Button determines that there is no accessible version of an article
When the Open Access Button cannot locate an OA version of an article, it presents the researcher with the option to initiate a request.

Editor’s Choice: Openness as Tool for Acceleration and Measurement: Reflections on Problem Representations Underpinning Open Access and Open Science

Editor’s Choice: Haider, J. (2017). Openness as Tool for Acceleration and Measurement: Reflections on Problem Representations Underpinning Open Access and Open Science. In U. Herb, & J. Schöpfel (Eds.), Open Divide?:
Critical Studies on Open Access. Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books. Source: Openness as Tool for Acceleration and Measurement: Reflections on Problem Representations Underpinning Open Access and Open Science

Abstract: Open access has established itself as an issue that researchers, universities, and various infrastructure providers, such as libraries and academic publishers, have to relate to. Commonly policies requiring open access are framed as expanding access to information and hence as being part of a democratization of society and knowledge production processes. However, there are also other aspects that are part of the way in which open access is commonly imagined in the various policy documents, declarations, and institutional demands that often go unnoticed. This essay wants to foreground some of these issues by asking the overarching question: “If open access and open science are the solutions, then what is the problem they are meant to solve?” The essay discusses how demands to open up access to research align also with processes of control and evaluation and are often grounded in ideas of economic growth as constant acceleration.

In this chapter, Haider argues that the open access rhetoric adopted by policymakers frames open access as “a business model for managing relations between public funders and private enterprise.”  This framing of the issue has helped to accelerate the privatization of open access.  Additionally, the emphasis on policy makers and publishers has downplayed the role of researchers and librarians.

OA Landmarks & Bookmarks

Lots of things have been moving recently surrounding open access. Here are just a few bits of news we’re excited about, many of which were brought to our attention and celebrated by our fellow CUNY librarians:

Thanks to our colleagues for emailing and sharing all of this OA news!