How to get access to scientific articles

While doing research, especially from home, you will certainly have come across a publisher paywall. These paywalls stop you from access to the document and ask for sometimes rather hefty fees, as in this example.

So what to do?

If you are a student or researcher at a scientific institution, such as a university, you might now head to your library and search for Remote Access. Chances are that your library has you covered, but it might be a multi step process.

What else can you do?

If you are on Windows and use Chrome or Firefox you could install a wonderful extension called Unpaywall or CORE Discovery. When you browse to any of these paywalled articles, these extensions will tell you if an Open Access copy exists and take you there.

If you are on macOS and Safari, install Open Access Helper from the App Store.

What does it do?

Whenever you visit a publisher website it will identify a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and then query the APIs of unpaywall, CORE and/or and adds a little “badge” in the top right hand corner of your browser to indicate whether the document is available elsewhere. Click the badge and get free access.

An orange badge indicates that an Open Access copy is found elsewhere and a green badge indicates that the Open Access copy is available at this location.

Is it legal?

Very much so and many countries have a strong Open Access mandate for their researchers, so not only is it legal, but often official policy.

How much does it cost?

Open Access is free to you and so is Open Access Helper!

What’s Open Access anyway?

I’d recommend that you review the Wikipedia entry on the topic as it has a lot of great detail, but in short, I think this describes it nicely:

Open access (OA) is a set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers.

Suber, Peter. “Open Access Overview”. Retrieved 28 April 2020.

As there are different levels of Open Access, I feel I ought to point out that Open Access Helper will indicate which version to expect, before you click the button. As you hover over the badge, it will expand and disclose one of three possible types:

  • Submitted Version
    • Often called a preprint and would lack the feedback from the peer review process.
  • Accepted Version
    • Pretty much the same as the published Version, but it will lack the formatting, which gets added by the publisher.
  • Published Version
    • The version of record

Where to learn more

Visit to download Open Access Helper and to learn more!

How to get access to scientific articles

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