When you search the library catalog you will now come across a new way to access scholarly articles. It’s called Unpaywall, and is designed to put the free versions of scholarly articles at the forefront so that, even if there is a publisher version that cost money to access, you get to see the free version — the open access version — first. Open Access (OA) refers to published scholarship that is free to read, use, and reuse. A large proportion of the world’s scholarly articles are now OA available, and that percentage is growing.
Our scholarly communications system is undergoing structural change as the established actors in the system (commercial publishers, who fund their operations by charging readers or libraries) are joined by various OA actors who fund scholarship through various means like foundation or institutional funding, or through author fees. Governments, which ultimately fund a lot of research, are very interested in ways to distribute the results of their investment widely and so are encouraging OA.
Here at Williams Libraries we are preparing for this new scholarly communication system by highlighting efforts like Unpaywall, defaulting to open access when we publish or host content, investing some of our funds in OA projects like the Lever Press, and participating in structural efforts like Invest in Open. If you are interested in learning more, talk to any of our librarians.
For searching outside of the library catalog, Unpaywall also offers a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. Once installed, the extension displays a green icon when the paywalled paper you’re viewing is OA available.