Earlier this month, Impactstory, a nonprofit supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, launched, Unpaywall, a free browser extension that helps you "find open-access versions of paywalled research papers, instantly."
As the co-founders of Impactstory describe it, Unpaywall is "an extension for Chrome and Firefox that links you to free full-text as you browse research articles. Hit a paywall? No problem: click the green tab and read it free!"
Their FAQ gets into the mechanics a little more, but here's the gist of how it works: "When you view a paywalled research article, Unpaywall automatically looks for a copy in our index of over 10 million free, legal fulltext PDFs. If we find one, click the green tab to read the article."
While many science publishers put a paywall in front of scientific articles, it's often the case that these articles have been published elsewhere in an open format. "More and more funders and universities are requiring authors to upload copies of their papers to [open] repositories. This has created a deep resource of legal open access papers..." And that's what Unpaywall draws on.
This seems like quite a boon for researchers, journalists, students and policymakers. You can download the Unpaywall extension for Chrome and Firefox, or learn more about the new service at the Unpaywall website.
Note: Over at Metafilter, you can find a good list of sources of, or methods for, obtaining free academic content.
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