While Milner Library strives to provide all the resources our faculty, staff, and students need for their research and other activities through its holdings and inter-library loan service, a researcher may also wish to quickly check an open access version of an article to see if it meets their needs. They may also wish to see what kinds of researchers are making their published articles open access. For those who wish to quickly see if there is an open-access version of an article, the Unpaywall extension is one option.

Unpaywall provides a free extension for Firefox and Chrome browsers that can help readers find open-access versions of articles. Once the extension is installed, whenever a reader goes to a paywalled paper in their browser Unpaywall automatically checks its database for an open-access version. If an open-access version is found, a green tab appears to alert the user and provide a link. The open-access version of the article in question could be the final publisher’s version, but could also be a pre-publication version. Depending on their needs users may still wish to consult the version of record.

Unlocked pad lock representing open access to online research

Unpaywall browser extension helps researchers discover open-access publications. Logo by Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem.

Unpaywall is run by the non-profit Impactstory and currently indexes more than 24 million articles from more than 50,000 journals and open-access repositories. Unpaywall also specifically excludes sites like Sci-Hub that include some articles which do not have a legal open-access version. Unpaywall offers additional products and services to libraries and institutional repository managers, but the browser extension is likely of greatest interest to researchers.

Making your own work open-access on the ISU institutional repository (ISU ReD) can make it available to a wider range of readers, scholars, and students. We can help you do that for a new scholarship or discuss options for previous work. Authors can often place pre-prints or even published articles on institutional repositories and ISU ReD also welcomes conference presentations and other forms of scholarly and creative output. If you wish to discuss these options further for current or already published research, please contact Milner Library’s Scholarly Communication Team at isured@ilstu.edu.