Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Beating the academic paywalls

We've all got to make a living, and people are entitled to a return on their work, but there's a justified feeling that the paywalling of academic research has gone too far - not least because in many cases we're paying for it twice, once through government funding of the original research and again through the often hefty journal subscription fees of the academic publishers.

So I was interested to find, via Twitter - hat tip to Prof Diane Coyle who retweeted the original tweet from Prof Dennis Dittrich - the announcement about Unpaywall, which is an extension for Chrome which with a bit of luck will find the full text of an academic paper you're after. Totally legal: as the folks behind it say, "it’s powered by an open index of more than ten million legally-uploaded, open access resources".

At this stage it looks mostly oriented towards the physical sciences, but toujours gai - I thought I'd give it a go and see how it worked on economics journals. So I installed the extension - a doddle - and picked an article at random from the latest issue of the American Economic Review, 'Escaping the Great Recession'.

Not that I've got anything against the AER - quite the reverse, it's cheap to get at, and one of the AEA's sister publications, the always interesting Journal of Economic Perspectives, is free to all - but just as a test run of Unpaywall.

It works, for all practical purposes. It didn't storm the ramparts of the AER itself, that's not how it works, but it did find the same article on EconStor, where it had appeared as a working paper in the Fed of Chicago's series.

So at a minimum it saves you the hassle of searching by author names on the likes of EconStor or SSRN, and cuts to the chase.

Sample of one and all that, but it worked straight out of the box. Recommended.

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