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Open Access and your Research in a COVID-19 World

Kirsty6 May 2020

On 20 March, days after lockdown began, JISC and partners issued a statement calling for Publishers to help in the global effort to combat COVID-19 and support institutions and students to continue their education by making resources available where possible. Since that day, numerous publishers have made temporary changes to their policies, and have begun to make more content freely available online. The Library has been maintaining a list of these newly open resources on the website, along with other help and advice for finding and using resources remotely. There are also lists of resources available from the British Library as well as a brilliant collated list of data and computational resources from the National Institute of Health.

The Copyright Licensing Agency has also made some temporary adjustments to the licence that allows books to be scanned and shared. Please contact the Teaching & Learning Services team for more information.

In addition, there are now tools that allow you to search the web for trustworthy Open Access versions of content from inside your web browser. Just searching Google can bring up not only illegal copies of material, but also inadvertently support predatory and fake journals. The recommended tool is called Open Access Button. More information about Open Access Button is available here

Open Access choices

Just because publishers are making things open for the time being, doesn’t mean they will stay that way. Be careful about the choices you make for your research – in the long term, will the publisher of your chosen journal stop access to your paper? When you are choosing the journal to submit your research to, take a look at the guidance provided by the Open Access team, and also check Sherpa/Romeo to find out whether you are allowed to share your work on RPS, or even on a pre-print service to get it out there even faster!

Don’t forget that you can use the Research Publications Service (RPS) as well as the Research Data Repository (RDR) to take advantage of Open Access to share all of your research outputs to get them out to the rest of the research community.

Open Access Button

Kirsty26 March 2020

One of the most frustrating aspects of doing research is when you come up against an article you can’t get at without paying. Even with the wide range of databases and journals that the library subscribes to, coverage is not complete. JISC, SPARC, Open Society Foundations, the Centre for Open Science and many others have worked together to create a solution to this problem called the Open Access Button.

What does it do?

The Open Access Button tool tells you if there are free (and legally available) copies of articles available as you go along – without you having to search them out. The tool, once installed, searches an extensive collection of existing repositories and aggregators in the background of your browser and indicates when it finds an Open Access version of something using a discrete icon on your screen.

They also provide another option – a button that you can install on your browser to run a quick search for Open Access versions of something.

Why do I need it?

The Open Access Button team support the Open Access movement and believe that outputs of publicly funded and supported research should be openly and freely available for use by the public and by other researchers.

There has been a lot of work in the last few years to increase the amounts of Open Access content available online. The number of works which are available open access is growing every day, but many are still only available to those that can pay subscriptions.  Not only does this mean that only rich institutions can have access to the results of research, but also, public resources that could be used to develop research are spent just to read the work that has already been undertaken.

The role of the Open Access Button is to make it easier to access works already freely available by allowing a single point of search for the numerous repositories out there, assuring what you find is legal and from a reliable source. At the same time, it is identifying restricted works and working with researchers to release their full potential for the public good by allowing you to request copies of works that are not yet Open Access.

How does it work?

When you find an article, the Open Access Button tool uses the information on the page (the bibliographic metadata) to search its approved sources for an open Access copy of the work. Sources include most of the major global aggregated repositories. Such as:

  • OA DOI which provides the data behind Unpaywall, an app that leads straight to legitimate author uploaded versions of the publisher’s articles like the OA Button.
  • SHARE, a US service developed by the Association of Research Libraries in partnership with the Center for Open Science
  • CORE which offers “seamless access to millions of open access research papers, enrich the collected data for text-mining and provide unique services to the research community.”
  • OpenAIRE, a European resource that offers an OA search engine and a campaign platform driving Open Access development and policy.
  • Dissemin, a French resource with a slightly different approach: “ Dissemin searches for copies of your papers in a large collection of open repositories and tells you which ones cannot be accessed”
  • Europe PMC which specialises in life sciences research
  • BASE a Germany based aggregator.

In addition, if you ask the Open Access Button to search for an article that is not available openly, a request is sent to the author asking them to share. The service is able to support the authors in sharing the article quickly and legally.

Is it legal?

The Open Access Button will only show you legal, freely available copies.  Your assurance of this comes from the sources they use and the supporters of the initiative.  These include:

How can I get it?

Check your Browser

Open Access Button works with Chrome, FireFox and Safari.  It is less successful with Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.

Ways to use the Open Access Button

  1. Use the Search Engine: On the homepage, enter any part of a bibliographic citation and the search engine will seek out an open access copy – if one exists.
  2. Use the Button: Add the Open Access Button extension for unpaywall to your browser.  Whenever you land on a journal abstract page for a work or find a reference in Google scholar the icon on the right-hand-side of your screen will tell you if the work is available and why.  If the work was self-archived on an institutional, funder or subject repository, then the icon will be green, if it is open access on the publisher pages, the icon will be Gold-coloured. If it doesn’t automatically identify the status, you can click the button to do a search manually.