About half the time I go to look at a piece of research I read about in a news article, the actual research is trapped behind a paywall.
I get it, universities have bills too, but shelling out $40-$60 for the opportunity to read a bit more about a scientific study that I’m really just interested in but don’t have a practical use for isn’t exactly a realistic proposition, at least not all that often.
Any time you see splashy headlines about a new study, or some marketer says that “studies show” their diet or product has a certain effect, chances are they’re talking about a paper in a journal that you have dicey odds of being able to access.
Whenever you come across one of those papers that you need to pay for, the extension searches for the article to see if the author has posted a free version anywhere as well.
Important to note: This isn’t getting you around the paywall or stealing the content. Instead, what it’s doing is seeing if there’s another legal version online that you can read instead. Emphasis on the “legal” in that sentence.
If there is another copy online, you’ll see a green tab on your screen letting you know.
The extension will only show documents that have been published “with the full and explicit authorization of the publishers themselves”. According the extension’s creator, “The majority of scholarly journals permit authors to 'self-archive' their papers on university and government web servers. It’s these legally self-archived papers that Unpaywall helps users find. Any papers posted outside of publisher permissions are NOT included in our index.”
This could be a valuable tool come research-paper writing time.