5 free ways around the great paywall of academia.

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Picture: Severin. Stalder CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons

If you do not have subscription access to academic journals through an institution then to access a large proportion of academic journals you will be charged a fee for each paper; fees of $30 or more per article are common. And if you need to access a lot of papers then the cost quickly adds up. Needless to  say many people don’t have the means to pay. Of course you could stick to open access journals i.e. free to read and download (Head to the directory of Open Access Journals for easy access to a whole range of open access journals), but by doing so you will miss a lot of what’s happening in the academic world*.

If you can’t afford to pay then you have a few options to get around the paywalls.

Here are  5 ways around the great paywall of academia;

  1. The Snail Trail (legal but painfully slow): Some journals allow researchers to archive a full copy of their paper immediately on publication, on a personal webpage or university database (others have an embargo period,typically 12 to 24 months, after which papers can be added). Many also allow the authors a certain number of free access codes. To access this option takes time. You have to personally contact authors  and hope they respond, or leave academic databases and search the web for personal webpage hosted versions, or access university databases. You can also often source the paper on ResearchGate or Academia (think academic LinkedIn if you don’t know what these are). Obviously someone relying on these methods is going to have to spend a lot more chasing up references than someone who has full subscription access. Method rating: 2/5 paywalled papers. This method is close to obsolete if you are needing lots of papers. I would always try some of the options below first. About the only plus is if you specifically want to talk to a researcher; then asking for their paper directly is a good way to start up the conversation.

2. The Open Access Button (legal): The Open Access Button instantly searches for a freely accessible version of the article or dataset you need. If unable to get access to an article you can create a request.

Rating 3.5/5. It is a little hit and miss sometimes but it is getting better.

3. Unpaywall (legal): The new kid on the block is unpaywall. An extension for chrome and firefox, it is still in beta testing with a full release date of the 4th of April…but it works now. I could source about 60% of the articles I tested. This one is a great tool and I suspect it will only get better. Combine it with the open access button and some snail trailing and you should be able to get to almost everything.

Rating 3.5/5.  Super easy to use and although its at beta stage it works really well. Like the open access button it is only going to get better. The biggest downfall with both is that the papers they are most likely to struggle to access are papers that have just been published and are potentially the cutting edge research.

4. Sci Hubb (Questionable): While Sci Hubb can get you almost any paper (and often very very quickly), depending on where you are and what you are downloading you run the risk of breaking copyright laws. Called the academic pirate bay by the big publishers, sci hubb obtains copies of papers by various means, including scraping of publisher sites (this is different to unpaywall and the open access button that find PDFs uploaded by the authors themselves).

Rating: In short you can get anything here but, and its a big BUT, you are taking some risks.

Who is downloading ‘pirate’ copies of academic papers? Well according to SCIENCE (one of the more prestigious academic journals) everyone is.  Still, especially with the options at 2 and 3 available, it might be best to avoid Sci Hubb.

5. #icanhazpdf (Questionable: depending what you are asking for)apparently you can also try this method…tweet the name of the paper you need with the #icanhazpdf hashtag and its likely someone will send it to you. I can’t see it being very effective for sourcing lots of papers but perhaps if you just need one that you can’t track down it could be useful.

Rating: 1/5  Not my cup of tea…if I want an authors archived version i’ll just ask them, otherwise there are better options.

If you have used any of these options and have some thoughts or know of any other good options then feel free to throw them in the comments.

 

*for now anyway. e.g. Europe for example is pushing forward with making their academics publish in open access format as the norm.

Vote 1 in FlyLife Photo Comp

Voting is now open for the Fly Life Magazine‘s photo competition and all of the finalists have some cracking entries.

Big congrats to our mate Angus Kennedy for reaching the finals with his shot of Matt guiding his canoe down the rapids of a remote south coast Bass stream.

Please give him your vote to help his chances of reaching a top 3 placing so he can win some much needed fly fishing gear!

Voting  only takes a couple of seconds and closes this Friday the 10th at 6pm!

Vote here : https://flylife.com.au/flylife-photo-competition-2017

More of Gus’ pics from the trip below…

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Top shelf bottom feeders

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If you are in Jervis Bay and see someone knee deep surrounded by rays or alternatively sitting staring at rays for hours on end then chances are you are looking at the “mother of rays”  otherwise known as  Joni  – the driving force behind the Stingray Diaries. She’s studying smooth stingrays throughout the Jervis Bay Marine park, in conjunction with Fisheries NSW and gives us a rundown on her research in her guest blog below…

Top shelf bottom feeders

Learning to swim by getting thrown off the end of a busy public wharf on the Hawkesbury River in nothing but a pair of hot pink floaties… Living in a swimsuit and covered in sand every single day of the year… Chucking tantrums when told to come inside after playing on the beach all day because it was dark… At the age of 4, saying with great certainty, “Mum, when I grow up I’m going to be a Marine Biologist.” Continue reading

Backyard Habitat Ponds 101

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Damien Vella is Senior Horticulturist at the Botanic Gardens and does a great job of sharing natural history moments he encounters throughout his life on his instagram account. He has a particular skill for taking events from the backyard and telling a story that weaves in the underlying ecology in a fascinating way. He also shares one of my deep interests-that is creating habitat in backyards (Even better that it is the aquatic type).

Below is his guest blog discussing backyard habitat ponds… Continue reading

My last fish of the year…

The plan was to head to the mid stretches of the Thredbo River in the Snowy Mountains to try and fool some foot-long brown trout into eating a dry fly. But after a short walk to my favourite stretch of water the rain had set in making it almost impossible to spot my fly. A change in tactics was needed, so I tied on a heavy double nymph rig and attached a subtle indicator to fish some deeper runs.

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Thinking about sand and the fish (and researchers) that call it home

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Why would you study pretty fish on coral reefs if you could be trying to find grumpy weirdos like this Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus)

Maarten De Brauwer is a marine biologist, dive instructor, biology teacher, PhD-candidate at Curtin University in Perth (Western Australia) and studies fish on soft sediments is lucky enough to work on sandy habitats  ;). He also does a really nice job on the science communication front over at Critter Research!  Below is his guest blog with some recent musings…

Thinking about sand and the fish (and researchers) that call it home

When I was asked to write a guest blog I first considered writing about fluorescent frogfish or about how weird fish that live on the sand can send children to school in developing countries. While I might do that another time, instead I decided to start a guest blog for Fish Thinkers by thinking about fish. Maybe because thinking about fish is what I am currently paid to do, though the fact that I’ve gone through 3 gin tonics and a fair amount of wine on a long-haul flight might play a role too. Continue reading

Dry fly fishing the Snowy Mountains

Warm afternoons, insects hatching and brown trout looking to the surface for a feed – A couple of weekends ago my old man and I had a great weekend fly fishing the Snowy Mountains region. After mid-week snow and rain the creeks were running well and the trout eager for well-presented dry flies. Below are a handful of images from the trip…

By Matt Rees
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