Author Archives: Lachlan Fetterplace

About Lachlan Fetterplace Instagram: @fish_thinkers

5 free ways around the great paywall of academia.


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.

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


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

Fish on marine sand: homebodies or adventurers?


Word cloud based on the publication text  

A large part of my PhD involves working with researchers from NSW DPI and UOW to try and understand the movement patterns of fishes found on marine sands. And our recent paper (open access and free to read here) on blue-spotted flathead is the first piece of the movement puzzle Continue reading

Baby sharks head for home…

Who says sharks aren’t cute?  Watch this video and tell me otherwise!  And worth a quick blog post surely?

I recently spent a few days running a shark tracking workshop @tarongazoo projectshark in Jervis Bay with @400knots & @kye.adams.  There were various other workshops running too – Including Matts on marinedebris and another on Port Jackson shark ecology and behaviour by Sherrie and Cat from Maquarie Uni together with Sue from crest diving.

After the event I got a chance to race off and film these little sharks getting released back into the wild by Conner who had just arrived from Macquarie Uni Fish Lab.  Research from the lab has shown that when these PJs are adults they will migrate to Tasmania and back again each year! And often return to exactly the same crevice to breed each time!!

If you want to learn more about all the various Port Jackson shark research underway then head over to the Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution of Fishes Laboratory page.


Monthly Fishbits- August + September 2016


Mobula Rays at Aussie Point, Munda, Solomon Islands. Photo Leonard Clifford

This time round we have a lot to catch up on! Guest blogger, and founder of The Fins United Initiative, Melissa Márquez (@mcmsharksxx) drops in, Evie hands in her thesis, we hear about whales bigger than blue whales! *, fish gorging on mice, and the shark attack ‘problem’.

Continue reading

The Stand: Why are we scared to go in the water?


“The chances of falling victim to a shark attack are incredibly slim, yet these majestic creatures represent one of mankind’s greatest fears. In a world where every shark encounter is front page news, can we fight back against this distorted perception?”

Continue reading