Research Remix

May 6, 2018

Where’s Waldo with Public Access Links

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 9:56 pm

Five years of blog silence!  Good news: I’m not dead!  :)  Working hard on Unpaywall these days.  Making no promises about any additional blogging, but what the heck, feeling it today, so here goes :)

Was digging into some publisher pages today, and I noticed a trend.  Links to Public Access author manuscripts that CHORUS says are publicly available thanks to funder mandates are often very difficult to actually find on publisher pages.  Want to see what I mean?

There is a “read for free” link on this page. Can you find it?

… hint: scroll down, far, ignoring the big sticky “Purchase PDF” at the top, to the very bottom of the page, past another subscription login and Purchase option, finally, to “View Open Manuscript”:




Another one. Can you find the free download link on this American Physical Society paper? It’s there, but I bet most people wouldn’t find it unless they knew to look.

It’s in the margin, beside “SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED”, under “Buy Article”, and under “Log in to Institution”. Nope, not “Available via CHORUS”, that’s takes you to the CHORUS website.  Under that.  Yup!  Pretty clear once you see it, it’s true, but is the Public really going to go looking for that when they don’t know to look?



On this one though?
On this one the publishers are *counting* on you to know that if you click on “CHORUS” you will get to a free version of the paper, because that’s the only label the free version is given.  If you naively think clicking “PDF” or “Full Text” would be the best way to get you to the full text, you just get these options… with no indication you can also read the author manuscript for free.


Not very happy-making.

And the thing is the Author Manuscripts are peer-reviewed versions! They have all the same info as the PDFs these journals want to selling us, they are just missing the prettying up etc.  So Publishers aren’t doing an important quality gate-keeping role here — they are just making it harder than it needs to be for people to find free versions of articles, the free versions that funders have mandated be made available.  I have no problem then if they want to sell the Public a pretty PDF version.  Heck I might even buy it sometimes.  But let it be an informed decision.  The publishers are telling funders “oh yes of COURSE we link to the free articles on our page” but then doing it a way that makes it really unlikely it will actually improve Public Access.  #notcool

It’s pretty disappointing, but not very surprising. Counting on toll-access publishers to implement our infrastructure is kinda likely to end up this way, yeah?

Anyway,  I don’t know if anyone is looking at these issues systematically, but I think doing so would be a great idea so we can start making noise to our funders and our publishers to do better.

[original twitter thread on this]




  1. Disgraceful behaviour, as expected. Keep up the good work, Heather!

    Comment by Chris Rusbridge — May 7, 2018 @ 11:42 am

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