Open Access Button

Open Access Button launches with new features

Timothy Vollmer, October 21st, 2014

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Open Access Button / CC BY 2.0

Today at an Open Access Week event in London, the Open Access Button was re-launched with new features “to help researchers, patients, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly research.” The Open Access Button originally was created in response to researchers running into paywalls or other control mechanisms when they attempted to read and re-use scholarly journal articles.

The beta Open Access Button–released in November 2013–documented these stymied research efforts, tracking nearly 10,000 instances of denied access due to paywalls. The updated button is a browser plug-in that enables a person who conducts a similar search–but who is once again denied access–to explore other options in order to get access to the paper. It does this by conducting a search for a freely-available version of the research article on the web, for example a preprint or unformatted version of a finalized article manuscript. If this does not work the button provides the functionality to send an email to the author of the article to ask that a copy of the article be made available and shareable to others who need it. The button will do other things, too, such as creating a unique listing for each paper that is requested, so that authors can view demand for access to their works. Finally, the button aims to collect data and anecdotes arising from its use in order to feed advocacy and reform efforts related to the scholarly communications and publishing system.

The Open Access Button is an interesting tool because it both increases awareness of a problem within the academic publishing ecosystem and strives to deliver needed articles into the hands of the researchers to conduct their work. It is informational, empowering, and practical. Anyone can now install the Open Access Button. Congratulations to the terrific team on extending a creative and useful tool in support of open access to scholarly research.

Below is the video recording from the Open Access Button launch on 21 October. Keep an eye on the CC blog and Open Access Week website for more information about OA events this week.

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Why are we prosecuting students for sharing knowledge?

Timothy Vollmer, September 18th, 2014

In July the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote about the predicament that Colombian student Diego Gomez found himself in after he shared a research article online. Gomez is a graduate student in conservation and wildlife management at a small university. He has generally poor access to many of the resources and databases that would help him conduct his research. Paltry access to useful materials combined with a natural culture of sharing amongst researchers prompted Gomez shared a paper on Scribd so that he and others could access it for their work. The practice of learning and sharing under less-than-ideal circumstances could land Diego in prison.

The EFF reports that upon learning of this unauthorized sharing, the author of the research article filed criminal complaint against Gomez. The charges lodged against Diego could put him in prison for 4-8 years. The trial has started, and the court will need to take into account several factors: including whether there was any malicious intent to the action, and whether there was any actual harm against the economic rights of the author.

Today EFF, Creative Commons, Right to Research Coalition, and Open Access Button are launching a campaign to help raise awareness about Diego’s situation, to promote a reasonable handling of his and similar cases, and to support open access policies and practices. We hope you’ll sign on.


Let’s stand together to promote Open Access worldwide.

Help Diego Gomez and join academics and users in fighting outdated laws and practices that keep valuable research locked up for no good reason.

Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student, currently faces up to eight years in prison for doing something thousands of researchers do every day: posting research results online for those who would not otherwise have a way to access them.

If open access were the default for scholarly communication, cases like Diego’s would become obsolete.

Academic research would be free to access and available under an open license that would legally enable the kind of sharing that is so crucial for enabling scientific progress.

When research is shared freely and openly, we all benefit. Sign the petition to express your support for Open Access as the default for scientific and scholarly publishing, so researchers like Diego don’t risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

Sign-on statement:
Scientific and scholarly progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. We all benefit when research is shared widely, freely, and openly. I support an Open Access system for academic publishing that makes research free for anyone to read and re-use; one that is inclusive of all and doesn’t force researchers like Diego Gomez to risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

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Launch of the Open Access Button

Timothy Vollmer, November 18th, 2013

Today marks the launch of the Open Access Button, a browser bookmark tool that allows users to report when they hit paywalled access to academic articles and discover open access versions of that research. The button was created by university students David Carroll and Joseph McArthur, and announced at the Berlin 11 Student and Early Stage Researcher Satellite Conference.

From the press release:

The Open Access Button is a browser-based tool that lets users track when they are denied access to research, then search for alternative access to the article. Each time a user encounters a paywall, he simply clicks the button in his bookmark bar, fills out an optional dialogue box, and his experience is added to a map alongside other users. Then, the user receives a link to search for free access to the article using resources such as Google Scholar. The Open Access Button initiative hopes to create a worldwide map showing the impact of denied access to research.

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The creators have also indicated that they plan to release the data collected by the Open Access Button under CC0. Congratulations on the release of this useful tool.

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