What The Open Access Button Means For the Future Of Research And Publishing

Barbie E. Keiser | Information Today | December 17, 2013

The Open Access Button is designed to help researchers easily report when they hit a publisher paywall and are unable to access scholarly publications (because they lack a paid subscription to a particular journal or database or have not otherwise paid an access fee for the document). The button, an easy-to-use browser bookmarklet, searches for alternative access to the article, identifying open access versions of articles/research on the internet while mapping where obstacles are inhibiting research advances around the world. Researchers can complete an optional short form to add their experience to a map along with thousands of others located around the world. This visualization depicts the worldwide impact of paywalls on research, building a picture of where obstacles are placed in the way of research, inhibiting collaboration and possibly delaying innovations.

Launched on Nov. 18, 2013, at the Berlin 11 Student and Early Stage Researcher Satellite Conference of the Berlin 11 Open Access Conference, the Open Access Button “tracks how often readers are denied access to academic research, where in the world they were or their profession and why they were looking for that research,” aggregating the information in “one place, creating a real time, worldwide, interactive picture of the problem,” according to a blog post at the Public Library of Science. The button was developed in response to the frustrations of two medical students, David Carroll (Queens University Belfast) and Joseph McArthur (University College London), who repeatedly encountered difficulties in gaining access to academic research results they needed for their work.