New Browser Extension Offers Legal Access to Paywalled Content

Kate Horowitz
iStock / iStock

If you’re a regular reader of scientific and scholarly journal articles, you’re probably also a regular shaker-of-fists at your computer screen, as so much of the good stuff is locked behind a paywall. But a new browser extension called Unpaywall may be able to help.

Launching April 4 (but available in prerelease now), Unpaywall is a simple button that gives Chrome users free access to millions of articles. Pulling information from large public databases including Google Scholar, PubMed Central, DataCit, and Crossref, the extension works by finding PDFs that have already been legally uploaded by the journal article authors themselves.

To use it, click through to the abstract of the paper you want, then check the Unpaywall icon on the right side of your browser window. If a free version is available, Unpaywall will let you know.

The extension, created by Impactstory, is similar to the OA Button (short for Open Access) but with a focus on finding more free materials. If you’re already using the OA Button, you don’t have to switch—Unpaywall’s creators actually recommend using both for the best results.

"We loathe paywalls,” Unpaywall’s creators write on the website. “Now more than ever, humanity needs to access our collective knowledge, not hoard it.”