Open Access Research Tools: Browser Extensions

Every year during Open Access Week, we think and talk a lot about how authors and creators can share their work (articles, books, chapters, creative work, code, and data) openly and freely with others.  Open access content helps to create knowledge environments that are equitable to all.  Another important component to equitable information access is knowing where to look for open access information and discovering the best approaches to searching for open access content.  This year’s Open Access Week has inspired us to host a variety of events and workshops that circle around the theme: Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge.

In light of that, tomorrow’s Open Access Week workshop titled Open Access Research Tools will help researchers discover open resources beyond Dartmouth’s subscription or purchased collections to support their research at home and beyond their affiliation with Dartmouth.  If you can’t make it to the workshop, take a look at these free browser extensions that can help you locate open access articles on and off campus.

  • SPARC Open Access Button: Developers say that the “project started when students got tired of hitting paywalls (About the SPARC OA Button).”  The OA Button works on any browser, and after users add the extension, they can click the OA button on any webpage to find out if an open version of an article exists.  If the article is openly available, the OA Button will retrieve the PDF.  If it is not available, the user is directed to a page that will allow them to contact the author and ask for a copy to use in their research. The OA button does not search sources such as ResearchGate,, or Sci-Hub where copies of articles are sometimes shared illegally.
  • Unpaywall: This extension, developed by Impactstory, works on Chrome and Firefox and functions a bit differently than the OA Button.  When users find an article online, Unpaywall will present either a closed-lock icon or an open-lock icon. This tells the user whether they will be able to download the PDF from that page. Unpaywall also does not search sources such as ResearchGate,, or Sci-Hub.
  • Kopernio:  This extension, developed by Web of Science, works on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.  If users register with Dartmouth credentials, Kopernio will go through the Library proxy when it encounters a paywall to check Dartmouth authentications and retrieve PDFs while searching off-campus (i.e. outside of your institution’s IP range).

Kopernio’s logo will appear on the  webpage while it searches for open access content. Like the above browser extensions, Kopernio also searches other open repositories such as and Dartmouth Digital Commons for openly available PDFs. When Kopernio can’t find content via Dartmouth resources or other open access resources, it will search for content via third party sources such as Google Scholar.  Users should be aware that this may lead to content posted on sources like ResearchGate where they may need to determine the copyright status before use.

This is just a snapshot of resources that can help researchers locate open access content.  For more information, join us for tomorrow’s workshop or contact me and set up an appointment!

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