The Open Access Button is a web and mobile app that helps students, researchers, patients and the public get access to academic research.
In 2013 two undergraduate students in the United Kingdom, and a team of volunteer developers first led the development Open Access Button project. Now, we’ve grown to a team of over a dozen international students who are committed to helping people gain access to research and advocate for open access, which is the free access and re-use of scholarly research.
People use research articles to learn about the world around them and advance scientific understanding. However, most people are unable to access research because individual articles can cost more than $40. Cost barriers have lead to very real deficits in scientific knowledge, sometimes with extreme consequences. In fact, a New York Times article written by a team leading Liberia’s Ebola recovery plan underscores the importance of open access publishing. The team found a paper published in 1982 that first warned Liberia was at risk for an Ebola epidemic, but because the findings were locked behind a pay wall, national researchers were likely unable to access this potentially life-saving information. Open access can solve problems like making life-saving information publicly available, to helping a student get research for their term paper. The Open Access Button provides users with a quicker connection to open research than if they searched independently.
In November 2013 we launched our Beta and recorded more than 12,000 instances of people without access to research articles. Next, we expanded the Open Access Button by launching a new website, adding new features such as the wish list to provide users with the research they need, and developing a mobile app through funding from the JISC Summer of Student Innovation in 2014. An international team of students running off volunteer time and small grants led the mobile app development. Now we’re seeking to increase the benefits of the Open Access Button by adding a frequently requested feature to automatically email an author when a copy of the research isn’t publicly available. But to achieve this, we need your help.
We’re up for £20,000 (US $31,000) in funding from the JISC Supporting Startup Projects. This funding would be allocated to developing the feature allowing users to generate automatic emails asking an author to make their paper available through an Open Access repository.
Emailing authors directly has long been used as a tactic to request copies of papers behind pay walls. This new feature will allow users to engage with authors in a familiar way, increase compliance while not duplicating university services, and provide simple advice to authors on how to archive their research in existing repositories. If the article was then archived in a repository then the user who requested the paper would be informed. Also, this feature allows us to promote historical archiving of previously published research, which extends past policy changes that only affect newly published articles.
JISC funding will primarily provide development and testing of the new feature, as well as travel and promotional expenses to ensure consultation, feedback and promotion. Additional support during the startup period will assist long term planning to embed within universities and become sustainable. We also hope to attract more users to the Open Access Button with this new feature. The qualitative and quantitative data generated can support efforts by open access advocates to improve the scholarly publishing system in the future.
We call on PLOS readers and researchers to help us expand our open access advocacy and promote access to all research both historical and recent. Visit our JISC Supporting Startup Projects page to support the Open Access Button. Voting ends on Monday, 25 May.
To get your own Open Access Button for free or to find out more please visit www.openaccessbutton.org. Tweet @OA_Button or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or would like to collaborate.