Open Access Button

About this idea

The Open Access Button is an app to help students, researchers, patients and the public get access to academic research. People use research articles to learn, advance scientific understanding, understand the world around them, and fuel the economy. However, most are priced out of access to research as one article can cost over £30, even though much research is publicly funded.

The solution to this problem is Open Access: free online access to research articles with full reuse rights. By widely adopting this method of publishing, we can establish a fair and just research system. In the past 10 years huge progress has been made towards this goal, but we must do more, and students are now at the heart of the movement.

Our app is developed by students and early career researchers who know first hand the impact paywalls can have on university education and research.

Achievements so far

Since the launch of our Beta in November 2013, the Open Access Button has helped connect users with closed research articles and made visible users’ collisions with paywalls. The Open Access Button has recorded more than 12,000 instances of people without access to research articles. Our work has been covered in the Guardian, Venture Beat, Scientific American and supported by the community including by Nobel laureates, leading policy makers and innovators. In 2014 we participated in the JISC Summer of Student Innovation to build mobile versions of the tool.

Future expansion: emailing the authors

Emailing authors directly has long been used as a tactic to request copies of papers behind paywalls. Even if successful, this exchange only benefits the individual. One major expansion in 2015 funded by JISC would be a much requested feature allowing users to generate automatic emails asking an author to make their paper available through a repository.

Benefits of this approach include:

Authors are engaged in a familiar way by the individual user’s request and story.

Our emails will provide simple advice for authors to deposit articles in existing repositories, increasing compliance while not duplicating university services.

If the article is deposited, the individual user is made aware, and the article is available freely for anyone searching in future.

Unlike policy changes that only affect newly written articles, we will be promoting historical archiving of previously published research.

Using this feature, we also hope to attract more users to the Open Access Button. The qualitative and quantitative data generated can support efforts by Open Access advocates to improve the scholarly publishing system in the future.

JISC funding will primarily provide for 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.


University based grassroots testing and feedback of beta ‘email author’ feature (September - October 2015)

Release of new ‘email author’ feature live on the Open Access Button apps during Open Access Week (October 2015)

People involved

Team leaders David Carroll, Joseph McArthur and Georgina Taylor will supervise the project with support from the international volunteer team and development partners Cottage Labs. Crucial to this process will be the voices of UK universities and repositories as well as consultation with the broader Open Access community and users.


We hope you support our project. Find out more at, tweet @OA_Button or email