How to find free or Open Access papers

There are various ways to legally access a publication that is not covered by the Library's subscriptions to journals.

Useful tools



This tool lists the freely accessible versions of scientific articles, whether they are on the publisher's website or in a disciplinary or institutional archive.

You may

Once the extension is installed, it displays a padlock-shaped button on the right of the page, when browsing on a publisher's site or in a database. If a freely accessible version is known or detected by Unpaywall, the button turns green.

By clicking on the green button, you are automatically redirected to the pdf of the free version that is hosted on one of the many platforms (directories or Open Access editors) existing throughout the world.

More details :

  • Google Scholar Button
    Available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari
    Googlescholarbutton.pngExtension that generates a button, in the top right of the browser's toolbar. By clicking on the button, a window with the Google Scholar search results appears.
    To get the most out of it, we recommend enabling UNIGE access in the button via the option "Library LinksParamètres Google Scholar.png
    • nice little extra: allows you, as in Google Scholar, to know how many times the article has been cited and helps you create a formatted reference to cite it very easily.


  • CORE Discovery Core_found_small.png
    Available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera
    Extension that generates a button on the right side of the web page.  By clicking on it, you are redirected to the freely accessible version found by the extension.
    • nice little extra: if the desired article is not available, the extension recommends other freely accessible articles on related topics


  • Open Access Button
    Available for Chrome and Firefox
    Works in a similar way to Unpaywall.
    Once installed, the extension generates a button, in the upper right-hand corner of the browser toolbar.
    The search for a freely accessible version only starts when you click on the button.
    • nice little extra: if there is no freely accessible version available, the tool promps you to explain why you are interested in this article and sends a request to the author on your behalf, inviting him to put his article online.

  • EndNote Click (formerly Kopernio)
    Available for Chrome and FirefoxKopernio_found_small.png
    Free browser extension, but requires you to create an account to download and configure it. With this account, you benefit from a "Locker", or online storage space, in which each PDF you have accessed through the extension is automatically stored.Capture_endnoteclick.PNG
    Generates the display of a button in the bottom left corner of your browser.
    • little drawback: free storage up to 100MB, but after that, premium version is required (to get 2'000MB). 

Ask your network

Other methods exist to obtain a document that you do not have access to via Library subscriptions:

  • Write directly to the author to request a copy of his/her document.
    Generally, you will find her/his email in the additional information about the author on the publisher's website.

  • Ask an author for his/her publication via academic social networks.
    Many authors have profiles on ResearchGate, or Mendeley for example. To be able to interact with other authors, you will need to create a profile for yourself.
    Be careful, the provision of the full text (editor's version) of a document on its profile is generally prohibited by the editors! However, you are perfectly entitled to provide your profile with the metadata of your publications with a link to them, preferably on the Archive ouverte UNIGE, and to personally transmit the PDFs to any person who requests them.

  • Use the hashtag #icanhazpdf on X (formerly Twitter)
    If you have an account on X, send a tweet with the link to the publication and this hashtag. Anyone with access to this content will be able to send you the PDF.


Access to publications

Can I access an article using the pay-per-view option?

The Library does not support the use of pay-per-view (one-time access fees for an article, usually limited in time by DRMs).


Is it legal to use Sci-Hub to get an article?

According to Swiss law, it is perfectly legal for a person to download pirated content (article, music, film...), as long as it remains for the person's private use.

However, the re-distribution or dissemination of such content is prohibited, as in other countries.


How do I access online resources from home?

If you are outside the University, you must install VPN (Virtual Private Network) software to be able to access the UNIGE's electronic resources as if you were on its premises.

You will find the VPN installation procedure according to your operating system (Linux, MacOS or Windows) on this page: (in French).

The installation and use of the VPN software require authentication through an ISIs account.

In case of problems with the installation or use of VPN, please contact the "Centre d'Accueil des Demandes" (CAD):


Understand the challenges involved

What does a "Big Deal" mean?

In the field of scientific publishing, a "Big Deal" is an all-or-nothing content delivery model. The publisher offers as the only option the subscription to all its journals, at a flat rate. Libraries cannot choose to subscribe only to titles that are of real interest to their communities. In some cases, subscription to individual titles is possible, but the prices charged are dissuasive. The "Big Deal" is the model used by Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley.


What is a "Read & Publish" license?

When a library subscribes to a subscription for one or more journals, it purchases read access to protected content for its users. The amount requested by the publisher for this "Read" component generally depends on the size of the institution and the potential number of readers. The institution's researchers, for their part, must pay Article processing charges (or APCs) for their articles to be published Open Access, often with the same publishers to which libraries subscribe, which can lead to "double dipping".

With "Read & Publish" licenses, institutions seek to combine subscription fees and expenses related to Open Access publishing (APCs) in a single invoice, in order to have a high level of cost control and a better view of payments to a publisher. In such a case, the total amount is calculated on the basis of the library's subscriptions and the number of publications issued by the institution.

In a later phase, these licenses will be transformed into "Publish & Read", i.e. the amount of the financial transaction will be fully calculated according to the number of publications, and all journals will be free to read.


What is "Double dipping"?

"Double dipping" occurs when the cost of publishing in Open Access in a journal is invoiced by a publisher who also sells the subscription to the same journal to the author's institution's library.

As a whole, the institution pays twice: once to publish in Open Access, and a second time to consult the article that is freely available.

In order to avoid this double payment, institutions try to combine journal subscriptions and publication fees in a single "Read & Publish" agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, they often refuse to cover the costs of publishing in Open Access in journals that remain available by subscription (so-called hybrid journals).


General questions

What can I do to support the University in its efforts to provide fairer access to scientific literature?

When choosing the journal in which to publish the results of his/her research, the researcher should take into account not only the prestige of the journal, but also the economic practices of its publisher, in order to favour journals that offer very wide access, ideally free of charge to the reader.

This is not always easy to do because there are sometimes still no credible alternatives to the main journals in some disciplines. It is nevertheless the author's duty to protect the interests of the academic community and society in general by ensuring that the right to republish or distribute the manuscript is preserved, for example after a short embargo period (6-12 months).

For more information, visit the pages dedicated to Open Access.


Who should I contact if I have any questions?

We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have on this topic at openaccess(at)