How does your non-profit org get access to academic journals?
August 19, 2016 12:04 PM   Subscribe

We're growing (yay!) but we need a more regular way for about twenty people to access (mostly hard science) academic peer-reviewed journals. Do you and your org have subscriptions you're really satisfied with?

I work in a small scientific department in an otherwise large U.S.-based non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. I say small, but we've grown tremendously in the last five years. We're three times as many staff as we were when I joined, covering four continents, and that's wonderful.

Until now, we've each been using our legacy academic access to University library collections to get access to papers, journals, etc. This worked pretty well until recently. A lot of new hires don't have academic access, and some of our legacy access accounts are going away or changing in limiting ways.

We'd like to pitch to our larger org that we need a centralized kind of access to peer-reviewed journals. We're not coming up with great options, though. Web of Science, for instance, is stunningly expensive.

So what do you good folks use for journal access?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Web of Science, for instance, is stunningly expensive.

For this reason, I strongly recommend Sci-Hub [more information] as both a solution and a protest vote.

Related recent FPP.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:14 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

One avenue to explore is to work with your Development/Advancement group to see if you can negotiate access to journal databases via a partner membership at a local university library.
posted by Miko at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Interesting tip re: Web of Science here, posted by one Brett Williams (note: two year old discussion):

"There is no typical price. The information industry has a product sold by sales staff, and depending on other factors the price can range from 'free' to a sliding scale based on the number of students attending the institution. It will depend on if it's being sold by a reseller or directly.

"The best choice.. Contact two or three resellers, the company and bargain."

posted by Quisp Lover at 1:22 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Web of Science doesn't actually include the text of the articles; it's just a finding aid. For finding articles Google Scholar does a pretty good job for free. Getting access to the articles is also stunningly expensive, but less so than paying for Web of Science *and* access to the articles.

If you're located near a university, often you can get access to articles if you visit in person. Please contact the library and ask what their rules are for walk in use though first.
posted by kbuxton at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Depending on your nonprofit's work, you may be able to work with a nearby university to get key staff designated as adjunct faculty in exchange for some service.

Also, SciHub.
posted by OrangeVelour at 1:39 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

For actual journal access, there really isn't a good legal solution. My wife works for a billion-dollar biotech company, and their solution for articles that aren't in pubmed central is to have an admin drive to the local research university once a week to make photocopies.
posted by rockindata at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For actual journal access, there really isn't a good legal solution.

Librarian here, everyone is right. Your absolute best bet is to have physical access to a library where you can usually get this sort of thing easily and legally. Have someone on staff whose job it is to fulfill information requests and it might be cheaper than any database access.

Quasi legal options, depending on the volume you are talking about

- SciHub
- Deal with a local academic who can sort of "grey ILL" (interlibrary loan) this stuff for you
- icanhazpdf
- Wikipedians get some levels of access to some databases
- Negotiating rates from the country with the lowest standard of living.

Does your organization have a librarian? There may be ways you can create your own library and do some resource-sharing level stuff with other libraries. If nothing else, having the org's "librarian" be the centralized place for information requests willmake whatever system you wind up with go more smoothly.

Also think about state libraries. Some states offer some access to basically anyone in the state and there may be ways to make that work. Database vendors have really been trying to close down options and they're seeing their revenue models evaporate. Please let us know what you wind up doing.
posted by jessamyn at 2:20 PM on August 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

I spoke to someone a while ago who said (slightly facetiously) that this was the primary reason that their organisation employed student interns.
posted by Jabberwocky at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Another librarian here. Depending on your budget and the amount of articles you want access to, you might consider purchasing them individually from the publisher as you need them. The cost of this is not cheap, but it is probably cheaper than a subscription package you would be able to get from a vendor (again, depending on the amount of articles you're talking about). Be wary of the "semi" legal things like icanhazpdf and scihub, as the jury is out on the full legal ramifications of participating in this on behalf of a formal organization.

You could see if there are any local consortia that you could get in on, if there are similar organizations in your area. That is one way to bring subscription costs down.
posted by LKWorking at 2:29 PM on August 19, 2016

Another idea for fairly small volumes: contact corresponding authors directly and politely ask for a re-print pdf, as you are very interested in their work.

I have handed out a dozen or so PDFs this way. The reason is usually poor person in poor country, but I think non-profit with charitable motives would also work most of the time.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:08 PM on August 19, 2016

Another semi-legal option is to join researchgate. It depends on the field, but it is generally worth a shot to check if someone has uploaded the pdf you are looking for.
posted by rockindata at 3:51 PM on August 19, 2016

You could see if a local university would make some/key/all staff into visiting scholars for a small ($500/person) fee. You'd need friendly relations with a department.
posted by Toddles at 10:06 PM on August 19, 2016

We have a PhD candidate on staff. Thankfully.
A few of my NFPs in similar areas were talking about co-renting a Bloomberg terminal. Could that approach work?
Finally, it's a bit slow but emailing the authors asking for a copy usually works.
posted by 8k at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2016

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