Sources of open access scientific papers

We are all used to open access to information on the Internet, but when it comes to scientific papers, for most people a barrier comes down. However it is possible to find publicly accessible copies of scientific papers available right now.

I’m building up a list of sites as I find them, as I will use them in my blogging. I’m focussing on Geosciences but many sites are not subject specific. Please make use and if you know of any others, let me know via the comments. I’ll add them to the main text over time.

Caveats – A lot of these sites don’t have a massive amount of content. Some list papers but have no publicly available copy. Often the copies are ‘pre-publication drafts’ with odd formatting. All sites have terms of use that you probably read, definitely if you want to do anything but read them.

Usage – Most of these are repositories for organisations. If the primary author of a paper you know of is at one of these institutions then its worth a look. At least some of them are Google searched, in which case that is your best route if you are looking for a specific paper. Either way, don’t assume a recent paper can only be found via the journal.

In descending order of usefullness: is a repository for papers produced by UK government agencies, for my purposes the British Geological Survey and British Antarctic Survey. Coverage sketchy before 2010 but good thereafter. All of the GSA’s “GSA Today” are available online and they are keen for bloggers to refer to them.

Open source journals may be the future? EGU has a selection: (thanks Bill).  The Solid Earth journal is the one that most caught my eye. is a repository for the UK Open University. Seems to list all papers since 2009 and about 30-40% have text. MIT seems to have very good coverage. is pretty good coverage.

Poikiloblastic in the comments has useful stuff about planetary science articles and lists of Open Access Journals.

John Stevenson, aka volcan01010 my blog-neighbour, points me to which is a rather smart idea. It is a volcanology literature database that allows you to contact the author for a reprint. appears to be just MSc/PhD theses at Wits University in South Africa.  only papers by John Platt, but each one a gem! is a repository for Oxford University and the same for Cambridge. Coverage of geoscience is pretty poor. Oxford is apparently digitising all of its theses, even the old paper ones, which is rather pleasing to me since I wrote one of them.


Categories: open access

Comments (8)

  1. Many authors (like J Platt) provide copies of papers for download from their academic website. Usually worth a look, at least. – Not sure if it’s actually open-access, but I think it does provide many research articles – not just abstracts – for free. I use it mainly for classic planetary science conference proceedings.

    Other potential resources (that I have never consulted): – Directory of Open Access Journals

  2. Oliver says:

    A German Open Access Repository for Geosciences:

  3. eleuterio alferez says:

    this is great…it will help and upgrade knowledge of every geologists in the world. commendable undertakings. congratulation simon.

  4. Kea Giles says:

    Hey, thanks for putting GSA Today on the list!

  5. Lauren says:

    I definitely acknowledged the importance of using information from published essays when I worked on my first scientific paper regarding the Salton Sea. I was able to access published papers through a database and subscriptions that my university paid for. The information that I found through the database was much more precise than what I found through general websites, and more “trustworthy.” Yes, I support open access.

  6. For geologic literature about (or in some cases merely relevant to) Washington State, the Washington State Geologic Survey maintains an extensive, searchable online bibliography at Many (but by no means all) entries include hyperlinks for download access. In addition, all publications of the Washingotn State are available as free download via hyperlinks at
    Please consider including these links in your compilation of Sources of open access scientific papers.

    Thanks for doing this!

    Michael Polenz
    Natural Resources Scientist 3,
    Washington State Department of Natural Resources,
    Olympia, Washington, USA

  7. Bill says:

    The European Geophysical Union has a series of peer-reviewed open-access journals.
    The full articles are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

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