You are a citizen, maybe a journalist or a scientist and you want to verify or simply access scientific information that has been published in a scientific journal. You don’t want to pay the $30 you are asked online for it (or just cannot). So what can you do?
You don’t understand why you have to pay for this 10-pages publication in the first place, when we have already paid 4 times for it. You have paid with your taxes the scientists who produced the work, and other scientists to edit and peer-review it for free in the journal, universities have paid (through your taxes) huge money to the journal (subscriptions), and scientists have often also paid the journal for publishing the paper (with public money).
But you know that I won’t talk to you about this problem if I did not have (temporary) solutions. Here are three, that scientists use a lot, when they have to:
1) You can get the article legally from the authors
Almost all articles (46 millions) are available from Sci-Hub (alternative link), a website that uses proxies to access the papers for free (thanks to reseachers donating access codes).
Before going through proxies, Sci-hub searches and stores in Library Genesis (LibGen), a pirate search portal for downloading books, which has a very large section for scientific papers. Given the domain names are regularly DNS-disabled in occidental countries, LibGen offers an .onion address (scihub22266oqcxt.onion) to be always accessible through Tor (Tor can pretend you are requesting the server from outside your country). Be aware that it is at your own (close-to-zero) risks: I cannot recommend you an illegal solution, but it is there.
3) Find it on repositories or networking websites
Researchers often post their work for free before publication in repositories, like arXiv (Physics, Maths, Computer science), bioRxiv (Biology), PeerJ PrePrints (Biology/Medecine), figShare (all disciplines), the French HAL* (all) and many others all here.
You can search all of them at once through aggregators like BASE or CORE (this last one, from my experience, does not work well). Most universities recommand to submit non-open-access articles to those repositories (this is called green open access).
Finally, Researchgate, or Academia.edu allow the authors to share their work with other academics: however, you will need to create an account with an academic email.
Scientists are fighting right now to change this absolutely ridiculous situation of non-access: I cannot even access my own publications in final format for free! The situation is so bad that many poor countries just cannot produce or access research because they cannot afford to pay such fees. Even the richest University of the world (Harvard) declared they cannot afford to pay the subscriptions anymore.
Some may think that sharing researcher’s publications is hurting them because it decreases their intellectual property revenues. This is totally wrong because no researcher has ever been paid in any way (to my knowledge) for his published articles. We are basically working for free for publisher groups that make billions of dollars (Elsevier’s 2014 revenue is $8.9 billion in 2013).
Scientists are so strongly convinced that public science is done for the common well-being and should always be freely accessible, that the situation cannot stay the way it is now. We may have a long lag before a permanent solution though, and non-scientists may not be aware of it when it finally comes. This is why I have shared those temporary solutions with you today.
Wikipedia's Serials crisis about the large price increase of publishers having monopolies.
How Harvard's statement, that they cannot pay the subscriptions pushed us a little toward open-access but has not solved the problem yet.
6 myths about open access: a mine of information
The list of journals allowing green open access (parallel repositories)
Learn more about the problematics of open access and open science from the non-profit HackYourPhd.org
All sources are incorporated in links in the text.
*Thanks to Guillaume Dumas for the info