I am trying to figure out if a paper is open access or not. My university subscribes to many non-open access journals. Some journals offer mixed models where some papers are open access and others are not.

Some journal websites tell me I have accessed them through an institutional subscription, but if the journal uses a mixed model of open access, that does not mean all papers are behind a paywall. Is there a reliable way to tell if a paper is behind a paywall?

In particular I am interested in knowing if this Nature paper is behind a paywall.


2 Answers 2


To answer your particular question: When trying to read it from home, it tells me "To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right)." (costs: 30 $US).

You can easily check this by logging in from home, some public WiFi, or even with your mobile device (as long as it is not using WiFi in your university network to connect).


For a particular paper you can use the advice provided by OBu above, by trying to click the link over public wifi without logging into your universities library (or you can even use a public library computer or your smartphone)

However, if you want to discover if a particular journal (not article) is open access, mixed access or completely behind a paywall, you can't use this method. for mixed access journals/publishers, the easiest way to tell whether ALL of their articles are behind a paywall or only some is to read the section entitled something like "Instructions for authors". If open access is an option this will always be mentioned somewhere in the instructions for people submitting papers to the journal (because they can pay to make their article open access). The reason why you can't just look up a paper at home and look for "To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right)." is because this may only be the case for some of that journals articles.

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