Openly accessible Nobel laureates

** denna blogpost finns även på svenska **

Have you read anything by this year’s Nobel laureates? If you have not read Olga Tokarczuk or Peter Handke, you’re in good company. The good news is that – if you want – you can read other Nobel laureates today. Free of charge!


We have looked at two of this year’s Nobel laureates, one in medicine (William Kaelin) and one in economics (Abhijit Banerjee) and examined accessibility to their publications.

Most publications by Kaelin and Banerjee can be accessed immediately, for free, since they are available open access. At the library we often and gladly tell about open access – OA – and its importance in making research reachable to everyone.

We based the analysis on the publication lists the researchers themselves have posted at Harvard (William Kaelin) and MIT (Abhijit Banerjee) respectively. We examined which and how many publications we could access without using a library login. We installed a free plug-in – UnPaywall – which marks with a green padlock if an open access version of the article is available. (Clicking on the padlock takes you to the open access version of the publication!)


What did we find?

Nobel laureates do not necessarily have long publication lists, judging by these two. Kaelin has on average published 5 articles per year, Banerjee on average 3.2. Quantity is not necessarily quality!

The vast majority of their publications can be accessed without using library subscriptions. 81% of Kaelin’s publications can be accessed, 100% of Banerjee’s. These are exceptionally high numbers. By comparison, LiU is the best in Sweden in parallel publishing with 54.3 percent. However, we only looked at two Nobel laureates: maybe it is a coincidence that the proportion of OA is so high?

Not all OA is equal. Both researchers had created links to the publications from the publication lists. Most of Kaelin’s links went to PubMed and on to OA versions via the UnPaywall-green padlock. Banerjee’s links went directly to the publication, and in many cases to rough OA: the publications we accessed were copied from books, obviously downloaded via library subscriptions etc and there were no cover pages indicating publication venue. Maybe Banerjee acted in violation of the contracts he signed with the publishers?

What does your publication list in DiVA look like? At LiUB, we check if and when you can post your publications on DiVA without breaking your contracts with the publishers. If you have uploaded a full text in DiVA, we include a cover page stating where the text was originally published.

Admittedly, we have only looked at two Nobel laureates, but still: do as the Nobel laureates: publish with quality and with open access!


Written by Johanna Nählinder, co-ordinator of research support, LiUB.


How did we do it?

We chose the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and The Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, believing these prizes have candidates from disciplines with different publication patterns. We took the first laureate (alphabetical order) and googled the name + “publication list” and ended up on the publication lists at their respective HEI. The lists were copied down into Excel. We followed the links of the publications in the publication lists and noted which publications received a green padlock in UnPayWall and which had direct links.




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