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Oct 25 / Clayton Hayes

oaDOI: A New Tool for Discovering OA Content

oaDOI, a new tool for locating the Open Access version of an article (when available) announced at the end of last week that they were live, and initial reactions to the service have been very positive. It was created by Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem, two of the co-founders of Impactstory, an altmetric tracking site, and uses a host of data sources to locate openly-accessible versions of articles based on their DOIs. This looks to be an incredibly powerful tool for researchers and librarians alike for a few different reasons. No tool is perfect, however, so I will outline the main pros and cons of oaDOI below:


First, and probably most obvious, is that oaDOI provides researchers with an easy way to determine if there is an openly accessible version of an article available. You paste the DOI on the page, perform your search, and oaDOI either provides you a link to an OA version of the article or lets you know it couldn’t find one. It crawls through well-known sources of OA content, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and the arXiv, but also checks institutional repositories (like our own DigitalCommons@WayneState or the University of Michigan’s Deep Blue) and other resources that might otherwise require piecemeal investigation.

oaDOI also provides an openly available API for their service, meaning that librarians (and others) can build tools that make use of oaDOI’s search system. This seems especially helpful when it comes to processing inter-library loan (ILL) requests. If an ILL request is made for an article that is openly available in some form, that open version can be provided to patrons immediately. Though ILL don’t necessarily take a long time to process, this can help to eliminate that wait time in certain situations.

oaDOI’s responsiveness to issues with the platform has also been impressive. Problems pointed out on twitter were acknowledge and worked on in short order, which is always a good sign when it comes to a new and exciting tool like this one.


There are two glaring issues with oaDOI, but both are actually issues with the systems upon which oaDOI are built.

First, oaDOI’s search keys off of DOIs, Digital Object Identifiers. These are URL-like strings of characters that are given to published articles in order to uniquely identify them. A more robust description of DOIs can be found in my previous post on the scholarly publisher Wiley, but what is important for this discussion is that not every published article has a DOI. Registering with CrossRef and creating DOIs does involve a fee and, as a result, many smaller and societal publishers opt not to use it. Any such articles will not be searchable in oaDOI.

Second, as oaDOI themselves will tell you, the vast majority of scholarly articles in existence are not available via any OA platform. Scholars, librarians, and others have been calling for a shift to OA for years now but there is still a great deal of ground to be covered. Until OA becomes the norm, a service like oaDOI will serve more often as an intermediate step in the process of searching for an article than as the finish line.

A final con is that oaDOI seems to have some problems functioning on mobile platforms. As their interface prohibits users from typing in a DOI and instead requires the DOI to be pasted, this doesn’t play all that well with (for example) the current version of iOS. As mentioned above, however, their responsiveness to issues has been great so far, and I expect this to be resolved in the near future.

For me and, I would imagine, for most, the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to oaDOI. That many articles do not have a DOI is not as problematic as it may seem since almost all large publishers do provide DOIs for their articles, and the OA movement continues to grow. I personally look forward to incorporating oaDOI into the library services that I work with, and am very excited that we now have such a powerful OA tool at our disposal.


  1. Clayton Hayes / Oct 27 2016

    Thank you for the comment, Ann, and I absolutely agree! And one big pro that I failed to mention is their open API which allows others (like me) to develop tools and widgets based on their service. In fact I just put together this LibGuides widget:, and I’m really excited to see what else we can do here at the libraries with oaDOI!

  2. ann viera / Oct 25 2016

    Agreed: that the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to oaDOI.

    Another pro: If one’s work can be found quickly with oaDOI by EVERYONE who needs access to it, then there will be less and less incentive for researchers to stick with journals that STILL aren’t assigning DOIs, haven’t heard of or aren’t adding ORCID to their workflows, in other words aren’t offering innovations on behalf of authors and readers. Discoverability and impact and innovation will begin to outweigh other considerations.

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