The question of whether it’s ethical to charge US$40 for access to a single article in an academic journal is a heated one in Northern academia these days. I don’t particularly think it is, and it seems that the academic community is slowly taking some steps towards making more journal articles freely available online, but in the meantime there’s a lot of interesting content locked behind paywalls. In that spirit, here are some of the free resources I’ve found over the years related to the study of conflict and governance in low-income countries.
- For two days only, beginning February 17, Africa Intelligence is offering free access to more than 100,000 articles on its site. (Thanks to Ben Radley for the tip about this.)
- Stability is the gold standard for open-access journals in this field. All the content is free, peer-reviewed, and generally high quality. Scott Ross has also pointed me to Cultural Anthropology, another great open-access source.
- If you’re not already using Google Scholar for your research, you should be. One particularly nice feature of this service is that it includes links to free versions of articles when they’re available. Look at the link to the right of the title where it says [PDF].
- Several university presses offer open access to select journals. Check out the Directory of Open Access Journals, Wiley Open Access, and Ubiquity Press.
- In the US, many scholars upload either draft or finished versions of their papers to SSRN, where they’re often available to download for free. Working papers on development economics can also be found at BREAD.
- A lot of great content on conflict and governance is published by think tanks, which often post their discussion papers online for free. Check out the list of think tanks in the sidebar of this blog to get started.
- While not precisely academic, there are loads of high quality magazines discussing international affairs. Many of them also cite academic research. Aside from the high quality paywalled places like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs and The Economist, there are also some great free sites like Current Intelligence, E-International Relations, The Diplomat, World Politics Review, Le Monde Diplomatique, War on the Rocks, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. And of course check out the blogs on conflict and governance listed in the sidebar of this blog.
- If you’re willing to pay for specialized content, but can’t afford much of it, you might start with the Annual Review of Political Science, which had a good recent edition on civil war. The Annual Review journals cover every major academic discipline, and provide concise summaries of current research on some of the biggest questions in each field. It’s a great way to start exploring a new field, and catch up on the latest questions and trends in research.
- Finally, if you really need a specific article and can’t find a free version anywhere, it never hurts to email the authors directly to ask. Alternatively, ask a friend at a university if they can download a copy for you. If you live close to a public university, you may also be able to request temporary access to their library. (Public institutions seem more likely to offer this since they presumably have some obligations to residents of the state more broadly, even if they’re not enrolled. It’s been my experience that private universities often won’t let members of the public use their libraries.)
What other open-source resources do you use?