When we surveyed our audience in 2021 to ask why journalists don’t use academic research more often, 60% of journalists who responded cited academic journal paywalls as a barrier.
Some journalists might not realize that several of the world’s largest journal publishers will give them free, online access to thousands of journals and other research-related resources. They simply have to ask, or complete a short form to register for a special account.
Other publishers and research groups, including the National Academy of Sciences and National Bureau of Economic Research, also provide complimentary access.
To help journalists find them quickly, we’ve listed a number of these organizations below, along with information on how to set up free accounts. We’ll add to this list as we learn of other publications that let news media professionals bypass their paywalls.
If you’re interested in reading articles in journals that charge journalists to read or download them, keep in mind there are other ways to get free copies, legally. We outline them in our tip sheet, “8 Ways Journalists Can Access Academic Research for Free.”
To better understand the different types of academic research, check out our tip sheet, “White Papers, Working papers, Preprints, Journal Articles: What’s the Difference?”
American Economic Association
The American Economic Association gives journalists free, online access to its eight journals, including the American Economic Review, one of the country’s oldest and most respected journals in economics. To ask for press access, contact Doug Quint at 412-432-2301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bonus: After setting up a press account, journalists can sign up for customized email alerts according to topic and journal.
American Educational Research Association
The American Educational Research Association offers journalists complimentary digital subscriptions to its seven journals, including its flagship publication, the American Educational Research Journal. To set up an account, send an email to email@example.com.
Worth noting: Journalist subscribers can choose to receive email alerts when new studies are posted to a journal’s website, even before they appear in the print edition.
American Medical Association
The JAMA Network comprises 13 journals published by the American Medical Association. The Journal of the American Medical Association, commonly known as JAMA, is “the most widely circulated general medical journal in the world,” according to its website. Journalists can create a free account to access articles across the JAMA Network.
Don’t forget: Journalists must renew their accounts every year. If they don’t, they will lose access.
Elsevier, one of the world’s largest science publishers, offers journalists free access to a variety of research-related tools and databases. One is ScienceDirect, which Elsevier describes as its “leading platform offering the full-text scientific, technical and medical content of over 14 million publications from nearly 3,800 journals and more than 35,000 books from Elsevier, our imprints and our society partners: a quarter of the world’s published academic content.”
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request access.
Good to know: Elsevier distributes a biweekly newsletter for journalists called the Elsevier Research Selection to update them about new research.
Massachusetts Medical Society
The NEJM Group, a division of the Massachusetts Medical Society, publishes The New England Journal of Medicine, which describes itself as the “most widely read, cited, and influential general medical journal and website in the world.” Journalists can apply for one of two levels of free access — “advance” access and “regular” access.
With advance access, journalists can read the newest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, published weekly, in advance. They also can read past issues online. To qualify, journalists must produce news content on a daily or weekly basis and agree to the publication’s embargo policy in writing. Use this link to apply.
With regular access, journalists can read the journal’s current and past issues. To qualify, journalists must produce content regularly for a bi-monthly, monthly or quarterly publication. Use this link to apply.
National Academy of Sciences
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, often referred to as PNAS, is one of the most prestigious general-science journals. To request a free online subscription, contact the PNAS News Office.
Worth mentioning: Journalists can apply for access to embargoed PNAS materials through the EurekAlert! website.
National Bureau of Economic Research
Everyone gets to read and download up to three working papers a year from the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website. Journalists must register to qualify for unlimited downloads. Fill out this form to request access.
Remember: NBER studies have not been peer reviewed. The organization circulates working papers for comments and discussion, and many are eventually published in academic journals.
Another of the world’s largest journal publishers, Sage Journals publishes more than 1,100 academic journals focusing on disciplines such as gender studies, media studies, urban planning, social work and engineering. Ask about free access to journal articles by contacting Sage’s communications team at email@example.com.
Keep in mind: Sage publishes Sage Open, which is an open access “mega-journal” — a journal that publishes hundreds to thousands of studies per year and makes them available for free to anyone.
Springer Nature Group
The Springer Nature Group provides journalists with free online access to more than 3,000 journals published on Springer Link and nature.com, which cover research disciplines such as science, technology, medicine and the social sciences. To register for a free account, complete this form.
Important to know: Journalists need to submit documents as part of the registration process, including an email from an editor confirming their status as a journalist. Once registered, they do not have to re-register, provided their work email address remains in the same.
Taylor & Francis
Taylor & Francis, another world leader in academic publishing, publishes more than 2,700 journals featuring research on public health, education, the environment, technology and other fields. Journalists can apply for a digital Press Pass, which lets them access 50 online articles for free. Sign up for a Press Pass.
Note: Besides academic articles, journalists can apply for free access to other types of research content: books and embargoed books, press releases and academic articles.