Living Knowledge blog

1 posts from July 2018

11 July 2018

British Library partners with Impactstory for open access discovery


The British Library exists to provide access to the world’s knowledge for everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment. But what does this mean in a publishing environment where increasingly more and more scholarly work is being published open access? As funders, researchers and universities realise that research must reach beyond academia, more research is now made publicly accessible. However, access to information is only half the battle. Before we can all benefit from the accessibility of this research, we first need to find it.

One of the organisations working to advance open access discovery is Impactstory, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the impact and openness of science. They are most well-known for their Unpaywall service and related products. Unpaywall, launched late 2016, is a database of over 20 million open access articles. Unpaywall also offers a free browser extension and a free API that is used in thousands of academic libraries and handles over 1.5 million unique uses daily. Impactstory are now turning their attention to an exciting new service: a free scholarly search engine for everyone.

This project is funded by an $850,000 grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. The search engine will be built on the Unpaywall index and will be targeted at those outside of academia who will have different user needs to those working in research institutions. One of the main arguments for open access is that research will have a broader impact if it is able to reach beyond academia, to include citizen researchers, policy makers, charities, businesses, media, schools and anyone else with a thirst for knowledge. By creating a search interface that is targeted at the general public, Impactstory plan to focus on providing context to the scholarly content through tools powered by artificial intelligence.

Opening up knowledge for the widest reuse is at the heart of the British Library mission. In an increasingly open research environment this requires a new focus on supporting the use of relevant content beyond our local collections and the physical walls of our buildings. The Library’s service strategy for research reflects the challenges around discovery and recognises that information is increasingly discovered beyond traditional library catalogues. Therefore it is important for libraries to be actively involved in the discovery space so that we understand the algorithms that are shaping our engagement with knowledge.

The British Library is committed to adapting to the rapidly changing information environment through pursuing innovative approaches to information access. Importantly, we acknowledge that collaboration is key, knowing that we can accomplish more together than we can by ourselves. These ideals are encapsulated through this new partnership with Impactstory and we look forward to supporting this exciting initiative.

A beta version of the search engine will be launched in autumn and will include support for multiple languages, an open API, and integrated altmetrics. Early adopters can sign up for advance access at

Any requests for information can be sent to

Torsten Reimer

Head of Research Services