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I came across a paper with an interesting title/abstract which was published in a rank-A journal. However, the article is missing from all online listings (Project Euclid, ScienceDirect, etc.) and is also missing from the journal's website. The article has volume, issue, and page numbers xy (listed as such on arxiv). The journal website and other online listings have the previous articles (up to page number x–1) and the following articles (from page number y+1), with the article in question just being omitted.

I contacted the journal about accessing the article a couple of weeks ago¹, but still haven't received a reply.

¹ A formal version of "Hey, I tried to access [this paper], but it wasn't available [here] or on your website. Is it possible to access this paper electronically?"

The article itself is posted on arxiv and is listed as a publication on the authors's professional websites.

I am very much interested in the result, but I am not familiar enough with the methods in the paper and it would take me a lot of time reading and working through the details of the paper. Time that would be better spent if the paper was withdrawn for containing errors. I don't quite feel comfortable contacting the authors blindly, asking if their paper contains an error. I can't really use "Please send me a version of your paper" as an excuse, because the paper is published on the arxiv.

What should one do in such a situation? In particular,

  1. Are papers sometimes withdrawn "without comment"?
  2. Do publishers usually reply to requests by email?
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6  
Have you tried looking at retractionwatch.com just in case? – Emilie Mar 16 at 12:51
11  
@Earthliŋ Can you walk into a physical library that has a printed version of the journal? Perhaps it was retracted prior to publication but after the page numbers have been assigned. I guess that in any case, finding out if it actually ever appeared in the journal would be good. – DCTLib Mar 16 at 13:44
5  
@DCTLib is right; don't drive, ask a copy by interlibrary loans (or contact the library by phone or e-mail, but then you may not get an answer). Then you'll have a librarian try to copy the given pages, and you will know if they exist. – Benoît Kloeckner Mar 16 at 14:51
12  
Gosh, this is a weird case. The paper is indexed by MathSciNet (22 citations) and Zentralblatt (43 citations); there are multiple citations from 2015. (This is a lot of citations for a math paper.) Thus the "two bibles" of mathematical indexing regard the article as having appeared in the journal, but the journal itself keeps no record of it! This is definitely worth following up on. Did you email the editor-in-chief of the journal? More than once?? – Pete L. Clark Mar 16 at 15:33
8  
@PeteL.Clark I contacted the director of the publishing company and he made the article available online. – Earthliŋ Mar 16 at 20:49
up vote 34 down vote accepted

After forwarding my email to the director of the publishing company, he put the paper online, so it appears that this was an administrative issue. I thank everyone for their input and apologise for the noise.

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10  
quite anti-climatic :) – beta Mar 17 at 4:21
    
@beta Much ado about nothing, but at least it's a happy end =) – Earthliŋ Mar 17 at 8:25
2  
Good to see a nice simple solution here, for once :-) – Andrew Mar 17 at 11:28
1  
I guess we forgot that mistakes happen, and are sometimes followed by another mistake (not answering the query quick enough that it does not leak). – Benoît Kloeckner Mar 17 at 13:26

Are you sure that the paper has been published, or is it rather accepted in the journal?

I see no situation that would make a paper disappear from the publisher's website. Even in case of fraud, papers are still mentioned, but are added a retraction notice explaining why the paper has been retracted. This is so to ensure the integrity of the research record, and is taken very seriously.

If the paper is only accepted/to appear, then what you write makes sense. It happens that papers wait up to years between acceptance and publication. Many journal in this situation of heavy backlog have a list of papers to appear, which enables one at least to check the author's claim

Added in edit: the question now makes it clear the second scenario is not what is happening, but a comment by DCTLib proposed a possible explanation for the situation. During the process of editing a volume, journal attribute pages and format papers accordingly. If after that stage but before actual printing and online posting, something wrong about the paper is detected, it could a priori happen that the publisher decides not to publish the paper but does not change the pages numbers of the remaining article to avoid reformating. That would still be weird and quite unheard of, but it does seem possible. Then the paper would not formally have been published, and the claim by the author would be wrong. Of course, that says little about why the paper was not published.

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2  
Yes, the paper was published, with page numbers, 47–95, say. The journal lists all articles up to page 46, and all articles after page 96. The paper I looking for is just missing. – Earthliŋ Mar 16 at 13:10
2  
@Earthliŋ: this is weird. I would be dubious of any journal doing that, but that might be a temporary problem of some sort (though I cannot imagine which). Would you mind pointing to the website (I would understand a yes)? – Benoît Kloeckner Mar 16 at 13:12
1  
Ahem, well, I thought I'd ask first without mentioning names. Should I? Like I said, being a "rank-A" journal, I'm not really doubting the integrity of the journal. – Earthliŋ Mar 16 at 13:26
4  
@Earthliŋ This is weird. The author's website cites those journal pages, as if it had been published, and includes a link to the article. Since the journal hasn't responded, have you tried contacting the author? Not to ask whether his paper has an error, but just to see whether the paper was, in fact, published, and mention the reason you're asking is that it's missing from the publisher's website copy of that issue. – shoover Mar 16 at 15:27
2  
Is it possible that they've (relatively speaking) "only just" received notice of a [possible] problem and have removed the article while they investigate but not yet got to the point of saying "This paper has been removed because..."? – TripeHound Mar 16 at 17:28

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