I was asked to review a technical paper for a journal at a large commercial publisher. The paper extends on another publication that is cited several times throughout the document. The cited paper was published at the same publisher but in a different journal. I work for an R&D department in a private company. We do not have a subscription with the publisher and no budget to buy articles (at least not in cases like this). I.e., I cannot access the cited paper. Would it be acceptable to ask the editor of the journal I review for to provide me with the cited paper?

Additional Information: The review process is double blind, so I do not know if the cited paper and the paper I'm reviewing are from the same authors. Given the specific topic, it seems likely to me. This is why I did not ask the authors for a copy. I was also unable to find a free version of the paper online.

Outcome: I asked the editor for the paper and received a copy within hours. Along with ads for a subscription of that journal.

  • 14
    If you can't get it from the publisher, consider asking the authors for a copy. And look on ArXiv, if the paper is in a field that uses that. May 29, 2019 at 17:02
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    If you can't get it from the publisher, consider declining to review the new paper. You're already donating your work for their profit, and if they're unwilling to meet your expenses for that job, then they do not deserve that donation. They have a professional obligation to provide any papers that are necessary for the review and which you do not already have access to, regardless of whether it's from the same publisher or not.
    – E.P.
    May 30, 2019 at 7:24
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    @AndreyR, I don't think that's necessarily true--or fair to expect. At one extreme, consider a "Comment on..." or "Matters arising..." article. It should summarize the paper in question, but that summary may be biased towards whatever point the new article is making, and reviewers ought to check/comment on any bias. Even run-of-the-mill 'follow-up' articles can only be self-contained via citations: no journal will give you enough space to rehash the history of an entire field or explain why certain factors matter (or not).
    – Matt
    May 30, 2019 at 14:49
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    @AndreyR: All research builds on earlier work; in my experience (in mathematics), it’s very rare for a paper to be so self-contained that I can read it without looking up some bits of background in its reference, unless it’s on a topic extremely close to my own work (e.g. my co-authors’ or students’ papers). It’s usually impossible to make a research paper that self-contained without turning it into a full textbook.
    – PLL
    May 31, 2019 at 13:15
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    At some publishers, you get time-limited access for more of their services at the moment you register in their system as a reviewer for a paper. May 31, 2019 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can. Chances are they'll be willing to give it to you.

See also: Can a referee request a paper referenced in the reviewed paper?, except your situation is simpler because the desk editor of the journal can probably already access the paper and won't have to request it.

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