What is an appropriate response to a request for a copy of a closed-access paper on academia.edu?

For the paper in question, I only provide a link (doi) to the publisher's site on my academia.edu profile, since uploading an actual paper would be illegal. Academia.edu allows other users to request such papers, which sends an auto-generated email to me informing me that someone would like a copy of my paper - if I reply, the copy would be sent to this person only.

Here are my options, the way I see them:

  1. Do nothing (ignore/reject the request) - as much as I don't like publicly-funded research being hidden behind a paywall, people requesting the paper are all associated with universities that should be able to provide them with access to the journal that hosts it. On the other hand, many labs make copies of their published papers available on their sites, even if they are not open access, so this seems to indicate some other aspects of academic paper-sharing culture. Besides, all parties use a full name, and I don't want to come off as inaccessible or unresponsive.

  2. Send the person a copy. I don't know if this would be the right thing to do, but then again I have no experience with such situations.

I'm strongly leaning towards the first option - ideally, I would provide the recipient with an explanation on how to access the paper legally and explain why I cannot provide him with a copy, but I don't know if the message would even make it across given the auto-generated nature of the inquiry.

As a side note, while looking for an answer to this question, I learned that academia.edu has brutal terms of service and am in the process of closing the account anyway, but in the meantime I'd still like to handle this situation.

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    I'd ignore everything coming from ResearchGate, Academia.edu, and other questionable web sites. If they really want the paper, they will write an email. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


I'd send the article.

I am not a lawyer. However, it's quite common for people to send me e-mail messages requesting reprints of my papers. The Academia.edu and ResearchGate websites have mechanisms to request a reprint of closed-access papers for similar reasons.

Now I think it depends a bit on the journal. The chemistry (ACS) journals that I tend to publish in, allow 50 reprints in the first year, and unlimited reprints after that point. So far, I haven't run into trouble with exceeding 50 requests for a paper in the first year. I'm happy to e-mail PDF reprints or handle them - in my case through ResearchGate.

Your mileage may vary (i.e., depending on the journal). Personally, if the journal expressly forbids sending such reprints, I'd find a different journal for my work.

In my opinion, blocking such infrequent requests for reprints impedes scholarly work.

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    I should point out that in the unlikely case of exceeding 50 reprint requests in the first year, I'd probably send the un-formatted manuscript with a note saying that I've exceeded the reprint limit for the year. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 17:24
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    Yes, of course you are permitted to send a copy of the article, but doing that would just help to make Academia.edu, ResearchGate, etc., look like a useful service, and it would encourage people to keep using them. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 19:46

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