I was looking through my reference manager and noticed a box in the 'Details' section which says 'Unpublished work, exclude from online catalogue'.

I was wondering if there was ever a case of a paper ending up publicly available by accident by this method, eg: if a reviewer accidentally made the pdf public through their reference manager.

  • Do you mean the Public Domain under US law (which can't happen without the copyright owner specifically releasing it or the period of protection running out), or do you mean "publicly available" without the legal connotation? The former can't really happen.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:37
  • I mean 'publicly available'.
    – poppyseeds
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 15:39
  • "probably". And that's kinda the full answer, unless somebody comes along who has personally made this mistake, in which case the answer could change to "yes". At the moment I don't feel this is a useful question for the site. If it isn't quite the question that you intended to ask, perhaps you could clarify?
    – Flyto
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 4:15

1 Answer 1


This has happened deliberately, where an informal reviewer made the work of an author public without their authorization. One well-known example is Wallace's twenty-page abstract of what would become known as the theory of Natural Selection, which was mailed to Darwin on June 18, 1858 with a note asking it to be forwarded to Charles Lyell. Instead, Darwin, Lyell and Hooker decided to publish Wallace and Darwin simultaneously so that Darwin wouldn't lose credit for the work he had already put in (and would put into The Origin of Species and other books). This paper was read out to the Linnean Society of London on July 1, not leaving enough time for a letter to be sent back to Wallace in Malaya to check if this was okay. It's pretty clear that Wallace did not intend this manuscript to be published (as per Prof. Charles H. Smith):

For his own part, Wallace later indicated in print on no fewer than four separate occasions that the manuscript he had sent to Darwin had not been intended as finished product: in an 1869 letter to the German biologist Adolf Bernhard Meyer (later reprinted in 1895 in Nature, Volume 52, on page 415), as a note added to the essay when it was reprinted in 1891 in Wallace's Natural Selection and Tropical Nature (on page 27), in the article 'The Dawn of a Great Discovery' in January 1903 (Black and White, Volume 25, on page 78), and in his autobiography My Life in 1905 (Volume 1, on page 363).

  • 3
    The question implies an online reference manager lime Mendeley.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 8:55

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