A couple of tips when requesting papers

As search algorithms are getting better and better, some scientific papers are getting more difficult to access. Journal subscriptions are expensive and many institutions are foregoing all but the highest impact journals. For those working outside of academia, only open access journals are a viable option. I’m fortunate that my university subscribes to most scientific journals, which means that many of my colleagues will drop me an e-mail, tweet, or phone call along the lines of “Hey, I don’t have access to this article. Can you send me a copy?”

The answer is, without hesitation, always yes. Science can only progress when we have access to the literature. At this point, I’m fielding 4 or 5 paper requests per week, and I imagine many other scientists are doing the same. Most of the time the requests are simple and straight forward. Sometimes they’re so cryptic that it takes another round of e-mails before I even know it’s a paper request. I thought it would be helpful to compile a short list of advice for how to make it all just a little easier.

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