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I recently received a rejection to a paper that I co-authored with my advisor. There was nothing wrong with the content but the reviewer believed it was too simple by the journal standards. My advisor's advisor who has more that 30 years expertise in the field has suggested to combine the paper with its sequel (which I was in the process of writing) and submit elsewhere.

While I am getting ready to do the same my advisor has asked to remove his name from the paper. This worries me a little. It makes me think that the paper isn't good enough and that is why my advisor want to disassociate himself from it.

Could there be any other reason why my advisor is doing so? Should I ask him?

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    Should I ask him? – Yes, this is the only way you get a definite answer. – Wrzlprmft Jan 4 '18 at 6:46
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    You might also want to ask if they'd recommend that you continue pursuing its publication. – Nat Jan 4 '18 at 7:13
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    It may be that, once the additional material is included, you advisor feels that his contribution equates to the role of advisor, rather than co-author. – Jessica B Jan 4 '18 at 7:47
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    At some point, you will likely have to defend this work in front of a committee that includes your advisor, and in a sense, you and your advisor both are standing behind the work at that point. So, if the advisor thinks the work is subpar, it would be strange for he/she to allow you to self-sabotage. Still, you should ask your advisor directly. – Chester Jan 4 '18 at 13:02
  • He's your advisor. If you can't ask your advisor a question about publication, you've got very big problems. – corsiKa Jan 5 '18 at 20:34
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Please ask your advisor politely. There can be numerous reasons he wanted to have his name removed:

  • The quality of your work is too bad and the paper might affect his reputation. I do not believe that this is the case. You worked together on the paper for the first submission where he agreed to be on author list. Why should he remove his name when there is better content, now?
  • No right of authorship: He may know that all of the work was done by you and he has too little contribution to the paper. So he is friendly by declining authorship of your work. This might be quite likely, at least this has happened for me. However, if this is the case, consider including him in the acknowledgements.
  • He wants you to become more independent. You may have worked rather closely on the first paper but now he wants you to take the lead and do most work on your own. This may be due to a limit of time on his side.

All in all, just ask him, you need this answer/feedback to continue your work.

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    I also had the second case - I included my PhD thesis director (as second author) in a paper which looked good (and ended up being very well received). He told me "I have all the publications I need, this is an excellent paper which will do you a lot of good. It would not be a good idea to dilute ownership". I of course added him in the acknowledgments, with a very warm thank you from me. – WoJ Jan 4 '18 at 11:46
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    “Dilute ownership” is such a toxic concept in science. It discourages collaboration and leads to envy and unhealthy competition. It also leads to people being cheated of their legitimate ownership. – Konrad Rudolph Jan 5 '18 at 13:48
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    @KonradRudolph, I think the opposite problem of people claiming (often by force in case there is a senior and a junior involved) undue credit is waaay larger. I have been fortunate enough to avoid that so far, but few of my colleagues have been as lucky. – Richard Hardy Jan 5 '18 at 17:03
  • @RichardHardy It’s not a competition though. I agree that senior authors accruing default authorship is a problem. Calling it “waaay larger” than junior researchers being pushed out of papers they did work for seems a questionable claim. Case in point: many (most?) biologists by default deny authorship. The burden of proof is on the contributor to argue that their contribution was intellectually irreplaceable and substantial. You get an “acknowledgement” instead. Ridiculous. See the toxic attitude on display here: academia.stackexchange.com/q/95586/348 – Konrad Rudolph Jan 5 '18 at 17:31
  • My reaction might have been too hasty, I guess. But I do not get your point here: Calling it “waaay larger” than junior researchers being pushed out of papers they did work for seems a questionable claim. I do not think I made a claim like that. In fact, I was aiming for the opposite: the junior researcher is being given the credit, not being pushed out (the advisor is giving the whole credit to the student). – Richard Hardy Jan 5 '18 at 20:41
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Yes, you should definitely ask him about the reason he decide to remove his name from the paper. Also I don't think it will be a huge impact on you or your paper if he still decides to get his name removed.

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Your advisor just wants to give you all the credits for the paper. It is your hard work after all. Since he is so shy and goodwilling, don't bother him with such an indiscreet question : don't ask him why. Just tell him thank you for so much support.

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    Welcome to Academia.SE. Unless you are in close contact with OP's advisor and know that your answer is indeed what OP's advisor thought, your answer is pure speculation presented as fact. Therefore, I downvoted your answer. Have a look at J-Kun's answer for a better solution that includes the same interpretation as yours. – Mark Jan 5 '18 at 17:07

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