I was recently asked to join a manuscript which had been rejected by a journal. My revisions ended up removing 100% of another author's contributions (i.e. a different approach to the statistical analyses). In my field, this author's contributions were sufficient to warrant authorship - now that their contribution has been removed, should they still be included as an author? (To the extent that it matters, we're all perfectly happy to include them because of the work they put into the paper. I'm curious about the publishing ethics) Thanks!

Edit: I thought I'd add some more info based on comments/questions.

The reason the paper was originally rejected was due to the statistical analyses. I made two main changes to the statistical methods - one necessary (the reason it was originally rejected), and one optional:

1) (necessary) The experimental design required that a mixed-effects/multi-level model be used. In the original version of the paper, this was not done.

2) (optional) While this question could reasonably be addressed using frequentist methods, I thought a Bayesian method did a better job answering the question.

  • 3
    Presumably that author contributed something beyond merely writing, thus it is ethical to include them.
    – user2768
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:34
  • 1
    @user2768: According to the question, the author's contribution was removed, not just the words they wrote. Jan 12, 2018 at 15:57
  • 2
    O. R. Mapper is correct. The entirety of this author's contribution was removed.
    – TPM
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:00
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    @O.R.Mapper I think my point has been misunderstood. An author's written text can be removed from a manuscript, but their scientific contribution to the manuscript goes beyond any written text. For instance, the author most likely contributed to scientific discussion and provided inputs that improved results. Such contributions cannot be removed.
    – user2768
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:09
  • 3
    I think I should clarify further. This author's main written contribution was the statistical analyses/results sections. Their non-written contribution would have been the behind-the-scenes interpretation of results. Because we have decided to change the statistical approach, those behind-the-scenes interpretations would no longer be relevant.
    – TPM
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


Yes, I would say that he/she should still be included as an author. Despite this person's sections being eliminated, it is likely that they contributed intellectually in other ways throughout the project, through discussions, meetings, paper revisions, etc. Even in the rare occasion that this is not the case (individual responsible for that one analysis only), it is not his/her fault the contribution was removed, and one should respect the time spent.

  • 2
    "it is likely that they contributed intellectually in other ways throughout the project, through discussions, meetings, paper revisions" - how do you distinguish that from all the other people who may also have "contributed intellectually" in internal colloquia, group discussions and brainstorming, and everyday talks between colleagues whose desks are just a few rooms apart? Jan 13, 2018 at 13:45
  • 1
    They contributed into it getting rejected.........
    – Pieter B
    Jan 13, 2018 at 20:50

As a general rule in life, you accrue good karma if you err in favor of others. If you have to ask yourself whether someone should be included -- for example, because they participated in discussions that still inform the paper; or because you only removed the statistical analysis this person did because you needed to go through the exercise of doing the analysis first before you could realize that that's not the way to go -- then that person likely "contributed" to the paper. That's true even if the actual work that is still in the paper does not include what that person did.

In essence, the price to add someone as yet another author to a paper is relatively small. The price you pay by permanently alienating someone by being hard-nosed is significantly larger.

  • 2
    But you also accrue bad karma by including inappropriate authors, and the question is about the trade-off between these two competing factors. Jan 12, 2018 at 23:00
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    @DavidRicherby: To be honest, it seems like most of the kind of karma you lose by including authors incorrectly is StackExchange karma...
    – user541686
    Jan 13, 2018 at 1:05
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    @DavidRicherby: In appropriate authors are ones who have no connection to the work. This clearly does not seem to be the case here. Jan 13, 2018 at 2:30

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