I work in computer science. I wrote few simulation programs, designed the experiment for a chemistry work with my colleague. I have no idea about the principal aim of the research; I was only involved with simulations and computer experiments. Also, I know that this publication (paper) will not advance my career option.

Recently, I have been offered to become a co-author of the article about the analysis of the results of my experiments. I understand that quantum of my contribution is reasonable; I am wishing not to co-author the work.

How to say politely reject this co-authorship request?

Note: There was no discussion related to co-authorship before I started writing the computer experiments.

Related, but very different questions:

  • 4
    It puzzles me slightly why you would reject this request. Are there further (time, money, ???) costs to coauthorship? The most polite ways to reject the request would mention these drawbacks. Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 17:58
  • 15
    I know that this publication (paper) will not advance my career option – Unless you have tenure or similar or you are convinced that the publication is bogus, I doubt that such a publication exists.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 18:00
  • 5
    @Wrzlprmft - even if you have tenure, coauthoring a multidisciplinary paper very well could be a great thing, particularly if next year you come up with a great new idea involving that area.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 18:05
  • 1
    @Coder - well, I saw the 'designed the experiment' and read that as more than writing a little code. If the work was useful to a chemist, it is likely that future work could be useful as well.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 18:16
  • 3
    @Coder That's not necessarily true. I know of several prominent researchers in my field whose main contribution to a joint paper was writing up code. Sometimes the paper cannot exist without that code. Or maybe it'd be impossible to come up with the examples that demonstrate why the rest of the paper is actually relevant. Or maybe the only way to prove part of the paper is with the results of the code, so that without it they have a significantly weaker set of results. Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


I don’t think the question of how to “politely” decline the coauthorship is really worth fussing about. If you want to decline the coauthorship, that’s absolutely okay, just say so in plain words and explain that you don’t think your contribution was great enough to be a coauthor. I can’t imagine anyone ever being offended by this, as long as you don’t imply that you think the paper is worthless.

With that being said, I do think you are perhaps a bit misguided in where you are perceiving the bar for coauthorship to be compared to where it actually is. Everyone knows that being a coauthor can mean a variety of things, which can range anywhere between “I wrote the whole damn thing myself and my coauthors just answered a couple of questions I sent them over email” and “I just answered a couple of emails”. So, if someone asks about the paper in your viva, just tell the truth and say that your involvement was minimal - that is nothing to be ashamed of, but also doesn’t mean that it’s unreasonable for you to be a coauthor.

To summarize, as I said it’s absolutely fine if you wish to decline, but it’s best if that decision should be fully informed and based on an accurate understanding of what coauthorship is understood to imply.


To me, your draft e-mail seems very long and confusing, and your decision to reject authorship seems highly questionable. Passing over the second point, here is a suggested revision to the mail:

Dear Professor,

I appreciate the offer to co-author the [subject] paper. At this point, I would prefer not to be a co-author, but, I would be happy to be listed in the acknowledgments. I would also be happy to help you with the writing/revisions, especially in the simulation section.

Thanks again for the offer of authorship; I hope we can continue working together in the future. Best wishes,



This is how I am planning to respond. I am posting this as an answer, because it might help future readers of the academia.SE.

Dear Professor X

I appreciate the offer to co-author the article titled 'Titled Paper' for which I did some computer experiments based on our past discussions. I am happy that my experiments are note-worthy and acceptable.

However, I am willing to be a part of acknowledgement in your manuscript. Also, I would like to proof read the manuscript to learn something new or point out any mistake in the Simulation section of your manuscript.

It has been a great collaboration with your group and I would be happy if I could contribute something more to your future works so that I could be considered a potential co-author of the work.



  • 16
    If you are volunteering to proof the manuscript and provided key simulations, you are already worthy of being a co-author. They already consider you as such, and I think it would be most polite to graciously accept. Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 18:11
  • 10
    The phrasing on this doesn't make a lot of sense. If I were reading it as the primary author I would think I had not communicated clearly my invitation for you to be a co-author on the current paper .
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 19:21
  • 2
    I don't understand what the word however is doing in the second paragraph. You never indicate (before or after that) that you're unwilling to accept the co-authorship that they've offered. So if the second paragraph is saying "Instead, how about just an acknowledgement?", that's not clear.
    – spoko
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 21:00

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