A first and corresponding author has submitted a co-authored manuscript after having circulated a near-final draft. She has freely accepted some comments of her colleagues' and rebutted others, but only shared the final version after submission. This is despite some co-authors specifically asked to view the very last version once more before the submission.
The manuscript is for a normal issue of a peer-reviewed journal. The referees' comments have been dealt with. All kinks concerning methodology, results and conclusions had already been ironed out. The remaining comments were of linguistic/stylistic/presentational nature alone and improved the readability of the paper appreciably. For example: removing repetitions, streamlining the content, splitting paragraphs into block of homogeneous content, and so forth. Let's regard these interventions as important for the standing of the paper --- see this guide of Elsevier's for a general appreciation of why linguistic editing is relevant to proper scientific writing. In other situations where 'heavier' matters of content might have been at stake, this post's concerns would hold nonetheless.
The reasons for not circulating the final version are a self-imposed deadline, tied up to office holidays, and the reasoning that the time for applying linguistic changes is over. This latter point is immediately questionable since the bulk of polishing takes place at the end of writing, almost by definition.
Within the authors' team, two lines of thought emerge as to whether the first author ought to share the final manuscript before definitive submission. Some say that the first author has the authority of moving on; others say that the first author should not submit without giving her colleagues the possibility of seeing what happened of the last remarks.
The journal's authorship guidelines are curt. Note that the journal is not interested in authorship ranking that are internal to the group; it only deals with the roles taken by one author as correspondent. Quoting the most relevant ones, these boil down to the following:
- to be such, all authors must meet all of the following requirements a) providing substantial contributions b) drafting or revising the work c) giving final approval of the version to be submitted for publication;
- the responsibility of the corresponding author is to dialogue with the co-authors and act on their behalf.
There is an interesting paradox in this formulation. A corresponding author will invariably act on behalf of people who have approved the manuscript, whether all collaborators have been asked or not. Those who do not approve are, or may fear to become, no co-authors. The first author can easily find leeway to disregard some collaborators, and move on with the submission with a malformed sense of entitlement. Co-authors may easily lose the aegis of the first author.
Say. The colleagues who demand a last glance at the final manuscript may face a rejection in the line of "co-authors only suggest, first author decides". This could be rebutted with something like "the first author is not fully acting on our behalf, though; she fails in acting as corresponding author". Then, the challenge could be "you are missing the point on the way it works; she's the first author, do you really want to be co-authors?". The first author thanks and submits, some co-authors only see the show. Further discussion is deterred by the fact that, once the manuscript has been submitted, the situation can only be reversed by summoning up the editor. This step might be felt as overly confrontational, and the authorship guidelines above may not help the editor much either.
My question is: does the first/corresponding author have an obligation not to proceed with submission of a manuscript before having given all co-authors the final say to what will be submitted?