I was part of a university project team, and at the end of the semester we decided to submit a review paper related to the topic of our project. Our advisers gave us feedback and made suggestions on our draft. We submitted our draft to a journal and many months later, one of my team members got a notification that our paper needed to be edited to respond to reviewer comments and resubmitted. However, he did not contact us until a few months later, when he said he thought we should not submit because the necessary edits were too demanding. However, when he went to talk to our advisers, some of them decided to continue working and resubmit. The other student did not let any of the other team members know, and told the adviser no one wanted to help him without consulting us.
A month later, we were all notified that they were resubmitting that week and they needed our consent to remove us as co-authors. They have made very significant additions to our paper, adding more sources and detail to our claims and rewording the majority of it. However, the overall idea of the paper is quite similar and there are aspects of the paper that resemble portions we wrote. I feel it is quite ungenerous of them to cut us all out from being co-authors, when we wrote the majority of the initial submission, even if the final draft is quite different. Did they do the right thing?
To clarify some points - The main issue is that they have to resubmit in a few days, so any changes in authorship need to be approved by everyone very soon. I agree that our adviser should be changed to first author, but there's no time to get everyone's consent for that, unless he can get an extension.
The adviser has not been hostile in any way and I don't want to make things too awkward, but I don't quite feel comfortable signing off on cutting us all out. I guess my real question is should I insist they include us? How much of the initial draft must be modified before you can just remove co-authors.

  • 3
    Welcome to Academia SE! Going by your question, I don't think they did the right thing. However, to make this question fit the site better, I suggest you ask a more specific question - right/wrong is primarily opinion based. I'd suggest that you think through your options now, mention them (shows that you've done your homework), and then maybe ask a specific question regarding those options, i.e. which of those are optimal, is there a better (define better- expedient, rewarding, peaceful?) approach, etc. Jun 21, 2018 at 6:15
  • When you the initial group of students were notified that 'they' were resubmitting, who was 'they' who was sending the request? Was it the faculty, or the student on their behalf?
    – Carol
    Jun 21, 2018 at 16:02
  • We were requested to consent to the new author list by the student on their behalf, but I have since talked to the faculty directly.
    – Brad
    Jun 21, 2018 at 16:51
  • I find the question description a bit hard to follow, so details are unclear. For instance, how many "advisers" are there? How many authors in total? Same group? How come nobody kept in touch about this? Please clarify key details. In short I think they are wrong, as is the decision of placing adviser first.
    – Scientist
    Jun 22, 2018 at 12:24

4 Answers 4

  • It is not ethical to remove you as co-author from a resubmission, if you contributed to the first submission and your contribution is still relevant in the resubmission. In that case, there seems to be a portion of the text in the resubmission that is a revised version of text that you wrote, so your contribution is indeed still relevant to the resubmission.
  • Do not agree to being removed from the author list. Don't let yourself be pressured to agree by an impending deadline. In most cases it is no problem to get an extension, even up to multiple weeks, on manuscript resubmission deadlines. Moreover, it should have been the lead author's responsibility to plan everything so that the deadline can be met.
  • If the importance of individual contributions has changed by the revision, it may indeed be appropriate to change the author order. That has to be agreed upon by all authors. The editor might also want to have approval from all authors for that change.
  • Start collecting evidence to support your claims. In the text from the first submission, mark which portions of the text or data have been contributed by whom. Collect earlier drafts and emails or other communication that further evidence these contributions. If you have the revised version, mark which portions in that are based on contributions you made earlier.
  • If the lead author does not resubmit to the same journal with you as co-author, try to keep an eye on other journals in the same area. They may just try to go to another journal with the revised version, where the editor will not be aware that the manuscript may still contain contributions of someone who's not listed as an author. If you see a publication with text based on your earlier contributions, but not listing you as an author, contact the editor with a complaint, and provide the evidence you collected.
  • Just to add to your first point: Even if all of OP's words got replaced by someone else, the fact that he contributed to drafting the paper still stands. The only constellation where I see an author removal as correct is when parts are being completely left out, but this does not seem to be the case.
    – Ian
    Jun 21, 2018 at 14:25

I'm going to answer a slightly different question than the one you asked, namely: My advisor just emailed me for consent to remove us as co-authors on a paper, what should I do?

I would politely but clearly let him know that you think your contribution to the original article warrants co-authorship, and that therefore you cannot consent to be removed as co-author. In fact, you could use that line almost verbatim in an email to your advisor.

You're writing that there's a pressing time limit for these author changes. That may be true, but it would be incorrect to expect you to give up co-authorship when they could have reached out to you long ago. It's up to the first author and corresponding author to make sure the paper gets submitted in a timely manner, and figuring out questions about authorship is part of the whole submission process and cannot be delayed until the end.


No, I don’t think so. If you all feel strongly enough you could contact the editor, explain the issue - do provide thorough evidence and have it corrected. mind you the editor could just stop the publication...


I do not think you have been treated fairly. In case you were involved in the earlier steps of a project, any further development should be discussed in front of you. From your account, it seems like you felt excluded. Thus let them all know this, and do not agree with being removed from the list of authors.

A relevant point: (i) "Our advisers gave us feedback and made suggestions on our draft."; (ii) "The other student did not let any of the other team members know, and told the adviser no one wanted to help him without consulting us"; (iii) "I agree that our adviser should be changed to first author". From points (i-iii) it is my understanding that someone made a deal with some 'adviser' by giving this person some 'honorary' first authorship? I believe you should take this pattern into consideration, as this honorary first author is now expected to use his power and influence to scoop you out of this.

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