Background: I am currently working on a paper as a first author with 3 other members. My tenure with the research institute ends on the end of this month and I have no intention to continue any working relationship due to the very complex political environment and "back-scratching" among upper management in this research institute I am in, plus my observations of other ethical issues.

However, I intend to submit this paper to a journal after the end of my tenure. This journal has an associated conference that has deadline submission on the 15th July 2018. For this particular conference, an acceptances of a paper for this conference would enable a direct proceeding to its associated journal. I have a valid concern aimed at the senior research fellow (No PhD), whom I report to and who is also the last author of this paper, due to strong corroborated anecdotes (credit stealing included) from multiple employees. As far as facts is concerned, he comes from industry after 20 years, without a PhD, and sorely lacks technical skills in my observation. This further cements my concern and I am aware that there exists a possibility that my concerns may be misguided.

Measures taken:

1) I have created an official email confirming the roles, responsibilities and order of authorship of each team member involved in this project. The email has been acknowledged by each individual team member including aforementioned senior research fellow/ programme director (without a PhD). His role is to review to review the draft before my submission (possible and probably potential red flag?). He has not acknowledged nor mentioned anything in his reply about getting back to me with changes to the draft.

2) I intend to submit my paper to an open journal arXiv before submitting any draft to this senior research fellow.

3) 2) is followed by a submission of a draft to senior research fellow with a co-correspondence to the integrity office, worded in a diplomatic manner.

Are these three steps sufficient? What more should I be aware of?

Edit: The email also serves as a centralised communication where any work done by must submitted to that email.

  • 5
    re 2) I tend to think it is neither wise nor ethical to submit anything to arXiv without the consent of all co-authors, so that is probably not an option.
    – nabla
    Jul 4, 2018 at 5:58
  • 1
    I do not understand your concern. You are close to submission. Are you concerned that your last coauthor/supervisor will suddenly claim to be first author? Then just say no. Second, in my field first and last authors are the most important ones on publications. The first author carried out the research, the last author supervised / is the chair. An industry research fellow with 20 years of experience would be better off as last author (reputation wise), I guess.You may want to consider removing your ‘facts’ about his background because I think these are opinion based.
    – user93911
    Jul 4, 2018 at 6:47
  • @Alice I am close to completion of paper, not close to submission; journal's call for paper opens in October. How do I say 'No' when I will not be in the research institute to ensure control? I see no reasonable way to put a pristine draft in his hands, leave the research institute without an iota of doubts when the research fellow in question has at least 2 isolated case of hijacking paper? Edit: I have stated that that his lack of technical skills are from my direct observation. Jul 4, 2018 at 7:25
  • This only makes sense if the guy could bully you into not bringing up formal complaints if he striked you from the authors list. But you are leaving, so how would he do that? He could falsify a lot of records, but that brings him into jail if it fails, as it will if you sign your emails and keep copies. Unless he's a mad idiot, he's not going to risk that.
    – Karl
    Jul 4, 2018 at 20:02
  • @Physkid I understand it better now. The paper is in your hands. Why not submit it in October by yourself while you are in another position? Just notify your coauhors that you will finish the job you started with them. If they hijjack your paper, two quite similar versions will be submitted. No one will benefit from that embarrassing situation. You will have proof (based on current concepts) that you are the rightfull first author.
    – user93911
    Jul 5, 2018 at 6:37

1 Answer 1


In the world of patent, researchers establish priority in the following way. They keep a bound notebook (no loose-leaf) so that pages can't be added between other pages. Whenever they have a good idea for which they want to establish priority they make a dated complete note of the idea. They then get a colleague to date and sign their note. At some companies most employees always have this patent book with them so they can record ideas as they occur.

Then, if another person somewhere tries to patent the idea, they can present the patent book as evidence of prior art. The other person in this case may be completely unknown to you, but for patent, priority is pretty much the whole game.

You can do something like this yourself, if you are unsure. It needn't be confrontational to your co workers. Make a signed and dated (paper) copy of each version of the paper that you work on and have a non-involved but trusted colleague sign and date it. You can even leave them with a signed and dated copy so that you each have one.

The existence of these copies protects you a bit from being excluded. But in the absence of a problem, they are just private notes and so non-confrontational.

For your future, you are likely better off with cordial relations with your co-authors. It may even turn out that they are proud of their association with you.

  • Hi Buffy, your method appears to be similar to what I propositioned. I created an email, indicating the role, responsibilities of each member and their corresponding authorship. The email also serves as a first - stop "depository" for any work progress - no matter how minute - done by co-authors. It appears that my proposition is in the right direction. Jul 4, 2018 at 11:11
  • @Physkid, get a neutral third party involved: the signer. Make it non-alterable: paper. In an extreme case, use a lawyer as the third party, but you need to be pretty convinced of problems before you need that.
    – Buffy
    Jul 4, 2018 at 11:13
  • I am afraid there is no neutral party I can count on. This is an Asian-oriented working environment with people not willing to risk prospects or livelihood; the political relation on the upper echelon is also very complex. I have sent all email attachment to the integrity office to have a general discussion about how my work can be protected and be advised of any necessary steps that should be taken. Jul 5, 2018 at 3:36

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