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A somewhat distant relative has passed away and he had 2 papers he wanted to publish. He was a complete recluse in his later life, but not crackpot or anything (that I'm aware of). His field of study was physics. It's completely out of my expertise but it seems legitimate (if not necessarily relevant to current literature). I believe a good course of action would be making them public on the arXiv: the papers both seem essentially ready to publish and it seems such a waste to not make it public somewhere.

Is it possible to publish with him as an author on the arXiv? (I'd prefer not to have my name on it)

Any alternative publishing suggestions are also welcome.

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    Maybe ask Arxiv for instructions on how to do it. – GEdgar Jul 21 '18 at 15:31
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    @mathreadler does it matter if he wanted his work to be published? If it is of any value, it should be publicly available. There can be good reasons not to want to publish some work yourself, but once you're dead there's nothing to lose... – leftaroundabout Jul 22 '18 at 10:22
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    @leftaroundabout you think so little of the deads wishes? pretty disrespectful, man. Also it is possible to publish without doing so in any journal. – mathreadler Jul 22 '18 at 10:24
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    @mathreadler if he explicitly asked that it not be published that's perhaps another story (though, indeed, I would have very little respect for such a decision). But not publishing just because “he might not have wanted that” is silly. Far more likely the reason he didn't publish it himself during his lifetime is simply that he couldn't be bothered. The fact that he put his thoughts in form of papers indicates that he at least took steps in that direction already. – leftaroundabout Jul 22 '18 at 11:02
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    @TheLastWord I wouldn't do that, because it helps support a system that's harmful to the academic process. (One might also argue that the traditional publishing model is harmful to the academic process, but even then, predatory publishing is significantly more harmful.) – David Z Jul 23 '18 at 2:23
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It is possible for you to submit things to arXiv, even without your name on them, but do note that you need to be "endorsed" to submit to the site. That basically means that someone with a good submission history in the same subject category has to vouch for you by filling out a short form on the site.

Any professor or (probably) senior postdoc in the field that includes your relative's research should be able to serve as your endorser, if they are willing to put in the time to verify that the research is legit. Usually these people don't have spare time to spend on reviewing research from unknown sources, but maybe if you have a personal connection with one of them, you could ask. Or I guess you could try emailing someone at a local university, but honestly you're unlikely to get a response.

If you can't get an endorsement for arXiv, you can still submit the work to a journal that covers the appropriate research area. There's no endorsement requirement, affiliation requirement, or such to submit something to a journal. Figuring out which journal to submit to can be a little tricky, though, especially if you're not in the field. Again, in this case, it would be really useful to have a bit of help from someone who is.

Finally, if you find it too troublesome to submit to either arXiv or a journal, posting the work online in any form (on your personal website, in a document repository, etc.) is a perfectly decent way to expose it to anyone who wants to read it. Of course if you care about getting people to read it, that's again going to be quite difficult without having someone to vouch for you.


Something you could do is pop into the Physics SE chat room and see if anyone is willing to look over the paper. There's no guarantee that anyone will, and I certainly wouldn't expect that anyone there would be willing to endorse you to submit to arXiv, but you might get some initial pointers in the right direction, e.g. people could probably tell you what subfield of physics it's in. (Full disclosure: I'm a moderator on Physics SE, not that I think it really matters here.)

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    It's a cool answer but I can foresee some issues. How would an article w/o breathing author pass the review process? You'd essentially ask the editor to put the article un-reviewed. I actually think the idea of contacting an academic over this would have the best chances. I'd advise looking into the bibliography of the article and search for a citation to a recent publication where one of the authors is located close to the OP (the OP will have to google the name of the cited author and their current affiliation). Go see several names on that list, the odds are someone would pick an interest. – user189035 Jul 22 '18 at 0:17
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    Either the article would be accepted without revision, or someone (with expertise in the field) would have to take over "ownership" of it in order to make any changes required by the editor. It may be true that contacting an academic gives the best chance of getting the article published in a journal, but I maintain that the chance is still quite low. Of course, for non-journal publication, there's no need to go through a revision process. – David Z Jul 22 '18 at 0:25
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    "try emailing someone at a local university, but honestly you're unlikely to get a response". Honestly I'm not so sure. I'm not in physics, but if I received a cold email like this which is not automated spam (i.e., somewhat personalized) and the attachment vaguely looked like a paper, I would probably endorse so that the thing can get published on arXiv. I don't think there are any serious consequences to endorsing someone on arXiv who then posts something that may contain mistakes -- arXiv already has many crackpot papers and I don't think anyone cares about who endorsed them. – a3nm Jul 22 '18 at 2:21
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    "posting the work online in any form": in fact I wouldn't post it on a personal website because it's not exactly long-lasting (it might go offline) and is not really citable. I think a repository like arXiv is preferable, or maybe one that does not require endorsement if the arXiv endorsement is an unsurmountable problem, e.g., Zenodo zenodo.org – a3nm Jul 22 '18 at 2:22
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    @a3nm People in physics routinely receive emails like that and they almost invariably turn out to be nonsense. We're conditioned to ignore them. Even if that weren't the case, you don't just endorse anyone who asks for it and has something looking vaguely like a paper. Endorsing someone who goes on to have a particularly bad publication record can result in being banned from posting on arXiv yourself. – David Z Jul 23 '18 at 2:25
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Condolences anyway.

Your relative may have already started the review process - with a journal - they may already have the paper under revision. If so, then it could be worth checking with that editor who may consider helping out somehow.

Best wishes.

Edit based on comments : an example of a postumously published paper can be found here: https://m.phys.org/news/2018-07-scientist-paper-earth-future-climate.html

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    Clarifying questions should be asked as a comment on the question first. Then, once they have been answered, you should leave an answer once those unclear issues have been clarified. – user8283 Jul 22 '18 at 1:17
  • Maybe a supportive example. – Hazem Jul 22 '18 at 12:43
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    @Hazem sorry - on my phone, but yes got it now, cheers :) – Solar Mike Jul 22 '18 at 12:50
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    I wonder how the review process would work, since the author obviously can't respond to any suggestions by a reviewer anymore. Could the relative publish the paper, unchanged, together with the review suggestions? – gnasher729 Jul 22 '18 at 18:36
  • As suggested “perhaps the editor will consider helping out somehow” @gnasher729 – Solar Mike Jul 22 '18 at 18:39
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Assuming the next of kin that own the work agree about his desire to publish, I believe his would be fine. You may want to note where the corresponding author would be listed that it was uploaded to arXiv posthumously.

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