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In a semi-hypothetical situation, assume that I'm a postdoc at a certain university and my supervisor pushed (forced) me to work on a journal paper that I hated but finished eventually. I say I hated it because the work is so silly, not at par with my previously published excellent work and will be published in a mediocre journal. My concern is that it may hurt my CV and compromise my profile. I should also say that it is not in the exact field in which I have been building a profile.

Although I have finished the paper, can I possibly tell my supervisor that I don't wish to be named on it?

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    I think many of us have ‘OK’ papers we published, knowing they weren’t great but only kind of interesting. Usually some project we thought would work out better than it did - sometimes Nature doesn’t work the way we hoped. But, you write up the result and at worst it might keep someone else from going down that road. Don’t sweat it, you put in the work. – Jon Custer Oct 26 '18 at 1:44
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    "My concern is that it may hurt my CV and compromise my profile. I should also say that it is not in the exact field in which I have been building a profile." I don't know what field you are in, but in most fields, this isn't a worry. Unless the paper is an extremely bad journal (e.g. borderline predatory journal), a mediocre paper on your CV isn't going to hurt. And if there's an extra paper in a related field that isn't your center area that isn't going to hurt either. It will not help as much as a paper in your own exact field from a better journal, but it will likely still help. – JoshuaZ Oct 26 '18 at 1:59
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You certainly can refuse to be named as co-author, but at this point it's probably easier just to sign off publication, unless there are stronger reasons than you've given.

Most reputable journals have processes that require all credited authors to sign off on publication, so you can't be credited as an author if you don't want to be*. However, this may mean that the paper can't be published at all - your supervisor shouldn't be claiming sole author credit for something that is largely your work, and even a mediocre journal is likely to balk at accepting a paper if it learns that one of the authors is unwilling to be associated with that work.

Publishing this paper probably won't help your career significantly, but from the description you've given it doesn't sound likely to harm it either, especially if it's not in the field that you're aiming for. I changed career and I have several publications on my CV that have no relevance to my current career; I doubt any of my co-workers have even bothered looking them up, let alone passing judgement on whether they're a valuable contribution to the literature.

*Some loopholes may apply. I had an ex-boss who listed me and another researcher as co-authors on a poster and conference presentation, even though he knew we had significant objections to the content. While the associated journal required sign-off from all authors on published papers, this was not the case for conference material. We had to write in to request that the "error" be corrected for the published proceedings.

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I'm sorry that you had such a poor experience. I think that you'd be right to politely ask to withdraw your name from the manuscript. However, bear in mind that the supervisor may be offended by your choice, and that person would have to recommend you to others. So, act wisely!

  • you're right. There may be an offensive part of that. – Pioneer83 Oct 26 '18 at 2:21
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    "I think that you'd be right to politely ask to withdraw your name from the manuscript". Can you explain your reasoning here? The other answers/comments seem to disagree (and so do I), so you may want to give more detail. – cag51 Oct 26 '18 at 4:11

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