I work as an instructor at a university. I am not a graduate student there and my responsibilities end at teaching. Recently, a supervisor from another department asked me to prepare an article for their department to use, for some extra pay. The subject aligned well with my background and recent research.

When I finished the article, which involved additional research and several weeks of work, I put my name as author, as I would any other paper. After I finished, the supervisor requested that I completely remove my name, as he wished to submit it to the leader of his department, assembled together with some students' work.

Is that at all unusual that someone would request that I remove my name from a paper?

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    Repeat after me: "Hell no." – JeffE Aug 22 '13 at 3:22
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    I think you are dealing with a businessman, not a scientists. – user4511 Aug 22 '13 at 6:47
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    The question in the title is phrased in an opposite way as the question in the content. This makes any "yes/no" question potentially ambiguous. – gerrit Aug 22 '13 at 10:47
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    To clarify: Is this paper is for internal use only, or will it be submitted for publication (in a scholarly journal, or elsewhere)? Most of the answers seem to have in mind a scholarly journal publication, in which case removing your name would be egregiously unethical, but for an internal paper it's slightly fuzzier. – Nate Eldredge Aug 22 '13 at 14:47
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    Not to disagree necessarily with the negative answers here, but I would first ask the colleague, why do you need my name removed, in order to submit the paper? Are you wanting to take credit for it? After all, he did ask you, rather than just removing your name himself. I'm just saying it would be good to hear more about his thought process before assuming the worst motives. – LarsH Aug 22 '13 at 15:07

This seems to be a blatant attempt to take credit for your work - as far as I know, this is both not common, nor acceptable. To quote @JeffE "hell, no", or a polite variant, is the only response.

I would, politely but firmly, state that as you have done the research and the write-up, then you are the first author, perhaps offer to have them as a co-author, only if they have contributed something.

I would also consider having a quiet word with the head of the department about this.

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    +1 for having a quiet word with the leader of the department. – Fixed Point Aug 22 '13 at 6:30
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    On the first pass, ask your department chair, or maybe a dean (who is over several departments), for "advice". Figure out some reasonable questions to ask about this situation instead of framing it as an accusation. If you frame it as an accusation, the leader may have a knee-jerk reaction to defend his colleagues. Framing it as a request for advice (Is this how things are supposed to work around here? How can this be resolved amicably?) allows you to show that you are rational, and assess whether the leadership has a rationale, and what it might be. – Paul Aug 23 '13 at 8:01

This is a "slam-dunk" case, provided you have a paper trail.

If you have both done research for the paper as well as wrote the first draft, then your colleague is required to give you co-authorship on the paper. (In fact, there's a strong case that you should be the first author, not your colleague.)

So I would agree with Damien that you should "politely but firmly" make your case to your colleague. If he refuses, then speak to the "leader of the department" and present your evidence.

I would also make sure not to work with this colleague again in the future!

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    +1 Especially for the point of not working with this colleague again at all - they have shown their true colours. – user7130 Aug 22 '13 at 8:49
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    The paper trail is really important. If you have an email from that colleague, that's solid enough proof. If you worked on a university computer/network location that is being regularly backed up, you will have date stamps on your work, too. Without the paper trail, it may get shaky, and the department head may just side with the higher-than-you-ranked colleague -- simply because they are here to stay, and you, as a non-regular faculty, can be tossed out if you make too much noise. – StasK Aug 23 '13 at 13:40

An episode I personally witnessed:

A married grad student at a top university in a semi-experimental field told one of her two PhD advisers that she was pregnant 3 months before the dissertation defence (the baby was due 5 months after the defence). He replied "congratulations, I suppose" and sent her an e-mail (the same day) telling her that he was removing her from the author list in one of their joint papers. To say that she was shocked is an understatement. After much agonizing she replied to him and all the other paper authors, listing her contribution to the paper and expressing a surprize that this does not merit her being one of the authors. The advisor apologized and her authorship was reinstated.

In short: never surrender.

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    +1 That is a key statement - 'never surrender', it is so true. Never surrender your work, hence your autonomy, dignity and values. – user7130 Aug 22 '13 at 16:44
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    That was plain cruel .( similarly, a friend of mine learned that her work at a previous postdoc position was published by her former supervisor without any mention of her name. I'm starting to wonder whether there is some gender discrimination involved or whether these supervisors are dumbsh*ts in general – Tobias Kienzler Aug 23 '13 at 17:00
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    [facepalm] Good for her! – JeffE Aug 23 '13 at 21:03

Just to round up the discussion, there are situations where you want to have your name removed -- when you are not satisfied with the quality of the work in the paper. I am a statistician, and I have heard of cases when a group of substantive researchers would ask a statistician for initial guidance, do the (wrong) analysis on their own, and stick the statistician's name into the list of authors to make their paper more credible. I have also heard of really weird situations when statisticians from pharma industry did not want their names on solid papers so as not to signal to their competitors that their firm is working on this new type of a drug. In either case, the initiative of having the name removed comes from the co-author themselves, not from the lead author.

Other than that, I have +1ed most answers here. As most others, from your description the situation appears to be that of plagiarism and a blatant violation of your authorship rights.

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  • +1 That's a very good point, a colleague of mine did indeed request others to not use their name in a publication since they didn't exactly agree with the interpretation of the results... Though in this case OP sounds rather fond of their work, and probably should be – Tobias Kienzler Aug 23 '13 at 16:57

If someone wants to steal your research for whatever purpose, he is a thief. It is not acceptable in academic world to do such thing, but as far as I know, such things can happen quite often in comparison how unethical it is. You have to resist and you have to change or expel your supervisor as soon as possible. If he use your work without your name, you can / and you have to use it against him, (with help of 3rd party, who will "accidentally" find this) so such thing will not repeat in the future and you will have no strikes back. Academic world should be (and unfortunately it is not) free of parasites.

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    That last statement should not only hold for Academia... Anyway, I would avoid the "accidental" exposure but instead really expose. It is incontestably wrong behaviour by the supervisor and there should be no conspiracy-like behaviour on your side - such things always backfire and are the first step towards becoming just like that supervisor – Tobias Kienzler Aug 22 '13 at 12:45
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    L- @Tobias : you could be right, if we want to practise -Christian love your neighbor- style, but if you start to tolerate or not to fight the parasitism, you will finally become a part of such behaviour. (and "having a quiet word with the leader of the department" have lot of + here above) ... And you never know, if the leader of the department is not involved in this. Friendly 3rd party is just better. If you think that you can deal with parasites direct and straight way, I do not think so. You have to be more outsmarter than Afghan partisan to successfully deal with this. – Dee Aug 22 '13 at 15:54
  • Ah yes, the exposure does not necessarily have to be restricted to some superior of accused person, but rather directly at the universities chancellor, or even directly to the local media. No, I certainly did not intend to mean Christian love your neighbor-style, rather the opposite. What I meant to say was, don't let the exposure look like an accident but make sure they know you exposed their behaviour on purpose and will do it again – Tobias Kienzler Aug 23 '13 at 6:41
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    I hope you're not suggesting literal death ;-) But I agree, said parasite's scientific life should be put to a quick end, not necessarily painless. – Tobias Kienzler Aug 23 '13 at 11:56
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    from shared experience - parasites dies in pains... EVERYTIME, because they depend on their living from work of others and on expenses of the others and they worry the most of lost of influence. They better sell their soul to the devil, than give-up their influence. Therefore clever strategy is a key. – Dee Aug 23 '13 at 13:36

My answer assumes the worst case, namely that said supervisor indeed attempts to claim authorship for your work. As LarsH justly pointed out, you might first want to clarify this is not a severe misunderstanding by having a talk with said supervisor, i.e. why would he want you to do such a thing (and please don't go down the path of asking "ok, assuming I did, what's in it for me?"). There may be a sensible argument, but personally I doubt it, thus let's assume he basically wants to publish your work as his:

Not only is this unusual and unethical, it is against all scientific conduct and might even be a felony to press charges against. This would warrant said supervisor to face severe consequences like being fired or having their PhD/tenure disavowed. Do however not attempt something stupid like blackmailing them - instead, assuming you have sufficient prove of this, expose them immediately since this is intolerable misconduct. (If you don't have prove, treat carefully though, since this might backfire into you ending up being "that jerk jealous of the "real"* scientists")

* No offence meant, but unfortunately in the event of doubt rank all too often outranks common sense

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    I don't like it very much either, but I doubt very much it is a criminal violation in most jurisdictions. Otherwise politicians would have to start writing their own speeches or at least crediting their speechwriters. – emory Aug 22 '13 at 14:17
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    @emory Well, would they truly publish said paper without attributing the author it would obviously be fraud, and independently of whether it's a legal crime it certainly is scientific misconduct which the Scientific Community will most likely not react pleased to. And depending on how they requested OP to remove their name from the author list, e.g. harassment, threats or even blackmailing, it could quite well be a criminal act in every sense. And let's better not get started about politicians :P Though I'd certainly appreciate politicians actually citing their "sources" for a change... – Tobias Kienzler Aug 23 '13 at 6:46

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