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This question is a splinter of an earlier question, posted separately upon advice from commenters.

The background is:

(1) I audited a course at an institute I don't belong to. As part of the course, an essay is being written by two of us.

(2) There is a chance that this essay would be published either internally or externally (not necessarily peer-reviewed).

The problem:

My co-author and I differ (significantly) on certain areas we write about. In a sense, we represent opposite ends of the spectrum. My partner is keen to publish; I am ambivalent.

I'm bothered by questions of academic integrity, namely:

(1) Do I withdraw entirely, allowing a one-sided, uncontested opinion to be expressed? This is the easiest option.

(2) Do we submit normally, with our names and affiliations, knowing that some opinions expressed are contrary to my own views, and may negatively impact my academic work at a later stage? While uncomfortable, this does seem fair.

(3) Do I remain anonymous, with the partner being the first author? This way we can address the divergence and bring out a contrast in perspectives, without me having to worry about long-term consequences. But I don't know if it is an accepted practice. I have come across questions on anonymity here and here, but these primarily discuss single-author work.

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    If you "audit" a course are you allowed to publish the results? Is this an "essay" or more of a "report" based on your findings and / or analysis? – Solar Mike Nov 30 '18 at 10:25
  • There isn't a restriction, to my knowledge. (If there is, my problem is solved already :) On report vs essay, I'm not sure I understand the distinction as you intend it - but this is intended to be an analysis of existing trends/practices, and evolution of some new insights. – user153812 Nov 30 '18 at 10:38
  • Why are you concerned with publication? It isn't typical for school assignments to be published, and certainly not without approval by the authors. Submitting an assignment for a course is not the same as saying you approve it being published. Writing a paper for a course from a perspective that is not your own is not an unusual assignment. – Bryan Krause Dec 1 '18 at 3:08
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Rather than knowing that some opinions expressed are contrary to my own views, you could present both views and clearly label them as such. For instance, you could open by explaining:

The authors opinions differ significantly and each author presents their own opinion below:

Followed by each opinion:

Author Name A: ...

Author Name B: ...

  • This is very interesting. Have you come across a precedent where this has been done? – user153812 Nov 30 '18 at 12:27
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    @user153812 Scientist refers to this as "usually the case," I've certainly seen it, but not frequently (possibly because authors reach consensus). – user2768 Nov 30 '18 at 13:30
  • I can confirm I've seen this a few times (in econ/finance), but on minor issues of interpretation of the results, rather than methodology. – PatrickT Nov 30 '18 at 16:48
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    For a concrete example, see page xiii of the preface in A Course in Game Theory (Osborne and Rubinstein). It's in some sense a silly debate --- orthogonal to the main point of the text --- but the authors express differing opinions regarding the use of pronouns in the text. They separately present their own sides, then the compromise that was reached. – kyle Nov 30 '18 at 18:21
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    Example (.pdf link) of a paper from parapsychology that does something similar. Rather than divide the discussion into separate sections, it uses a "here are several possible interpretations of these results" format, but the "possible interpretations" include both "author A faked their data" and "author B faked their data", so it's certainly adversarial. – A_S00 Nov 30 '18 at 21:16
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You haven't specified your field of study. I think the answer may depend heavily on whether you are in humanities vs. soft sciences vs. hard sciences. I will give an answer from the "hard" end of the spectrum: I work in applied mathematics.

If I didn't agree with the contents of a paper in a substantial way, I would certainly not consent to be an author of the paper. Authorship implies a belief in the correctness of what is written. I would go with option #1.

If I disagreed with coauthors over minor, subjective points (and this happens) I would work with them to find a way of presenting things that we can both agree on. In math, this often means simply leaving out speculative remarks.

  • I certainly see your point, being from the materials science/engineering community myself. This particular case is from a sociology-policy sort of field, so I'm all the more ignorant about the norms. Your answer is useful regardless. Thanks! – user153812 Nov 30 '18 at 12:52
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    At least in math, it isn't that abnormal for coauthors to express disagreement on likelihood of a conjecture. I don't have an example off the top of my head, but I've seen a few papers with something "Open Question is A. Author 1 believes A is likely to be true. Author B thinks it is likely false." or something similar. – JoshuaZ Nov 30 '18 at 17:28
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If your coauthor is not willing to somehow present the two sides of this coin as suggested by @user2768 -- which is usually the case -- I suggest you go with option (2).

You can always go back to that point to re-discuss the matter on your own, and there's always the chance you will see things a bit differently later, especially once this conflict of interests cools down.

Your career is potentially long, you're probably still young by now and thus prone to overestimate the future influence of a single short publication. Likely not many peers will read it as keenly as you expect, and even fewer will judge you for its contents (unfortunately this is how modern academia is).

Back off now, come back to this later. Good luck!

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After looking at your previous post, I can't help but see this a bit differently. Unless the assignment had additional parameters about coming together around a controversial idea, and or the "challenge" is to merge your individual authorships into a singular voice, it kind of sounds like your over thinking it. It's not coincidental that you were put in random pairs, with a divisive theme/assignment. It seems like your anxiety over authorship differences, is not only going to be expected, but, it's kind of the point, yeah?

Sorry if i'm misunderstanding something, I just see the assignment as an opportunity to embrace the divide and embrace your differences. As far as precedent, make a new one. You can use subtle differences or typographic changes to refer to different voices. A communicatory battle to show the divide, to persuade your case, or to come together around universal ideas, or drastically break apart for the benefit of the reader, and so on. Maybe it's written from a legal guise, 2 sided, jury/reader persuasion. Maybe it's presented as 2 friends having a casual conversation, and finding ways to unify and come together around drastically different viewpoints.

Whatever it is, it sounds like it was designed to be that way, so I would embrace that, use it, and design/format/present it, in a way that doesn't hide from the divide and adds clarity for the reader.

  • Interesting perspective. I don't think it is intentionally set up for confrontation, but it does work around collaboration, so there is some inevitable give and take. Your answer will remain in my mind for a while. – user153812 Dec 3 '18 at 12:01

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