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Our computer-science curriculum mandates that we produce a paper about a research project:

  • We set the topic.
  • We get a professor assigned as a project guide.
  • The paper has to be published at a peer-reviewed venue.
  • The paper is also reviewed and marked by some professors.

For us the project guide was assigned at random and not according to our wishes. Her domain is completely different from what our paper is about.

Our project guide never reviewed our project, helped write the paper, or contributed anything else to the project. She did not show any interest in our project and kept putting us down. She was only interested in the publication scope of the project. We sent our paper to the project guide multiple times for review and she didn’t notice her name was not among the authors then. The paper has already been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Now, our project guide asked me why her name wasn’t included, and the college is saying they wouldn’t award marks because of her name not being included. I don't believe my college has specific rules for authorship.

What would my next action be?

  • 1
    I would say no : no input then not included... See : academia.stackexchange.com/q/54156/72855 – Solar Mike Mar 2 at 8:55
  • @user282909 if that teacher reviewed the paper and did not point out her name was missing, then she set you up for a fail ; perhaps just to make an example... Mean though... – Solar Mike Mar 2 at 14:17
  • I tried to include all the information from the comments. Please check again whether everything is correct and edit if necessary. – Wrzlprmft Mar 2 at 15:51
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Let’s start with what is going wrong here:

  • Requiring you to publish something peer-reviewed on the level of coursework is at least dubious. For more details, see Is it ethical for departments to have publication requirements for students

  • Putting somebody as an author of a paper who made no contribution at all goes against all standards of academic authorship. However, violating this is so common in some countries and fields that many professors may not even be aware of it.

  • The project guide is abusing her power when she pushes you into giving somebody authorship (who doesn’t deserve it).

  • If your institution via rules or coercion makes you give somebody authorship (who doesn’t deserve it), this is also an abuse of power.

Now, you have to evaluate the situation to pick your enemies and allies, if any:

  • If the curriculum has any written rules that you should make somebody a co-author, you can fight those rules – if any professors or a higher power cares about this. In my country, I don’t see much of a problem of turning this into a public scandal, but yours is probably different.

  • If there are no written rules about authorship, and one of the other professors evaluating your project or a dean of students or similar are trustworthy, you can present the situation to them and try getting them onto your side. At the very least, you may score some points if you can provide evidence that your project guide did not tell you about any authorship aspirations or rules earlier and also did not do her job properly.

  • The journal (if reputable) will not be very happy if not completely refusing to change authorship retroactively. You could find an ally here (just tell them what happened), but whether the journal has sufficient power over your department is hard to say.

  • It could sadly be that your institution is full of power-abusing professors and in a position that allows them do this. In this case, the only thing you can do about it is to leave.

  • I agree with you, I've been here for 7 semesters this is my last one and they're making us implement and submit a "novel" idea so the college has publication under their name idk? I'm still doing my undergrad. I published my paper in an international journal, I don't think they're cool with changing author names. I told my project guide that I wouldn't add her name; hopefully it doesn't fail me after spending 3.5 years and it actually being a reputed school here. I wanna keep my ego aside and do it but I can't bring myself to do it when I feel used. Thank you for the advice, helps a lot. :) – user282909 Mar 2 at 16:41
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Sadly, your next step is probably to submit to the all powerful Psychlos. Not that it is fair or logical, but only that they have power over you and you have little countering power.

There are some situations in which you need to act for self preservation, not to achieve fairness. Sad commentary on the world, but too often true.

In computer science, adding anyone but the authors is very unusual. Giving an acknowledgement to people who should have helped, but didn't sometimes happens, but not authorship.

If it is open to you to do the following, do it and move on. Add the person as a co-author. Apologize for not sufficiently understanding the local culture and expected practice.

You don't need to add that the local culture and expected practice is abominable, even if it is. Yes, it is false humility, but the powers that be will probably accept it and stop punishing you unfairly.

What is fair and what is necessary may be impossible to resolve. Recognize that and act in your own interest. Don't let your ego get in the way of self preservation even when their ego is forcing an unfair practice.

But, get away as soon as you can and work for a fairer resolution of such things when you get the chance.

  • Fair enough, I'm trying to figure out a way to remain calm through this like very selfish act :p – user282909 Mar 2 at 13:53

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