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I am in a situation when I am a co-author of a manuscript. I returned back to this manuscript after several months and I don't think it should be published as it is. I am not the main author and my co-workers want to publish it as soon as possible. I do not want to block them in publishing it, but there are some parts which I do not agree with. The paper can have impact on public policy and I have a bit different views. My colleagues already postponed the submission because of my comments. A colleague of mine suggested that I should care more for my own papers rather than the papers of others.

Is it ethical to submit the paper as a co-author and wait for the reviews and trying to improve the paper later or is it more fair to remove my co-authorship before the submission?

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    A colleague of mine suggested that I should care more for my own papers rather than the papers of others. — As long as you are a coauthor, this is one of your own papers. – JeffE Mar 12 '19 at 8:20
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    Can you go more into details what the disagreement is about? Errors, personal beliefs, something else? – Hatschu Mar 12 '19 at 12:13
  • @Hatschu I would use an updated study design. The study can affect public policy, I see some of the discussion sections diferently. – user3624251 Mar 12 '19 at 14:04
  • @user3624251: If you do believe that it could have political impact, I would say you should add this into the question. This can change the meaning of what's ethically right and wrong tremendously! – Hatschu Mar 12 '19 at 15:40
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Your coherence and trustability, on the eyes of others, can rely, and will tend to rely, in what you publish (especially in intellectual affairs and environments). In a world of works obtained by collaboration with others, co-authorship is authorship. Still, in the long term, you can build yourself a clear trustability anyway. Everyone knows that when working in collaboration, perfect agreement is scarce.

It is unethical (that depends of your ethical criteria!) to publish unfounded research, for responsability and compromise with society. However, depending on the type of paper, some sections can be a matter of interpretations and weighting of data presented. So I do not find disagreement unethical, but erratic behavior rather than straight-forwardness and honesty are probably improper in intellectual environments working in publishable and potentially influential material. Talking about ethics: everyone has free will, so you may not be able to prevent publication (if that was necessary), but looking for discussion and agreement will probably lead to better results.

My suggestion: 1. Expose your opinions clearly and request an answer (some people omit their opinions; requesting explicit answers is increasingly necessary). 2. Be proactive: suggest solutions that would solve the problems you expose. 3. Debate to find agreement if there is no agreement after the first step. 4. If no previous steps worked sufficiently for your personal criteria, evaluate whether you can afford not publishing it or you actually win by not publishing that. 5. If found convenient, politely indicate that you would prefer to withdraw from the authorship of the paper if certain considerations are not stated differently.

I would never delay the straight-forward approach: waiting until review will make the potential future corrections and agreement impossible.

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Is it ethical to submit the paper as a co-author and wait for the reviews and trying to improve the paper later

Submitting a paper with major errors is unethical, whereas submitting a paper that needs polishing isn't.

or is it more fair to remove my co-authorship before the submission?

You can remove yourself, but the paper would probably benefit from your continued support.


A colleaque of mine suggested that I should care more for my own papers rather than the papers of others.

This is one of your papers.

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