Almost a decade ago, when I was a young student, one of my professors invited me to make a tiny undergraduate research under his supervision. The idea was to solve an optimization problem with applications in our country. I wrote five simple solutions: three of them using mathematical models, a fourth one using an algorithm, and a fifth one adapting the latter for computational implementation (I had to design data structures, rewrite the algorithm, etc.)

The only contributions the "leader of the project" (the guy who invited me) made were to suggest me to use a specific algorithm for the second paper, and then implement it as a computer software.

Here is the problem: when I gave him my LaTeX originals for the three resulting articles in a pen drive (I didn't have much experience with e-mails back then), he recompiled my articles with his name as first author, even when it's last name comes after mine in alphabetical order ... even when he did virtually nothing! He said he sent them to the university journal for publication, beacause I couldn't send them myself (he said).

Since I gave him the LaTeX sources of my articles in person, I don't have a record of my complete authoring. Even worse, I was young so I believed every word he said, and even put in my resume the description "Co-authored with [name-of-Professor]", so I naively acknowledged his name.

It has been 10 years from that moment, and I haven't found any of my articles to have been ever published. This professor said he was the advisor, so his name should be included, even when his apport was marginally minimal, and that I couldn't send them to another journal until we get a response from the university journal.

Now I want to publish the articles as chapters of a tiny textbook I am writing, but I think he doesn't deserve his name to be mentioned in any way in this work. Is there any way I could achieve this? Nobody has been able to help me on this matter here in my country.

I really want to publish these articles. They are not exceptional in any sense, but they are part of my work as a young mathematician, and they're even an important achievement, since I wrote them without previously knowing the subject. So they are important for me.

Thanks in advance for your answers!

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    Do you know if there was ever a response "from the university journal"? The authorship sounds plausibly defensible, but if there's something dodgy about the publication process as you hint at then that may tip the scales. Jul 10, 2019 at 7:03
  • Not clear what happened to the papers. Are they published in peer reviewed journals?
    – Alchimista
    Jul 10, 2019 at 11:27
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    In your place I'd probably write in my textbook something like "Thanks to xxx for pointing me to this topic and that algorithm" - assuming that these are not a substantial part of the textbook and that you have no specific reason to suspect that the supervisor will do something to hurt you unless his "co-authorship" is respected. I would probably also change the odd small thing here and there so that it's harder to say that this is the same work for which you once agreed to be second author. It's probably not legally safe what I recommend but chances are you get away with it. Jul 10, 2019 at 13:44
  • Hello, everybody. Thank you very much for your comments! As for @MichaelHomer's question, it is my understanding there was no response from the journal. Even worse, there are many university journals where I studied, and my Professor never told me which one he sent the articles to. He did tell me that the editor resigned a few days after receiving my articles, and two years later a new editor appeared. I asked her to find the articles, but never found them by title. (The database is not searchable by author names!) I've been told the articles were never received, but I cannot confirm that.
    – dsv
    Jul 10, 2019 at 15:19
  • 1
    Can somebody in this thread please turn the comments into an answer?
    – jakebeal
    Jul 26, 2019 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


Now I want to publish the articles as chapters of a tiny textbook I am writing, but I think he doesn't deserve his name to be mentioned in any way in this work. Is there any way I could achieve this?

Pretty sure the answer here is no.

First, your textbook needs to cite its references, so in the Bibliography, you would need to list the paper where he declared himself the first author.

That being said, you will probably chose some citing format for your textbook such as "According to [3]", rather than "According to DUDESNAME, 2008".

If your book is written in first person speech (which I dislike, but is your option), you can still claim "Back in 2007 I've done A and and B, as explained in [3]". Your former advisor will likely not dispute those claims with you, but you would probably gain very little from this passive agressive strategy.

Moreover, having your advisor who contributed very little as a co-author is very common. Although he usually would have contributed in other ways, such as providing equipment, references and guidance, which may not look like a lot of hard work, but it does take a lot of hard work to have the knowledge and resources to do this properly. Also, the co-author status is part of his reward for advising you. He making himself the first author sounds pretty unethical though.

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    "you would need to list the paper where he declared himself the first author." From my understanding of the situation, there is no such paper. There are paper drafts which have been submitted to some journal by the advisor 10 years ago, but they have never been published. Sep 11, 2019 at 6:47
  • Yes, indeed, @lighthousekeeper, the articles have never been published, as far as I know (actually, according to my former advisor). However, it is my understanding that I should include them in the bibliography as "unpublished articles" or "unpublished reports". I suppose that is the correct way to proceed. I have to agree with Mefitico in that suggesting the research subject, along with giving me advise (a couple of meetings we had) and access to resources, is enough for him to add his name. I also consider this behavior to be unethical, but it seems very common practice, unfortunately.
    – dsv
    Sep 20, 2019 at 20:17
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    To be clear, adding his name as last author is common practice and pretty much fair in my opinion. But adding his name as first author is absurd. Because in some places, people do the "favor" of adding all of their friends as co-authors, for some academic metrics, only the number of works published as first author counts. Hence why the "first" author is the one place that should be taken seriously.
    – Mefitico
    Sep 20, 2019 at 21:17

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