Two years ago I did a piece of research for a journal's especial edition. I got the reviewer's comments, did all the corrections and sent it to my co-authors. One of them took so long to return his comments that the paper wasn't included in the EE. I then tried to submit it to another journal but again the same co-author took long time to provide his comments. Finally my boss suggested me to submit it to another journal (good one) without waiting for my co-author's opinion. I got the reviewer's comments back, I did all the corrections (I have 45 days), sent it to my co-authors and gave them a week to send me their comments. The same co-author is now telling me he's not happy I didn't tell him I submitted to that journal and that he won't be able to make comments in a week. I'm again in a catch-22. What do you do?
- Apologize to your co-author for not telling him about the submission.
- Try having a meeting/phone conference with the co-author (if possible including your supervisor) to solve the immediate problems.
- Change your requests to the co-authors to an opt-in style.
- In the future, send out "submitted paper to :-)" with the final version to all co-authors as last point on your submission routine.
he won't be able to make comments in a week
That just tells you that you won't have his comments within the week. But you need to know when you will have them.
Usually, I'd ask back when I can have the comments. Here, however, things look more difficult. So:
For one thing, I'd switch from email to phone (or a visit to his office). That eliminates the dead time between emailing several times and may allow you to extract a definitive answer for the time line.
The second thing I'd probably do would be trying to have a meeting (or a phone/video conference if the co-author is too far away). If he told you that he cannot do the comments this week, send a list of possible meeting times for next week. I'd (try to) include a number of "weird" times (early morning before the usual office routine sets in, evenings, possibly even at the weekend). This serves two purposes: it makes absolutely clear how important the meeting is to you and it closes loopholes for him. Talk to your supervisor about this first, you'll probably want to have him at the meeting as well - so you need to find times that are OK with your supervisor as well (that's the "try to" above).
I'd probably email the list, ending with: if none of these is possible for you, please send me your preferred time for a meeting next week. I'd then do an immediate follow up-call "We need to talk about the paper. ... I just emailed you a number of possible times for a meeting". Ask him to tell you when the meeting would suit him.
For the future:
gave them a week to send me their comments
From the context I assume you wrote something like "please send me your comments within a week".
What about changing the question to an opt-in style: "please send me your comments asap. If I don't receive any within any within a week, I'll assume you're fine with the text as it is and move on with the submission." O course, you need to be extremely timely yourself if you do this and you need to give sensible deadlines.
Submission without the OK of all co-authors is misconduct. However, if I understood the described situation correctly, a manuscript that was approved by all co-authors was sent to a different journal. Again, an opt-in for changes would have been the proper way, but IMHO it is not as serious as general "submit without co-authors approval": after all the text was approved by the co-author, and the choice of the journal should not make any scientific difference.
Also, if I understood correclty, the co-author in question does not complain about the submission, but about the fact that he didn't know about it. That again is a valid complaint, so apologize.
It seems you are following your boss' (good) advice. Dealing with co-authors is not always easy as you have experienced. I think I have experienced a similar co-author, not responding but complaining whenever something happens. In my case, the co-author was definitely over-committed and the actions were basically a symptom of frustration about not being able to perform. Now, I think you have done the right thing to a point. The only thing that would have improved things would have been to provide the co-author with the information but with a strict deadline but not more than a week or two. Doing so at all stages, is the only way to deal with such cases. It is not very nice, or comfortable, but it is necessary to make a stand and convey the seriousness. In your case you have clearly had a lot of extra work due to the (lack of) actions from your co-author. I assume he has not apologized?
So what to do? Well, I would write and state that you are sorry the co-author feels left out (or however the co-author has phrased it). You can then state that the lack of response earlier made you assume the co-author was not prioritizing the work and that based on suggestions from your boss you have now taken the actions you have to get the material published. Be brief and courteous but do not add many excuses.
It's inappropriate to submit a paper for publication before all authors agree that it is ready. Your boss shouldn't have advised you to do this.
First, you should apologize profusely to your coauthor. Make sure he knows about the deadline, then wait patiently until he is able to give his comments. If the deadline gets close, you could ask the editor whether you can have more time. If not, it may be necessary to withdraw your submission and resubmit later.
When you collaborate with coauthors, you have to accept that the final product needs to be something that everyone can agree on. Yes, this may be inconvenient if one of them is slower, or has different standards than the others, and it can cause you to miss opportunities. This is the price of collaboration. If it becomes a problem, you should talk to your coauthors and try to work out a solution that's agreeable to all, but you cannot act unilaterally.