4

Every answer in this related question has some phrasing about it being unethical or, as the first answer "does not have the right". Does a supervisor have right to submit paper without consents of coauthor students?

Another similar question and answer states simply "No" to being 'allowed' to do this. Co-author blocking publication . Some comments suggest it is extremely rare and unlikely someone would do this.

This question is similar Paper submitted by co-author without authorization, but about how to handle the situation as they still wanted it to be accepted.

Yet, the one case I can find in COPE, the self-described Committee on Publication Ethics, does not seem to consider this a journal issue.

• The corresponding author submitted an article without the knowledge of all or some of his co-authors.
• The corresponding author was under contract with research centre X at that time.
• The scientific content of the article is correct. A minor error that occurred since publication can be corrected by an erratum.

The result/answer to this problem:

On a show of hands, half of the Forum suggested that the editor do nothing further, a few suggested publishing a correction or some form of note on the paper regarding the authorship dispute, and only two people suggested a retraction.

Are there any reasons, legal or society-wise (does IEEE or some groups have specific information related), that this is not the standard? This is not a question on if someone is allowed to just publish, it is literally asking, so-what if they do? What can possibly happen (to a paper or person) if someone publishes a manuscript without their co-authors permission?

4

Usually, nothing happens, except damage to the submitting author's reputation.

Anything could happen. It depends on the coauthor's feeling and the content of the paper. If the content of the paper is objectionable, then this might lead to retraction. Potentially the submitting author could be fired. But most likely, if a coauthor complains, the submitting author just promises not to do it again and nothing else happens.

Don't do it. Just because unethical conduct has no direct consequences doesn't mean it's okay. Don't even do it if your coauthors tell you to do it. Note that the coauthor's permission is needed in addition to their knowledge.

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  • Complaints, however could result in an academic being fired or a student expelled. Not likely, but possible. – Buffy Jan 15 at 23:15
  • it seems a very strange line to me. if someone plagiarizes, just as having 'objectionable content', this would be grounds for retraction, no? So publishing without the co-authors knowledge, especially if they did the work, is just a loophole around plagiarism by putting the person as a co-author? Or if it wasn't previously published its not plagiarism, so if you hack someones overleaf account and publish their paper its not a problem for the journal. – user-2147482637 Jan 16 at 3:13
  • @user-2147482637 It's more like lying or impersonation than plagiarism. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 16 at 3:28
2

If the co-author is fine with the content of the paper, then submitting it without his/her knowledge isn't that big a deal - (s)he's likely to approve anyway. I'm guessing that this (point 3 in the case listed by COPE) is a big part of the reason why half the Forum suggested the editor do nothing. Another big part could be that the paper has apparently already been accepted. Since review processes usually takes a long time, it's unusual for the co-author to not be aware (and raise a ruckus, if so inclined) that the paper's been submitted.

Much more concerning is the case where the co-author actively opposes publication and lets the journal know before the paper is accepted. This will come down to the journal's policies, if it has any written for this, and/or the discretion of the editor. I know of two such cases:

In the first case, the author submitted a paper without the co-author's approval, although presumably with his knowledge. The editor learned about this when one of the invited reviewers stated that he has personal knowledge of the situation. Apparently the lead author was a student of the co-author and their relationship had broken down. The student did something and thought it was publishable but the professor felt it wasn't strong enough. The student decided to submit anyway against the explicit instructions of the professor.

Once the editor learned about this he terminated the review process and rejected the paper.

In the second case, the author submitted a paper without the co-author's approval, although with his knowledge, because the co-author wrote in to tell the editor he didn't think the results were robust enough, and asked to remove his name from the paper. The paper had already been sent for review. My understanding is the editor chose not to terminate the review process, but is likely to reject the paper unless the reviews are really good (this is an example of when a "revise" review nonetheless leads to rejection).

As for the case where the co-author actively opposes publication but doesn't let the journal know until after the paper is published, I have no experience with this, but my guess would be that the journal will analyze the co-author's reasons, and probably retract the paper.

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