10

I rewrote my thesis work with improved analytical explanation of major problem statement and included few subsections which were not the part of thesis. Also I rewrote the algorithms with more clarity for better understanding.

One of my colleagues at current working place has helped me in organization of paper and correction of English. I submitted the paper by mentioning my supervisor as second and my colleague as a 3rd author of paper. I also mentioned in acknowledgment that work is extended version of my thesis work under supervision of Mr. X.

After acceptance of paper my supervisor is causing trouble and saying I cannot mention anyone else except him in acknowledgement, and he must be the corresponding author. But as per editor's response, it’s too late to make changes. Now he wants me to withdraw my accepted SCI paper and resubmit according to his wishes (1-He must be corresponding author 2-Acknowledgment must be written according to his wishes 3-Exclude 3rd Author)

My question is whether his reaction is proper? If I don't listen and proceed for publication whether it can cause some problem?

  • 1
    The acknowledgement can indeed be problematic. Since you did the majority (?) of the paper under his supervision, it is customary to include his acknowledgements (funding etc.). At least that's important in our group. – Marc Claesen Nov 27 '13 at 8:28
  • thank you for your response. I mentioned that research funds came from my previous university and extended work supported by current institute – Mustafa Khan Nov 27 '13 at 8:32
18

The problem you ran into is one of the prime examples of why one should always get all the coauthors' approvals before submitting an article.

If you have in fact documented approval from your previous advisor for the paper in the form in which you submitted, the facts are on your side. And there's little your advisor can do about it: it is his own fault for not having caught something he disliked and to have given you the OK to submit. (Though pissing off one's advisor is generally not a good career move.)

If you have not obtained the approval, then you almost certainly must retract the paper. All journals I have submitted to and refereed for either requires the assent to publication be individually given by all the authors (in which case the journal will often ask for contact information of all authors to be keyed in when submitting), or that the corresponding author certify that he is in a position to speak on behalf of the other authors about the paper. The fact that your advisor is making noises means that either

  • He will disagree, as a coauthor, for the paper to be published, or
  • You have in fact lied when you certified that you can speak for him, in which case the journal will retract your paper for violating their rules

(assuming some form of this question was asked during the submission process). In other words, most likely you are already in a situation where you either voluntarily retract the submission (in which case the only people who will know about it are likely yourself, the two coauthors involved, and the handling editor at the journal), or, if you chose to publish anyway, be forced to retract the paper by the journal, since many journals take authorship problems rather seriously. In this latter case anyone with a subscription to the journal would know that your paper was retracted because of some sort of misconduct (yes, misrepresenting author information is scientific misconduct). Your call.


The above basically answers what you should do in your situation. But what about the case where the paper has not already been submitted, but there are disagreements over authorship and wording of the paper?

My only suggestion is that in that scenario, you should get together with your two "co-authors" and hammer out a compromise yourselves. While I find the objections by your advisor a bit strange, there may be ulterior reasons you are not telling us. A possible compromise in this case would be for you to publish one paper, containing only the contributions of your thesis work, with your advisor, and a second one containing the reanalysis and extension, with the other author.

And do not, in any case, go over the objections of your co-author(s) and submit a paper in a form they do not agree with. That's a recipe for academic misconduct right there.

  • 2
    +1 I think that this answer pretty much describes the situation and I wouldn't add any important information. Sigh, life is much nicer if you work with people who actually refuse to be one of the authors because "they don't feel they've made any substantial work on the paper" and because "it's normal that we discuss the topics". This includes my supervisors. – yo' Nov 27 '13 at 15:23
  • Thank you Willie Wong for your answer. Actually for few months he delayed my work by saying that he will give me a response and after 6 months he said work is not as good to be publish in SCI level journal. He also withdraw my accepted conference paper which he submitted himself (Might be because I left him and started PhD in another university). – Mustafa Khan Nov 28 '13 at 1:27
  • Therefore I decided to improved my work and submitted to a journal. After getting first response I informed him regarding paper status. At that time he was ok. After 2 months when we got final acceptance he came up with such conditions. The Journal where I submitted my work has a rule that only Author who is submitting the paper can be corresponding Author. – Mustafa Khan Nov 28 '13 at 1:28
  • 3
    @MustafaKhan: your situation just get more murky with the details! (a) Since your problem with the former advisor is not isolated, a phrase commonly used here on Academia.SE is "run, don't walk!" (b) Given the situation you should consider talking to some more senior members in your field. You should schedule an appointment and lay down all the facts (with evidence! Don't make it a he says, I say sort of situation; every grievance must be fully documented) for him or for her and ask for advice. I say so because the path you are trodding toward leads likely to escalation. – Willie Wong Nov 29 '13 at 11:38
3

I will add some supported information to the answer and comments, perhaps more for future reference. There are guidelines for author ship. The ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has written up guidelines for authorship and contributorship based on the Vancouver Protocol. You can also see the post Paper contributions and first authorship The requirements for becoming an author are quite strict. Based of these guidelines you can see whether co-authorship should be reasonable.

You can also check out COPE's How to handle authorship disputes:a guide for new researchers and the American Psychology Association APA Student’s guide for thoughts on authorships and disputes particularly from the perspective of a young scientist.

To cap off, your situation is far from ideal. To evaluate possible co-authorships must be made early on. You will inevitably experience people who will bully their way into a paper (pressured authorship) and in some cases such behaviour is more a tradition than abuse (but nevertheless wrong and unethical). But remember that missing to add an author (ghost authorship) is also unethical. What you can do in this case is to contact the editors of the journal to seek their advice. Suggestions to retraction of articles is not something they take lightly. You do, however, need to assess the authorship issue carefully along the guidelines given in the examples above. Whether someone is missing from the acknowledgement or not is cause for any drastic measures. The acknowledgement is the only part where the authors can add thanks etc. as they see fit. It is not even necessary to have an acknowledgement, although that might appear odd to readers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.