My supervisor is publishing a paper and naming me as the first author. I did the data analysis for the paper but part of the interpretation in the paper I regard as wrong.

I argued with him but he insists that he would not change that point. (The point serves many of his other papers.) The paper correctly attributes that I did data analysis and he designed and wrote the paper. It also says all authors agree with the content. Because graduation requires a paper, I have to accept that.

What if the point turns out to be wrong? There are numerous records showing that I argued with him and I disagree with that point. I have done my part faithfully.

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    Papers cannot be published without consent of all the authors.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 14, 2020 at 23:31
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    @Bryan But I have no choice. I once told him to retract the prepint and he got mad and asked me to leave the lab. Graduation also requires a paper.
    – tom1994
    Apr 14, 2020 at 23:35
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    There are some rare papers where a paper explicitly notes that authors disagree on interpretation of data. At least in math, I've seen papers with conjectures where one author thinks a conjecture is likely false and another thinks it is true, and they note it explicitly in the paper. Maybe do something like that?
    – JoshuaZ
    Apr 15, 2020 at 0:58
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    @JoshuaZ I asked him to remove the statement that all authors agree with it, but he wouldn't.
    – tom1994
    Apr 15, 2020 at 1:14
  • @JoshuaZ: I would definely NOT recommend doing this on a paper with your supervisor who recently got mad because of the paper. Also your case seems different: That a conjecture is true or false is not known yet. Here, the two authors disagree on what is expicitely stated in the paper. (It would be the same if there was a proof on the conjecture and one author would disagree with the proof's correctness).
    – user111388
    Apr 15, 2020 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


Usually nothing happens to the authors if the paper is wrong.

Circumstances vary based on the topic and the way the paper is wrong. So you, having read the paper, know more about the risks than we do.

  • I disagree with some of interpretation and conclusions. I couldn't say too much details in fear of him finding out this question.
    – tom1994
    Apr 15, 2020 at 1:19
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    @tom1994 I suggest approaching whichever co-author you think most clear headed, and tell them that you do not understand why the interpretation is correct, and hope the co-author can explain it to you. Apr 15, 2020 at 2:03

This is an expansion of an earlier comment. You need to handle both the case in which you are right, and your supervisor wrong, and the other way round. It does not seem that further attempts to communicate with your supervisor on this will be useful.

I suggest approaching one of your co-authors, ideally the one who knows most about the interpretation. Call them Professor X. Explain to Professor X that you do not understand how the interpretation can possibly be right, and ask them to explain.

If you are right, there is a good chance that Professor X, in trying to explain the interpretation, will see the same problems you see. Professor X should take over discussing it with your supervisor.

If you are wrong, Professor X's explanation may show you in what way you are wrong.

To answer your main question, if Professor X disagrees with you and you let the paper be published, and it is later shown to be wrong, you are unlikely to face any consequences. You had your doubts, you discussed them with both your supervisor and Professor X, and in the end accepted their judgement.

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