I am a PhD student collaborating with a professor (not my advisor). I did the work while the professor came up with the idea and funded the project. The research project centered on an experiment.

Initial experimental results were consistent with Theory A, but they could (with some stretch of the imagination) be consistent with Theory B. Theory B, if proven, would result in a much higher scientific impact.

The professor then decided to conduct a followup experiment. His intention was to provide more support for Theory B. The professor was very excited about the followup experiment, but all the results of the followup turned out to be inconsistent with Theory B. When I updated the manuscript with the the new results, the professor's reply was very brief: "I won't be including results from the followup experiment because I don't have time to look at them". However, he took the time to make further edits to the previous version of the manuscript (with only the original experiment inside) to present the results in a manner such that the original experiment appeared to support Theory B.

The professor then sent the manuscript to me and asked me if I had any comments before he submitted it to a journal. I protested, but the professor told me that he is the owner of the project as he came up with the idea and funded the experiment. I was told that I can either have the name on the paper, or withdraw completely and irrevocably.

I do not think this is fair. Is it reasonable of me to say that I do not want my name on the paper now, but I might want my name on the paper in future if the results are (in my opinion) honestly presented?

  • 1
    I don't see that "he came up with the idea and funded the experiment" makes him "the owner of the project" if you did the work. On the other hand, I see that, unfortunately, his being a professor and your being a student might, in some cultures, make him the owner. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 2:08
  • Can you prove that you provided the data that the professor plans to use in this paper? If so, a reputable journal wouldn't publish it without your name on the paper (or would retract it if it got published before they found out that the work was yours). But maybe the professor plans to publish in a disreputable journal? Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 2:15
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    Do you have an advisor who you trust? Talk to them. If not, you could - depending on the independence you have from this person - the following assumes you do not care what they think about you - tell them that you assume that you are to be credited as someone who contributed to the scientific work. However, knowing that Theory B is unsupported, you find this claim too strong. You do not disagree that the prof came up with the idea and the funding, but your contribution cannot simply be erased. Note that this is quite combative and I wouldn't do it if they could ruin your life, caveat emptor! Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 2:27
  • I voted to close as unclear as this appears to be a complaint rather than a question. It sounds like the professor has already decided to do the wrong thing, so it's unclear how the "question" can help you. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 2:51
  • @AnonymousPhysicist I want my name on the paper in the event that he changes his mind e.g. in response to reviewer feedback. It's far from guaranteed, but it's not impossible either.
    – user122754
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 3:00

2 Answers 2


It is difficult to play hardball when you are a student. I never recommend playing it against your advisor, but this is a bit different as you say. If the person has no effective control over your future then you might consider it, despite the possible blowback.

What is being demanded of you is unethical. No one can publish your work without your permission. If they publish it without you it is plagiarism. Even publishing it without you as an author but acknowledging your contribution is unethical if you don't agree to having your name used. You have a lot of power here, actually.

The actions open to you are an ethics complaint to the department or the university. You can also offer to inform any journal to which they submit it without you that they have plagiarized your work. Hardball indeed.

But a better way is to ask (actually require) them to split the paper. Write a paper that everyone is happy with and make no contentious claims. Have those that are interested write a second paper in which they try to support further claims. The second paper should cite the first, obviously. This isn't the same as "temporarily withdrawing".

Of course, you can also write another followup paper explaining why the further claims are unsupported by the evidence.

But before you take irrevocable action, make sure your own advisor is in agreement and will back you up in the likely ensuing shoving (and kicking) match. Don't let it come between you and your degree.


It will be very difficult to add your name after submission to a journal. Journals are very wary of late additions because of the malpractice of gift authorship.

You could consider framing the changes you want as ones the reviewers are likely to bring up. “If I were a reviewer on this paper I would question this statement. I think a reviewer would have less questions if we said...”

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