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In short - wrote an article, sent the manuscript to all co-authors and asked for consent for submission and for feedback, if any. After most of the co-authors replied, I made some small tweaks to the manuscript that improved it, but I'm still waiting for consent from 2 co-authors. I sent the e-mail 2 weeks ago, and that should be enough time for them to at least acknowledge they received it, right? All other co-authors replied within a few days.

What makes this especially interesting is the fact that the 2 co-authors that didn't respond were the ones not actually super involved in the experiments, they just provided the transgenic model that I experimented on. I included them as authors on the first (published in a journal) paper because my PI told me we should include them because of that and ok. But now they aren't responding at all, so I'm wondering how to move forward. Remind them? When? Just submit without their consent? Remove them from the author block (and risk a clash with the PI)? I want to submit this, but have no idea what to do.

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    Get your PI to complain until they sign off on it just to shut them up.
    – user120011
    Apr 28, 2020 at 22:33
  • Ethically you can't submit a paper without the consent of all named contributors. Cutting them out of authorship might be another ethical issue. Editors don't like to see it happen. Let your PI serve as intermediary. Don't let frustration lead you to bad practice. And "just provided the transgenic model" doesn't seem like a minor thing.
    – Buffy
    Apr 28, 2020 at 22:57
  • This is another reason why models, code, data and such should just be citations to give people credit, rather than giving everyone authorship
    – Joe
    Apr 29, 2020 at 13:41
  • It is the final exam period at many US universities, and between that and the pandemic it's an unusually chaotic time for many. You might find out when the final exam period is for the unresponsive coauthors; if it's now, you might send a reminder email immediately after it's over.
    – academic
    May 1, 2020 at 12:41
  • Also, you might read this to get a sense for their possible perspective: scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=388
    – academic
    May 1, 2020 at 12:43

2 Answers 2

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2 weeks is a fair amount of time, so yes, remind them. You could also write something like "If I don't hear from you by [time] I'll assume you consent to submission", or "I'll submit this by [time], if you have any objections please let me know before then".

That said if you have a PI, you might as well ask them what to do. There's no reason not to, especially for contentious decisions that might lead to bad feelings.

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    +1 Setting an explicit deadline is definitely the way to go.
    – astronat
    Apr 29, 2020 at 8:54
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    Assuming someone has given you permission when they have not is unethical. Sorry. You have no idea why they haven't responded. No. Don't do this. But seeking advice from the PI is good advice.
    – Buffy
    Apr 29, 2020 at 12:47
  • Actually, since you've been an editor, I'd expect you to know better than to advise this.
    – Buffy
    Apr 29, 2020 at 12:54
  • Do a little due-diligence. Double check email addresses are correct and if mulitple emails are floating around, try to send to the others. (or check if there are other ways to contact them to remind them that you are simply waiting on their acknowledgement. e.g., if you know a cell phone to text).
    – Carol
    Apr 29, 2020 at 15:27
  • I used my (ex)PI as an intermediary; he told me that he would contact them and let me know about the result as soon as possible, but it's been 2 weeks since then. Plus 2 weeks since I contacted the co-authors directly, which makes it a total of a month. Any other ideas? I'm applying for post-doc positions and not having this published at least on bioRxiv hurts my chances. :/
    – praznin
    May 18, 2020 at 0:47
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Sadly, until you get the positive agreement of all participants you are just stuck. It is frustrating, but necessary that everyone agree to things published in their name. You can't assume they agree if they don't make it explicit.

Any ethical publisher would require the agreement of all authors and most (all?) require it for those mentioned by name in acknowledgements. You don't need it for citations, of course, but you do for direct contributions.

Dropping them from authorship, if authorship is warranted, is even worse and leaves you open to charges of plagiarism.

I don't know if you could "sneak it by" an editor, but you will have the worst of all outcomes if one of the people whose agreement is needed later objects. Or worse, if a charge of plagiarism is made.

What you can, do, is to keep trying to contact them. There may be reasons that their reply is not forthcoming. Anything from medical reasons to the possibility that they just don't want to work with you or have their name associated with you. Hundreds of other possibilities.

You can also seek to use an intermediary. If there is someone with authority over everyone, then a request made through them might be more likely to receive a response. And a plea from them might be more likely to receive a positive reply.

But, don't let your frustration lead you to unethical behavior. There are outcomes worse than just burying the work. I'm sorry you are stuck. But don't make it worse.


I recognize that biorXiv isn't a traditional publisher. But, still, it is your reputation at stake here.

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  • I used my (ex)PI as an intermediary; he told me that he would contact them and let me know about the result as soon as possible, but it's been 2 weeks since then. Plus 2 weeks since I contacted the co-authors directly, which makes it a total of a month. Any other ideas? I'm applying for post-doc positions and not having this published at least on bioRxiv hurts my chances. :/
    – praznin
    May 18, 2020 at 0:46

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