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I completed my MS by research under a supervisor. There was considerable delay in completing because my supervisor suddenly lost interest in research midway through my program. I had sent him a research paper for his comments but even after several reminders, he did not show interest in looking at the paper. After graduating from the program, I decided to send it to a journal myself. I sought permission from my supervisor and he was ok with it. Since he had not reviewed it, he said he could send it without including his name as one of the authors. So, I had acknowledged his guidance in the paper in the acknowledgement section. I had sent the paper and now, in the reviewer comments, one of the reviewers has asked about not adding the supervisor's name in the author list (it was listed under minor comments). I'm not sure how to respond to this question. Right now, I'm not exactly on speaking terms with my supervisor. Can anyone please help me?

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    I think the reviewer has been unprofessional. The rank of the authors is not something that should be reviewed. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 27 at 7:11
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Just reply with the facts: Explain that your supervisor was offered coauthorship, but has chosen not to be a coauthor of the paper. (If you feel you want to elabore why - e.g. since he felt he did not contribute sufficiently to the paper, or the like - feel free to do so.)

Especially if this is listed under minor comments, take it as such.

In any case, it is generally not up to the referee to judge who should be a coauthor of a paper. What can be demanded is that you offer coauthorships to anyone who made a significant enough contribution to the paper. As long as you did that, you are fine.

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    I doubt that it even needs a reply, actually. If the author and advisor are happy, the reviewer is just making a comment, perhaps from the perspective of a slightly different field. But the reply is fine. Adding the advisor to make a reviewer happy is (much) less fine. – Buffy Jun 20 at 17:35
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    Indeed, there is no reason to reply this to the referee, it is completely fine to write this to the editor. – user151413 Jun 20 at 18:25
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    If I was the reviewer I would like to be reassured that the absence of the supervisor as coauthor is not due to some kind of bad academic practice, causing him/her not wanting to be associated with the paper. So yes, reply with the facts. – Louic Sep 26 at 14:39
  • I would not elaborate why or any details. Just an "While Prof X was, as acknowledged involved in the project an later alignment with him about the contributions to this specific paper resulted in the current list of authors." – Sascha Sep 27 at 20:27
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    Any questions that you can answer factually and to the satisfaction of the reviewers, will help put your integrity in a good light with those reviewers. So yes, please do reply with the facts: show that you discussed co-authorship with your supervisor, and they gave you permission to submit without making them co-author. The reviewer will be satisfied that you followed appropriate academic procedure, and is therefore more likely to be positive towards you and the submitted paper in general. – Wetenschaap Sep 27 at 22:02
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I would just write that the advisor was not interested in this work and maybe attach a screenshot of the email where he said that he is not interested in being included and that he is OK to submit on your own. That is only if the email does not have any other confidential info.

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Could the wording of your 'acknowledgement' be misunderstood as implying your supervisor's contribution to be commensurate with that of a co-author?

You should take a 2nd look at your acknowledgements section, where you have "acknowledged his guidance". It is possible that the reviewer got the impression, from reading this 'acknowledgement', that your supervisor may have made an author-level contribution.

Without seeing the actual text of your 'acknowledgement', I cannot comment on whether it is clear enough. However, if you have not already done so, you may wish to clarify the 'acknowledgement', for example by saying something like:

  • "Although Prof. X was not involved in writing this paper, his/her general guidance helped inspire my research into ..."
  • "Whilst Prof. X was not involved directly in the research presented in this paper, he/she played an important role in my development as a researcher in this field."
  • "Unfortunately, we could not find the time to collaborate on this research, but I am very grateful to Prof. X for his/her guidance during my Master's studies, which enabled me to pursue this research independently."
  • "This paper is inspired by, but separate from, research I had conducted under Prof. X, whose guidance at that time gave great impetus to my development as a researcher. Regrettably, Prof. X was unavailable to collaborate on the research presented in this paper."

[sections in bold denote the sections that clarify Prof. X is not an author; these are illustrative examples, designed to demonstrate that Prof. X's involvement was limited, but presenting his/her guidance in a positive light; before using/adapting any of these examples, please consider carefully whether they describe your situation accurately]

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    Those suggestions are rude. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 27 at 7:10
  • Indeed. @anon: Do you have an example of any paper with such or similar acknowlegements? – user151413 Sep 27 at 14:48
  • @AnonymousPhysicist We obviously have very different concepts of 'rude' (possibly because we are in different parts of the world? I am writing from a UK perspective); the examples I give are specifically pitched to be clear and factual, whilst not implying lack of interest on the part of Prof. X. – anon Sep 29 at 22:11
  • "pitched to be clear and factual" You didn't succeed there. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 29 at 23:44

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