I am submitting an article with heavy heart. The main author of article passed away just a week ago. This work was suppose to be submitted by him. Now this responsibility came to me.
I am not sure how I can sign the conflict of interest statement on the behalf of deceased author?

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    My condolences. This situation is unusual enough that I think you had best ask for guidance from the journal about how they want you to handle the issue of the conflict of interest statement.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 16:19
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    Edited your title, because as written it somewhat implied the deceased author had a conflict of interest; which is different than just needing a sign off. Sorry to hear. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 16:30
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    @Dan Romik: while unusual, I would think this occurs semi-frequently. The average human above 40 has a 0.1% or higher chance to die in a given 6-month period, which is about or lower than the time between the design of an experiment and the submission of a paper; most papers in most fields have a senior author who is 40 or older; so I would expect that the situation occurs every 1000 papers or so. While unusual for a given coauthor, it would be relatively frequent for journals.
    – UJM
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 19:16
  • @UJM There are fields were you can go from design to submission in six months?? I'm not sure I've written a paper in much less than that. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 20:06
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    I wanted to take the numbers on the safe side, hence "about or lower". It's a Fermi problem, really: less than a month is impossible and three years is on the long-ish side (in my field), so 6 months is in the right ballpark. (One of my papers was submitted 5 years after the experimental work started, but I was a master's student and my advisor had tenure so neither of us really cared about timely publication.)
    – UJM
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


There won't be any standard way for this to be handled, and it's not really up to you, directly. You'll need to discuss this with the editor; I'm sure they will work with you to make this not an issue, perhaps either by having the other coauthors speak for the deceased or simply waiving the requirement.

How to acknowledge a deceased advisor’s contributions to a paper? and Dead author ethical guidelines may also have some relevant content for you as far as authorship for deceased contributors - since the paper was so near to submission I think it's straightforward to argue that your colleague would have approved submission and that they should be an author, but more generally the journal should be made aware that one of the authors is deceased, since they may have relevant policies.

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    In my case, the editor had a surviving family member sign the waiver for the deceased co-author. I believe this took a bit of time, but we didn't have to do anything except inform the editor of this situation.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 21:25

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