I have authored my first paper for a journal. I talked to some co-authors, hoping that they would help me with the design and intellectual work, but eventually their contribution has been minimal. I was not bold enough and they did not help. They don't satisfy the ICMJE authorship recommendations, since they have only provided manuscript review (http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html), and provided limited feedback, and allegesly-impressed praise. All the design, and hundreds of hours of work is mine. They did not provide institutional or financial support and they are not my bosses or leaders.

Should they be excluded from the authorship? Do journals prefer a "well-published" teacher as the co-author of a paper?

I believe it would be overly fair to include them as acknowledgements, but I'm not sure what to do.

How do you suggest this "bad news" should be delivered to them? I really struggle with communication.

  • 2
    Is a statement of authorship (Conzeptualization, Experiments, Write-up: A-B, Manuscript improvements: A-B, J.S) an option to your field/journal? I see this rather frequently Sep 29, 2020 at 6:44
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    Please ask only one question. If "Should they be excluded from the authorship?" is the question, please clarify why the link you have provided does not answer that question. Sep 29, 2020 at 8:27
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    Why do you think these people think they are co-authors? Sep 29, 2020 at 8:28

2 Answers 2


I believe: The OP has written, but not submitted, a manuscript, which they discussed with some potential co-authors, who provided minimal input.

If the OP didn't discuss authorship, then they can immediately proceed to submission without listing the potential co-authors. (Discussion doesn't generally merit co-authorship.) Even if authorship was discussed, they may be able to immediately proceed, it really depends on the discussion.

For instance, the OP may have offered co-authorship in exchange for help...with the design and intellectual work and if there's no evidence of fulfillment, the OP can immediately submit without listing the potential co-authors. It gets tricky when the OP is unsatisfied, but there's evidence of partial fulfilment.

If the OP is in a position to immediately submit, then they are under no obligation to communicate with the potential co-authors. Nonetheless, the OP could send a thank you email, e.g., Thanks for your input on XYZ. Your wisdom helped improve my manuscript (attached), which I'll be submitting to ABC. I've listed you in my acknowledgements, which I trust is okay.

For trickier situations, I'd need more information to offer advice.


I understand this situation and I know colleagues having this situation. This is a tricky situation and could potentially hamper the progress of your paper and future collaborations. Firstly, although this is the right thoughts to ensure that authorship is properly credited, your co-authors may take this negatively and may affect future collaborations with them (but this differ from one author to another).

On a similar situation where it may explain why revision authors cant substantially provide a lot of comments, I recently co-authored a paper where I was invited during the "revision stage" only, I agreed since the main authors justified why I was invited and how I contribute. While helping on the revisions (of an almost complete paper) and ensuring that information are curated well, I realised it's challenging to provide a rigorous edits and feedbacks on the body of the paper as it is already good and it only needs some insights on areas I am working on. I am not sure what is the extent of feedback you need for your paper, I suggest pondering well before making such decisions, consult your trusted co-author or your supervisor.


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