Recently a manuscript from my Masters by research thesis has been accepted in a Q1 journal with Impact factor nearly 4. At the beginning of the manuscript submission, I requested my advisers to be the coauthors of my article but they denied my request. Is that ethically ok to publish the accepted manuscript?

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    Why did they deny the request? – lighthouse keeper Oct 13 '20 at 13:25
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    @ Lighthouse keeper and Captain Emacs: They offered me a PhD position and I denied that. That may be the reason. Otherwise, I have prepared the manuscript from the thesis which has been published as eprint in the website after reviewing and I have already graduated. – SRC Oct 13 '20 at 15:47
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    @SRC I do not see why they would decline if you choose not to work with them. If they do not give you are reason, go ahead, and congratulations. – Captain Emacs Oct 13 '20 at 16:32
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    @Arno I don't think it is meaningless in this question. It essentially removes the possibility that the supervisors are declining because they think the journal is predatory or has very low standards. – Especially Lime Oct 14 '20 at 9:29
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    It's odd that none of the answers deal with the OP describing asking for co-authors "At the beginning of the manuscript submission." Any reasonable academic should reject that – to be a co-author implies at least having actually reviewed the manuscript before it got to the journal for submission. – Michael MacAskill Oct 14 '20 at 22:28

There are a few different situations that could lead to this:

  1. Most plausible case: Your supervisors determined that in accordance with the standards of your field, they do not count as coauthors.

    Different fields have different customs concerning whether supervisors are assumed to be coauthors of papers resulting from the supervised work. If you worked independently and your supervisors agree, then being a single author on the resulting paper will always be reasonable. Since you mention asking them only at submission stage, it does sound as if their involvement is limited.

  2. Your supervisors really ought to be coauthors by the standards of your field, but declined to give you an (unfair) advantage or similar.

    This is problematic from an ethical perspective. Having another persons consent still doesn't allow an academic to present their ideas as ones own. A carefully worded acknowledgement might work.

  3. Your supervisors declined because they are aware of flaws in your paper, and don't want to be associated with it.

    While one would hope that peer review would spot problems, there is no guarantee that it does. If your supervisors are aware of any major flaws, it would be your ethical responsibility to find out and either fix the paper, or to withdraw it if it is unfixable.

  4. The manusscript is sound, but your supervisors are under political pressure to not associate themselves with the results. (pointed out by nick012000 in the comments)

    Probably no ethical concerns about you publishing here, unless the political pressure is there for very good reasons.

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    Nice answer. I add that the advisor might think that the paper is not really worth having his/her name on it without any real flaws. This said, I would expect the author to clarify whatever point apply to the situation. Advisor are for that. – Alchimista Oct 13 '20 at 12:46
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    @Arno and Alchimista: They offered me a PhD position and I denied that. That may be the reason. Otherwise, I have prepared the manuscript from the thesis which has been published as eprint in the website after reviewing and I have already graduated. – SRC Oct 13 '20 at 15:55
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    A thesis is usually the work of a single author, at least that's the model that we tend to strive for. Of course where the ideas come from the supervisors, that should be acknowledged. If the paper is based on the masters thesis, it makes sense that it too would be single author -- although it's commonly the case that such papers are not. That might help explain why case 1 holds. (Of course this is speculation; a better way to answer the question would be to ask the supervisors.) – Theodore Norvell Oct 13 '20 at 16:57
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    I can think of another case: the paper covers politically controversial content (e.g. showing racial inequalities to be due to genetics, disproving climate change, etc.), and they don't want to be associated with it for fear of tarnishing their careers, even if the science in it was perfectly fine. – nick012000 Oct 14 '20 at 4:18
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    Worth also mentioning an intermediate case between (1) and (2): According to field norms, the paper was in the grey area where they could have been co-authors, but did not have to be, and they chose to decline out of generosity to the junior author, or similar. In my field (pure mathematics), this is common in supervisor-student relationships — where the supervisor has made a significant but indirect intellectual contribution — and is generally viewed as ethically correct. – PLL Oct 15 '20 at 8:41

If your advisors do not want to be co-authors, I think it is fine. You do not have to feel any sort of ethical conundrum for that matter.

By the way, have you asked them why they do not want to be co-authors?

Maybe they are already well accomplished and well published and want you to be the sole author of the paper; which will be a good thing for you. If that's the case, then your advisers are godly.


While the other current answers are good, they don't directly answer the main question. Yes it is ethical for you to publish on your own. There should be no question about that. Actually, be thankful that they almost certainly think enough of you that they don't see the need or have the desire to share your glory. It is good that the answer of Arno raised the third point, but I think the tis very unlikely.

Ethics enters in to authorship questions when people are improperly included or excluded from authorship. But there is no question of "exclusion" here, since you are acting on their recommendation when publishing without them.

Yes, PK1995 implies that there is no ethical constraint.

  • Actually they might not have that good intension. They offered me a PhD position and I denied that. That may be the reason. Otherwise, I have prepared the manuscript from the thesis which has been published as eprint in the website after reviewing and I have already graduated. – SRC Oct 13 '20 at 15:59
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    @SRC If you were upset that someone did not accept your offer of a PhD position, turning down an authorship doesn't make any sense as retaliation. – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 13 '20 at 16:45
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    @SRC--hehim I think implicit assumptions are the enemy of knowledge. Have you asked them why they do not wish to be coauthors? If not, do you have a reason not to ask them? The whole answer thread speculates around the reasons, you can save yourself (and the SE community) a lot of effort if you can say more about the case. – Captain Emacs Oct 14 '20 at 10:11
  • @CaptainEmacs- As they did not want to be coauthors, I did not bothered them. I think, it is not unethical to publish the article. The article has been prepared from my thesis which has been reviewed by 2 reviewers and published in the university website. The article has been reviewed by the editor and two reviewers of the Q1 journal and then accepted. So, the article has been gone through so many reviews. I informed in he cover letter that the article is from my thesis with the thesis link in the university website. If it is unethical, the editor would have rejected my article already. – SRC Oct 16 '20 at 7:12

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