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I am facing a very difficult situation. I sent a paper for peer-review in a SCOPUS indexed journal. My supervisor though did not contribute anything rather than reading my draft insisted that I put his name in the manuscript. I had put his name as the second author as otherwise he would stop my funding. Now my paper has been accepted and published online. To my ignorance the journal has re-arranged the author names in alphabetical order making the name of my advisor to appear first.

In our university, it is mandatory for authors to be listed in the order of their contribution. Also it was me who did all the hard work. My advisor had no idea about the reviews sent by the reviewer. Though I had clearly made myself the first author and my advisor as the second author in the TeX file I had submitted for publication, the journal has changed it.

The journal did not send me the page-proof before publishing it online. They just changed the author ordering in the TeX file I had sent and published it as it is. They put my paper in "RECENTLY ACCEPTED" section with no DOI and no VOLUME NUMBER but it is posted online and is accessible.

What shall I do now? I mailed the journal. They are not replying, it's 2 days already.

Can someone please help. Shall I withdraw the paper from the journal?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – cag51
    Mar 31 at 20:25
  • 3
    Sounds like your supervisor contacted the journal and requested the change in the order.
    – PatrickT
    Apr 1 at 0:24
  • For the record, I don't know what happened but you're describing unethical behavior by your advisor, even if that behavior somewhat common and complaining might be counterproductive (especially for your immediate issue). Apr 1 at 16:48
  • 2
    This has happened to me. I contacted the editorial office. They corrected the issue on the print version of the paper (also online) AND they published an Errata acknowledging their mistake.
    – Shake Baby
    Apr 6 at 5:16
  • 5
    @PatrickT Why blame the supervisor? There is nothing in the question that suggests the supervisor contacted the journal, and it is well known that some journals always put the authors in alphabetical order.
    – Louic
    Jun 8 at 13:41
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If the journal's styleguide requires listing the authors in alphabetical order, convincing them to make a change, even--or especially--a one-off one for you is going to be difficult. The university's policy, dumb as it may be, will also be hard to change quickly. As a result, I think neither is likely to be useful for a paper that is already in press.

If your principal concern is your CV, I think you can safely assume that people in alpha-order fields know the convention, and your contribution won't be ignored. This is especially true if author list is solely a professor and a trainee (student, postdoc, etc). If you work in fields where this is less common, you might want to indicate to note that "authors listed in alphabetical order" somewhere in your publication section.

However, suppose you need a "formal" indication of lead authorship, (e.g., to meet a graduation requirement). Could you compromise with a footnote? It's not uncommon to have a footnote indicating that several authors contributed equally; it would be perhaps be a little odd, but not totally impossible, to use one to denote a "lead author." Some fields already use corresponding author to indicate the the largest contribution from the senior authors; you could potentially overload that as well.

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You seem to be in a Math department, and are having a problem that is going to effect everyone in that department. I suggest you speak to the chair of the department.

There are journals in mathematics, good ones, that insist on an alphabetical order of authors. This is also the standard in most of pure mathematics. If you have your facts correct, your university has policy that will make it very hard for anyone in pure mathematics to publish. Applied math is a bit different but this still will be a problem.

As an example, the journal Results in Mathematics explicitly requires alphabetical author order.

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  • 1
    Out of interest, which journals do you know that insist on alphabetical order? I agree it’s standard in all fields of mathematics I know; but I also know plenty of papers which are exceptions to the rule, for one reason or another, and I don’t remember ever seeing it as a hard rule in journal policies.
    – PLL
    Mar 30 at 22:21
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    @PLL Results in Mathematics has this as a published rule. springer.com/journal/25/… Mar 31 at 0:59
  • 2
    @PLL Alphabetic order "is standard in all fields of mathematics" is kind of a stretch. In numerics and applied math, this is simply not true.
    – usr1234567
    Mar 31 at 18:56
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    @smci Since alphabetical order is standard in pure math, (almost) nobody cares about any metric where the author order matters.
    – Nick S
    Apr 1 at 15:38
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    @smci Not sure about h-factors in pure maths, but this paper indicates it might be affecting career outcomes in economics (which also uses alphabetical order).
    – Anyon
    Apr 1 at 17:02
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You should wait for the proofs. If you do not want to wait, ask the managing editor of the journal when will you get the proofs. Your article is not published yet. What you see is the online pre-publication.

6

ok after the clarification in the comments I'll post it as an answer. Like I said, the "The journal did not send me the page-proof before publishing it online" part seems very odd. Some journals do put early "just accepted" versions of the accepted papers online, and only then send the proofs to the authors. The fact that there is no DOI yet is in line with this too. Please check the e-mail where the editor informs you about the paper acceptance: there might be something about the page proof coming soon. When returning the proof, you can raise the issue about the order of authors.

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  • 1
    In my experience many journals post a draft before the proof process by default. Mar 31 at 0:57
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tl;dr:

1. Your supervisor will know what to do.
2. For the long run, change the rule.

In our university, it is mandatory for authors to be listed in the order of their contribution.

This is highly unlikely, as it is not the university which decides on publication order conventions. I would suspect this is at most a guideline or default suggested order.

It's also not very useful to ask us. I mean, mathematicians, theoretical computer scientists etc. from your university have published in the past, despite this clash in author ordering rules, right? Well, do what they usually do. Your supervisor will know the appropriate course of action, for sure.


Generally, the whole ordering-by-contribution business is unfortunate IMHO; and at least in Math and a few other fields it is not the norm and will not simply be accepted/ignored. So, if this kind of rule snuck into the university's regulations - you should ask your supervisor to initiate formal procedures in the university senate or governing body to repeal this rule. Or better yet, ask your advisor to have the math department collectively initiate such a procedure, so that it's not associated with an individual researcher.

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This is likely too late for the OP, but in communicating to the university that an alphabetical order of authors is the norm in mathematics, it may help to refer to a statement by the AMS to that effect.

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Two days is insufficient for a response (in this instance), you should wait.

Publications are immutable, so correction is perhaps unlikely. You could push forwards on breach of contract grounds. Argue that the publisher has not fulfilled the contract and a correction is necessary.

You likely can't withdraw, once published.

Another solution: Do nothing.

EDIT: It's unclear whether the work is published. If it isn't, just update the camera-ready version.

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  • So what is the way out for me?
    – Math_Freak
    Mar 30 at 13:27
  • 1
    @Math_Freak Wait, argue, do nothing, whichever you prefer.
    – user2768
    Mar 30 at 13:29
  • I have never been in this situation before, whats the best way to handle this?
    – Math_Freak
    Mar 30 at 13:32
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    The article is not published until a volume, page numbers and DOI are assigned.
    – user135405
    Mar 30 at 14:10
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    @Math_Freak Doing nothing is great for a better life
    – user2768
    Mar 30 at 14:10

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