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For reasons I am not going to delve into, I was given second authorship outside my consent on a couple of conference papers I have absolutely no contributions on.

To resolve this, I have been repeatedly going back-and-forth with ACM to remove me from those, which keeps ending up with the head author very strongly insisting I did contribute, and ACM responding with the written equivalent of shrugging and walking away.

This whole situation is very bizarre and I am sincerely at a loss as to how to even begin approaching this. Plagiarism is complicated enough despite it basically being the most studied academic subject of all times. But how does one even begin to approach it happening in reverse?

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  • This seems odd for ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). Why does the lead insist that you did contribute?
    – Buffy
    Apr 11, 2021 at 21:55
  • I'm aware of some journals that now email co-authors and have them verify their involvement before considering the manuscript. That initially struck me as tedious, but situations like this must be common enough to call for that verification. Apr 12, 2021 at 2:24
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    If being listed as a co-author of these papers harms your reputation, then it might amount to defamation, in which case getting a lawyer to write to ACM might make them sit up and take notice; but of course, that will cost money, and doesn't help you if the listing is beneficial or neutral to your reputation. Apr 12, 2021 at 12:08
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    @DanielHatton that's the other thing. It could be beneficial to my reputation, which makes the matters worse. I am attributed content I did not create, and not qualified to be responsible for it. Is that not the whole idea behind why plagiarism is the biggest sin one can commit in academia?
    – Layman
    Apr 12, 2021 at 17:00

1 Answer 1

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The head author’s insistence that you contributed is irrelevant. One simply cannot make someone a coauthor without their consent. I suggest that you reply to the chain of emails with something along the following lines:

Dear [ACM editors],

Thank you for your assistance with the issue of the coauthorship of [paper]. My colleague [head author], cc’ed, is being too kind when he says I contributed to the project. Perhaps there is some truth to that; regardless, for personal reasons I do not wish to be made a coauthor, and do not give my consent to be listed as a coauthor of the paper. I make this decision without implying any opinion as to the content of the paper, its quality, or the question of how much I contributed.

Please confirm that you are removing my name from the list of coauthors [optionally, you can add for added pressure if you expect more resistance:] or I will be forced to escalate the matter to the [Editor-in-Chief/Advisory Board/etc].

[head author], thanks for the lively discussion and for your generous suggestion to make me a coauthor. If you wish to mention me in the Acknowledgements section that is totally fine.

Regards,

Layman

Once you expressly state your refusal to be made a coauthor in this way, it’s difficult to imagine them “shrugging and walking away”. My guess is you simply haven’t been assertive enough in your earlier request. Good luck, and do update your question to let us know how things turn out with this curious affair...

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