18

My collaborator and I submitted an article to a special issue of a journal. He did most of the writing of the article, while I did the technical work such as running simulations, generating plots, and typesetting the article in LaTeX.

After two revisions, the article has been accepted with major (one reviewer) and minor (the other reviewer) revisions needed. We were given a relatively short (3 weeks) deadline to make the revisions, due to the deadline for making up the special issue of the journal.

Unfortunately, my collaborator has suddenly become unreachable by email for the last 5 days. As we're living in different cities, I have no idea if he experienced a medical or family emergency, or if he suddenly is no longer interested in the article, or is no longer alive? (He's probably alive, touch wood, my point is just that I feel quite confused with the situation, and my imagination is running a bit wild at this point.)

Question: How should I proceed with a short deadline for revising our journal article submission, if I am unable to reach my collaborator?

I could try to do the rewriting completely by myself, I believe this is do-able. However, is it "kosher" for me to submit the article revision, if I don't hear from him before the submission deadline?

I could also do nothing, and wait, hoping that he becomes reachable again, but the longer I wait, the greater the risk that we'll miss the deadline and have to go through the entire journal article acceptance process again.

I'd really appreciate some advice as this is quite confusing, and it feels strange to be so close, yet so far, in getting this journal article finally accepted and published.


Update:

A few days after I posted this question, my collaborator finally responded to my email. He didn't explain exactly why he was out of communication, but I am inferring that he was really busy with things on his end. We'll be working this week to get the paper submitted on time, it will be a bit tight but I think it's manageable.

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions, fortunately I didn't have to use them this time, but hopefully someone else who encounters this situation in the future can use these really helpful suggestions.

5
  • 8
    Is email the only option? Can you call or text? How many times did you email in 5 days? Maybe he/she just missed the email – Daniel K May 30 at 20:43
  • 2
    Is it possible he is just on vacation? A call to his institution would help to clarify what's going on anyway. – Neinstein Jun 1 at 7:51
  • 3
    "in getting this journal article finally accepted and published." you are not that close: there is a major revision. However, you have to call/email the editor now, explaining the situation, so he is prepared when, the day before the deadline, you say you cannot provide the ok from all co-authors. You may be able to get even 2/3 weeks extension. And in the meanwhile, start the revision as it was to be done for the deadline. It may be that you reach your co-author on the same day of the deadline. – EarlGrey Jun 1 at 8:04
  • 2
    When I'm faced with this sort of situation with other professionals, I usually do the re-write myself, and then send them that for approval (and an apology, if it's likely to appear like over-stepping boundaries). Most often, the other party is only too happy that someone else has done the leg-work. – Strawberry Jun 1 at 11:53
  • 1
    Given the current COVID situation, I think the first thing is to ask for an extension of the deadline, as this has a good chance of being granted. – Tom Jun 1 at 18:22
36

(Promoted from a comment.)

As well as agreeing with other posters that you might as well start working on revisions yourself, I would strongly suggest that you contact the editor now rather than waiting for closer to the deadline. You can indicate your uncertainty, i.e. that everything might be OK (co-author responds to your queries, revisions get made, everything is submitted before the deadline), but it is best if everyone knows what's going on earlier rather than later. In addition to explaining the situation, you might ask:

  • how strict the deadline is
  • what editorial policies would apply if you end up needing to resubmit without being able to contact the co-author for approval (i.e., would the editor let you resubmit without having been able to formally receive consent from all of the co-authors? This could be a "don't ask don't tell" sort of thing, but transparency is best if you can manage it ...)

It won't take the editor long to respond to a short, clear, query, and there's no harm done if it turns out to have been unnecessary.

7

Certainly you can start on revising yourself while you continue to try to reach the other person. If you reach them you can give them what you have done and continue from there.

Perhaps you can reach them through a third party if you know of someone, perhaps someone they work with.

Doing nothing seems like the worst option.

But if you have to send in your own revision without help, let the editor know of the problem, Perhaps they can extend the deadline a bit.

1
  • 1
    @BenBolker, good idea to contact the editor immediately. – Buffy May 30 at 20:01
6

I am wondering if a call is not an option. You can also call the reception at his/her institute, one of the students, etc. The fact that the deadline for a paper you both wanted out is approaching gives you the right to try every way to contact him, in my opinion. This would also let you know if that person has problems of a sort, though their nature might be or not revealed. Actually, in most cases that would be my primary concern as for coauthors are often kind of friends. If the lack of answer is on purpose, well, you must ascertain it anyway.

Once all ways to contact your coauthor failed, again is my opinion that you could proceed alone and submit.

Edit after comment.

I've considered it somehow implicit, but on resubmitting you should inform the editor about the situation. This would move the responsibility to the Journal. A possible outcome is that the article will appear in a standard issue of the journal.

8
  • 1
    As I commented to the other answer, proceeding to submit without having reached your co-author (and obtained their approval), is bad advice. At the very least your technically advising them to commit fraud (since any submission procedure will ask (explicitly or implicitly) whether the submission has the approval of all authors. On a simply ethical level, by (re)-submitting you are choosing to speak with the voice of your co-authors, and anything your write in either the resubmission or the response to the referees will reflect on them as much as it does on you. – mmeent Jun 1 at 7:52
  • 1
    You are taking revising the ms as first submission of it. I did not want to give example here, at first. The main ethic concern if I am coauthor is not to spoil and waste the work of others. There is no acceptable way that an author disappears in the middle of revision if not for health or personal trouble. A case for which the author concerned would be thankful. Virtually, one can have its opinion. But if you work with me you MUST let me know. If you end up in a ICU (I hope it is not the case) I do submit. @mmeent – Alchimista Jun 1 at 9:49
  • Of course, editor can be informed and an arrangement can be found. But that wasn't the main message of my answer. I think I've mentioned in a comment that, if there is a valid reason, the paper would be likely moved to the standard issue. But for doing this, one has to know the "status" of that coauthor. – Alchimista Jun 1 at 9:55
  • Whether what the co-author is (isn't) doing is OK is irrelevant. Two wrongs do not make a right. If you (re)submit without consent of your co-author, and they do object to it, things could end very badly for you. (Whether that is likely depends on the co-author and the relation you have to them, which is certainly you cannot judge for a stranger on the internet.) – mmeent Jun 1 at 11:34
  • 3
    @mmeent: Much of this depends on how close OP’s relationship with the collaborator is. I have some long-standing collaborators whom I know and trust very well; I’d be completely happy for them to revise+resubmit on my behalf if I was incommunicado around a deadline, and I’d feel confident they’d be happy for me to do the same. – PLL Jun 1 at 13:51
3

Is your collaborator employed somewhere, at university or in industry? If so, he surely has co-workers, and their e-mail addresses and phone numbers can be found somewhere in the internet.

Try to get in touch with one of them. Call or e-mail his secretary, a postdoc, some other co-worker. At least one of them certainly knows why he does not answer and might have more possibilities to get in touch with him. A secretary, for example, usually knows the private phone number of her boss. They would not give it to you, but they can call him and ask him to respond.

1

I personally would start to write the revision. Maybe the person is just on vacation?

If your co-author did most of the wrting (as you said), I think it is in his/her interest to get this article published.

Basically you have these two outcomes:

  1. Your collaborator answers before the deadline
  2. Your collaborator doesn't answer before the deadline

So think about it, in both cases it would be highly beneficial if you start the revision already. If you are on good terms with your co-author there is a very low chance that the person doesn't answer because there is no longer interest in the article.

In the worst case, your co-author doesnt answer. Then you should just revise the article as necessary for the major revision and submit it.

Since this is a journal article and not a conference article, I guess the deadline should be extendable if you really need it.

5
  • 5
    Special issue deadlines are much more firm, actually. – Buffy May 30 at 20:02
  • 1
    Under no circumstance should the OP resubmit without having reached the co-author. That would be misconduct. A (re-)submission always needs the approval of all co-authors. – mmeent May 31 at 8:12
  • Basically I could have avoid answering. Plus 1, especially to mention that for real trouble the paper can get an extension. It could perhaps be published even in a standard issue of the same journal. – Alchimista May 31 at 12:55
  • 3
    @mmeent -- It is not misconduct of any sort to submit if the co-author cannot be located. By agreeing to co-author, there is an implicit agreement to be reasonably available and to respond to anything significant. If the co-author cannot be located bcs he/she is ill, injured, missing or worse, that is most unfortunate, but should not hold up your joint project. – Neithea May 31 at 15:24
  • 1
    @Neithea Yes it is. You always need permission of your co-authors to submit, with the only possible exception in the unfortunate situation that the co-author is no longer with us, but that is a separate complicated issue. – mmeent May 31 at 15:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.