There were three people working on a paper: a PhD student (S1), her advisor (A), and another PhD student (S2). The advisor A passed away before the paper was finished. At that moment the amount of work done by corresponding parties could be estimated as S1 - 45%, A - 45%, S2 - 10%.

Both S1 and S2 graduated and S1 is not interested in finishing the paper and doesn't want S2 to finish it saying that his contribution was not sufficient. S2 wants to finish the paper alone. For the final version, the amount of work done by corresponding parties would be estimated as S1 - 40%, A - 40%, S2 - 20%.

Is it appropriate for S2 to submit the paper as he worked on it? If yes, how to deal with authors? S2 thinks that he would put them in order: S1, A, S2, but knows that S1 won't approve the submission.

2 Answers 2


Under those circumstances? No. The basic rule is that all co-authors need to consent to submitting the paper. Exactly how to handle the case of a deceased co-author can be tricky (there are questions about it on the site), but if the other living co-author explicitly does not consent then there's not much reason to worry about that aspect.


First, a paper can't be published without the consent of all authors. Since A can't give consent, their estate must be consulted, perhaps the executor, a spouse or similar. Third, if S2 finishes the paper, their "contribution" probably increases as you note, but it is hard to say by how much. It might not be truly possible to give such an estimate since it isn't time in the saddle that matters. Intellectual contribution is much more important, but harder to measure meaningfully.

I won't speak to the order of authorship as it depends too much on the field.

But S2 can't publish the paper "on their own". A reputable journal will want confirmation from all authors (and probably a legal representative of A).

Sadly, some things need to be abandoned.

S2 might be able to take their own ideas into a different paper, carefully avoiding plagiarism.

  • This discussion / argument has been moved to chat; friendly reminder to all to "assume good intent" in others' comments, and also to avoid phrasing that could be perceived as condescending.
    – cag51
    Aug 13, 2021 at 18:36

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