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A published article in an Elsevier journal has 5 authors (the first one is also corresponding author). A corrigendum appeared in the next issue, telling that the authors regret to forget to mention a second corresponding author for their paper (who is by chance a parliament member), resulting in the number and order of the authors (6 authors now). This corrigendum was also published in the next issue.

I believe this process is highly prone to corruption. When an article is published, what is the excuse to add another author, let alone a second corresponding author. A new author can be mentioned by editor or reviewers to the original author (once they are aware of his or her identity). When journals have blind peer reviews, after a paper is published, the reviewer is aware of the author and can simply ask him to add s/he or his/her colleagues as the author of a published work. Can someone put light on this please?

Just for further reference, I asked this from the journal manager at Elsevier and he answered me:

Please be informed that the correction to a published article will be accepted when there is a request from the corresponding author. When a corrigendum is published it is generally sent for the editor approval. The article will be processed only after the handling editor approval.

So, as I understood there is no kind of corruption prevention process here. Everything is in the hand of the editor.

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  • 1
    Why would the author agree with this?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 12 at 11:37
  • 1
    Original author is a colleague of the added author in the university.
    – Ali
    Oct 12 at 11:57
  • Did the corrigendum specify the nature of the added author's contribution? Oct 12 at 12:56
  • 1
    No it doesn't. The case is specially more interesting knowing that the added author is a parliament member.
    – Ali
    Oct 12 at 13:46
  • None of the editorial board of the journal look to be closely affiliated with the country or universities of the authors. Nor is Elsevier (the publisher) associated with that country. I'd think it's more likely that the original authors or their institutition were pressured to make the change, rather than the reviewers or editors forcing it on them.
    – DavidW
    Oct 13 at 8:13
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This is certainly an unusual situation, and as an editor, I would want to have a very serious conversation with the authors about what specifically happened there. One does not "forget" to put someone on as an author. There is a serious ethical lapse that must have happened there.

What specifically that ethical lapse was is something we will probably never know and could only speculate. One might think that someone complained that they should have been an author but wasn't (to the journal, to the university, to the publisher) and that that led to the corrigendum. But we don't know.

Regardless, your specific question is whether this suggests a path to corruption by way of reviewers suggesting other authors. But I don't see how that would work. It is not clear why authors would agree to this, nor why editors would. It is true that authors are often at the mercy of editors, and corrupt editors can impose unethical things on authors (and, I am sure, have done so many times). But at least for the top end of journals, editors also represent the best people in a community and are respected leaders of a field; they have ethical obligations to their community and take those serious. It would be a pretty good way to ruin your reputation in a community to force authors to agree to add names to a paper.

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  • Thanks for your informative answer. The case of reviewers/editors can be so: you as accept my paper as a review, and after publication send me your request to add your fried (for example) as a second or third author. This is a risk for you to mention this and for at the same time to me to reject this, which can cause my later papers being rejected.
    – Ali
    Oct 12 at 13:49
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    @Ali It would be far, far simpler to do this before publication - doing it after publication is going to attract a lot more attention. I don't doubt such things have happened, but it's a pretty risky thing to do if it comes out.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 12 at 14:52
  • Indeed. I don't see what is special about doing it after publication as opposed to before, possibly as a condition for recommending publication. In any case, any decent person in the editor role will say that this is unethical and oppose it. Oct 12 at 15:54

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