I am a Ph.D. student in computer science. I found that the corresponding author is often not marked in conference papers.

For example, in the following paper, how do I know who the corresponding author is? https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9065598

  • 1
    Back in the day when one author would have reprints meant for distribution, this made much more of a difference Dec 1, 2021 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


The practice of "corresponding author" only exists in some scientific fields, while other fields make no such distinction.

In general "corresponding author" is a distinction that strongly differentiates author roles, such that some authors are "workers" and others are "bosses", with the biggest "boss" being the corresponding author. It typically shows up in more experimental fields, such as biomedicine, where a single PI may have an army of grad students and postdocs acting as lab techs and a paper can easily have a dozen or more authors, some of whom made minimal intellectual contribution. It would make no sense to write to an author who knows little about the paper, and thus the notion of "corresponding author" can make a lot of sense for such a collaboration.

Other fields, particularly more theoretical and mathematical ones, explicitly reject this distinction. Some even reject the notion of significance in author order and expect authors to be listed alphabetically. For these fields, the collaborations tend to be much smaller and much more intellectually balanced. The notion of a "corresponding author" makes no sense for such a collaboration.

IEEE's breadth includes communities at both extremes of these practices, and thus if you do not see a corresponding author, you should assume that the paper comes from a community that does not make such a distinction.

Bottom line: if you don't see a "corresponding author" you can write to any of the authors with an email address listed or, better yet, cc the full collaboration.

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    The corresponding author does not generally correlate with being the "boss". It is rather a distinction of who handles correspondence, including the whole submission process and it can be any of the involved authors. It is often the main author (read: student/lab-monkey), and sometimes the PI, especially when the contributing main author has just finished his PhD and does not have time anymore for the submission and revision process. Different research groups handle this differently, so - like always - it depends heavily on everything.
    – And
    Dec 1, 2021 at 11:27
  • Yes, there is a huge amount of variation out there. My description, however, describes a practice followed by a large swath of scientific communities. Moreover, in many cases it is compatible with your description as well, taking your "main author" as "boss" for project. The key is that there is a major difference in level of responsibility, which is generally not the case in fields that eschew the practice.
    – jakebeal
    Dec 1, 2021 at 11:33
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    In my experience, CCing the full collaboration gives lower chance of getting a response than emailing a single author. Probably if I email one author, they feel they have to answer; if I email two or more authors, every author thinks "someone else will answer".
    – Stef
    Dec 1, 2021 at 15:52
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    @And in some places/fields it's someone who could plausibly be expected to stick around for a while - i.e. not the grad student who's about to finish
    – Chris H
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:56

You don't -- there simply is no corresponding author in that case. Don't overthink it: Just email one of the authors, or all of them.

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