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We had a paper rejected where I was the first author. The second author and I almost had the same level of contribution to the paper.

Now we are resubmitting the paper to another journal. However, due to my personal business, I cannot work on this paper and its future revisions full-time, hence, we would like the second author to take most of the responsibilities. Consequently, the second author would have more contributions than myself and would take the first author position.

I would like to ask if this authorship change breaks the academic honesty/morality?

2 Answers 2

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There is nothing wrong with changing the order of the authors in a resubmission of the paper if additional (intellectual) work is invested to get the paper to a publishable state, especially if the change is needed to reflect the changed authors' contributions.

What is seen as problematic is a change of the author list during a reviewing process or after submission -- this makes it look like that either the original or the new author list do not reflect the actual contributions of the authors, which is problematic in any case. As a consequence, during revisions of a reviewing process of a single paper, changing author order may look fishy. In certain circumstances, such as major revisions with substantially added content, they can still be done by explaining the change to the editor (and the reviewers), though.

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  • There can be good reasons for changing authorship on a revised version of a paper and even adding new authors. Maybe the reviewers ask for a new analysis that the original authors were unable to perform themselves. Maybe the reviewers want more emphasis on a part of the paper that is the 2nd author's domain. The key is to involve the editor. If you carefully explain circumstances to the editor and politely ask for permission to change the author list, you will most likely be allowed to do so.
    – user155760
    Apr 25, 2022 at 17:41
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There is nothing wrong with updating the authorship of a paper (or changing the order of authors) when revisions are undertaken where new authors add to the paper or existing authors make a larger contribution to the paper. Since you are submitting to a new journal you can make this change without any explanation; if you were submitting back to the same journal then I would recommend explaining the change.

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