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Some students are so eager to publish something that they do so without their supervisor (advisor) knowing. They publish work that was supervised by the supervisor with the supervisor's name on but the supervisor didn't know it's published in journal xyz until later. In that case, what is the best course of action to get such work withdrawn or revised if it was already published in a journal or at a conference? If the editor/publisher doesn't agree to take any action, what should the supervisor do? Let's discuss about the solutions to the following different issues that might appear in the publication and that need to be revised/added:

1.part of the authorship, contact details and acknowledgement is wrong or lost

2.some published results are wrong

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    I've cleaned up some discussion here; sounds like the key point (now added into the post) is that the supervisor's name was added to the paper (as an author) without the supervisor's permission.
    – cag51
    Mar 13, 2023 at 15:47
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    Can we assume a further issue is that the quality of the work is not what the supervisor would have approved, given their name was on it? We would normally want all authors to approve the final submission, and if that was not done, there might be quality issues (poor writing, missing citations, etc.) even if the results are technically correct.
    – Dawn
    Mar 13, 2023 at 17:11
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    It's possible that the student(s) thought they were being considerate and correct... since they did not know the standard procedures. So I'd not be toooo harsh with them. Mar 13, 2023 at 18:59
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    Okay, well you say it is a matter of formality, which is not the same as quality.
    – Dawn
    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:09
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    @CaptainEmacs, I can easily visualize scenarios in which the students thought "it went without saying" that they'd include their advisor as a co-author. That kind of thing... Mar 14, 2023 at 14:23

2 Answers 2

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If your name was put on an article without your permission, then the other authors presumably lied to the editor since they presumably had to sign a declaration that they were authorized to act for all authors. Many journals will automatically inform all prospective authors about a submission, but that can be circumvented by giving a wrong / old email address.

If this happened to you, you can either accept the submission after giving the students a good talking-to and not do anything more, or you can go to the editor and ask for your name to be removed. It is up to the journal to decide how to react, either by publishing a retraction of the article or by providing an errata that disassociates you as an author from the article. If this is not a print journal, updates are of course easier.

If the editor does not do anything, then you can go to the publishing house because then the editor would be violating academic principles. Since your career might be damaged by a bad article, you could try to pursue civil damages if neither the editor nor the publishing house reacts, but for that, you need to look for competent legal advise.

Students are free to publish, but as long as they are students, they also fall under an academic discipline, which can restrict this right. They are never allowed to put someone else's name on it without permission and are engaging in serious misconduct if they do so. This goes way beyond a courtesy authorship.

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    thanks a lot. The purpose is not to remove the supervisor's name, but that the final submission wasn't approved by the supervisor.
    – feynman
    Mar 14, 2023 at 3:38
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    I think it is worth considering the possible, unintended, negative effect of retraction. If the common gossip goes along the lines of "Hey, did you see that a paper by Supervisor XYZ got retracted!", people might not take the trouble to ask why. Instead, they're likely to conclude that Supervisor XYZ did something wrong, even though in the circumstances you describe, it is the students who did something wrong, and XYZ who did something right. It might be a close call about what course of action will do the least damage to the reputation of XYZ! Mar 15, 2023 at 10:28
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As the paper has already been published, it would probably be a retraction and not a withdrawal (which is for articles that are in press).

When your name was added to an article that you did not write, this is a valid ground for retraction.

For instance, Elsevier states that bogus authorship claims are grounds for article retraction. For Taylor & Francis, guidelines are similar.

It is important to note that even after retraction, papers will often still be online, but with a retraction notice. So it will still be findable.

If you would rather correct errors in the paper and keep the publication, that can also be an option. In that case, you would contact the editor and ask for a correction. A correction notice may be published alongside the paper. But, as Thomas Schwarz also wrote, it is possible that the editor and the publishing house do not react, or only very slowly.

Additionally, you may want to consider talking to the board of your institution, to see if the student should be reprimanded. A violation of scientific integrity like this, should maybe result in consequences for the student.

Edit: Journals may never respond or outright refuse to correct or retract an article (e.g., see this example, this article, and this one). I'm not sure what would be the best steps nor what rights you have. Perhaps the best advice would be to seek legal council.

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  • thanks. I've heard that some publishers would just refuse to make any changes. In that case, what can we do?
    – feynman
    Mar 14, 2023 at 11:41
  • @feynman The help center states "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" - please don't expect answers to cover every possible contingency, particularly ones you are not actually facing. If you are actually facing this situation, then ask a question that makes it explicit.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 14, 2023 at 22:04
  • @BryanKrause this (in the last comment) is the situation my colleagues and I are facing.
    – feynman
    Mar 15, 2023 at 8:39
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    @feynman Then why wasn't that your original question? Why do you say "I've heard that" rather than "the publisher says they can not make any changes"? Why mislead us and make us guess what your situation is?
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 15, 2023 at 12:38
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    @feynman It's not wrong wording, it's misleading and unhelpful.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 15, 2023 at 13:34

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