A journal I handle recently received a paper that looks like a student's project. Reasons to think this include the research conducted, the writing style (e.g. the paper describes things which research-level readers are virtually certain to know well), and the fact that of the paper's two authors, one of them is a professor while the other's LinkedIn profile says they're an undergraduate.
If it is a student's project, then one would expect the student to be listed as the first author, but the professor is listed first. This feels a little concerning on an intuitive level (maybe bullying is involved?). All our communications address both authors, but the professor is the submitting author who also answers our questions, and the student has not told us anything directly.
I'm one of the journal's staff. Should I do anything? If yes, what?
Some of the obvious things I can do are:
- Nothing. The "evidence" is at best suggestive and very far from conclusive. There could be nothing inappropriate going on at all. Besides, journals usually don't get involved in authorship disputes.
- Directly bring it up with the authors. (The professor is likely to say the ordering is correct, but they were always going to say that, so this doesn't seem like it achieves anything.)
- Email the student, and only the student, to ask them about this. (Could be scary for the student, might also offend the professor if they learn about it, which they easily could if the student tells them.)
Edit: to clarify, 1) there is no policy to email every author to get their consent to publish, but there is a policy to include every author in all our communications. I have no reason to think that the email address of the student is wrong. 2) The standard in the field is to list authors by contribution. For this particular manuscript as well, if the author order were alphabetical, the student would come first.