I am a somewhat new PI, and have gotten a request to submit an invited article. My PhD student whom I have asked to author the paper is taking a long time to finish a draft, and the second deadline for submission (I already had to ask for an extension) is fast approaching.

I am trying to arrange my schedule now so that we both working together can finish the draft in time, but there are some minor co-authors we have to include on the paper. I was wondering how long is typical to give these minor co-authors a chance to review the draft before submission.

My field is chemistry/materials science. If it matters, I would add that these authors have only done the bare minimum work that would ethically make them co-authors. In the past, for similar levels of work that I have put in, more senior PIs have only given me a couple of days - which was fine for me, but I have no idea if that is normal...

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    This will likely vary not only by field and country, but by PI or author... If I were one of your coauthors, I would appreciate having a full week, and more importantly, being informed ahead of time. "On February 1st, we will be sending you the manuscript and ask for any comments to be returned by February 8th so we can work them in and submit by the hard deadline on February 10th." That way, people can prepare, perhaps block time for this. And then, of course, do send by that date. Commented Jan 15 at 9:47
  • This sounds like your actual problem is not with the coauthors but with the PhD student. Even if you magically know the coauthors need 3.14 weeks of time, that just sets another, weaker deadline than the one your student already missed. Commented Jan 16 at 5:32

3 Answers 3


For me it does not matter if they are minor or major contributors. I send the manuscript to everyone with a generous deadline for comments - usually 3-4 weeks if it is the first reviewing round, and 1-2 weeks after addressing their initial comments. The amount of time I give in the second round depends on how much changes they requested initially, e.g. if only grammar changes were required then 1 week or less seems acceptable.

If you have a time constraint and you cannot send the manuscript early, then I would tell the co-authors in advance that they should expect to receive the manuscript for comments on the date X and that they will have Y days to send back their comments. In this way you allow them to plan their schedule accordingly.

I learned to never ask for feedback/actions without defining a deadline, the chances of never hearing back from people is very high.

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    I agree with the general structure here, but personally, I'd probably reduce the timescales by an order of magnitude - 1 week for inital comments, 1-2 days for a final check/grammer check. Generally, for a minor contributor i'll say something like "I plan to submit on day X. I'f I don't here back from you by Y, then I'll assume you are fine with it as it is. If you do have comments, but don't have time by Y, please let me know before then". If I was writing something commissioned, the timeline for the whole thing may well only be a month from commission to submission. Commented Jan 15 at 18:33
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    @IanSudbery Yes, I also use the "silence means you agree with the submission". 1 week in my field is too short, I have clinicians with packed schedules as co-authors that couldn't accommodate such deadline. Maybe if I tell them in advance when I will send it for comments.
    – The Doctor
    Commented Jan 15 at 19:25
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    almost certainly discipline specific. I also tend to warn people that its coming, like you. Commented Jan 15 at 22:17

As someone who was once a somewhat new PI in Chemistry/Materials/Nano Science, I will offer up some tangential unsolicited advice.

As your career progresses, you will get plenty of opportunities for invited articles. It's ok to say no if you aren't in a great spot to have something of quality completed (with the idea that it's not just the work, but the writing, and editing, and approval of all authors). In my relative youth, I have agreed enthusiastically to many invitations only to have to disappoint the editor and miss deadlines. Why? Because my grad students didn't work as fast as I would like. Because my collaborators get hit with other deadlines or more important things. Because I made mistakes in realistic time management. The good news is... it's OK!

Keep doing good work. Publish when ready. Foster strong collaborative relationships (doesn't matter how minor their contributions may be). It's a marathon.

As noted in other answers, lose the concept of minor or major contributor. They are part of the team that is putting together the story you are going to publish.

To answer your main question. Just be honest with your collaborators. Tell them you have a deadline that you really need to hit, give them a reasonable 1-2 week turnaround time. Most people have been in the same place and will be sympathetic. Those that aren't are either not the nicest people, or they themselves have learned to say no because they simply have too much other stuff on their plate to make your deadline. Those that you can count on and are willing to be flexible collaborators are the ones you will want to keep working with as your career progresses. Those that are not communicative or unwilling to help are likely not worth your time going forward.


Your real problem is of course your relationship with your Ph.D. student. You have a duty to educate your Ph.D. students in how to write papers, and if they cannot do it (yet), you might have to decide how much of their task you are going to take over, and how you plan on getting them to be able to write papers.

You should inform your minor co-authors as soon as possible about the status of the paper. Maybe have a conference with them using a draft of the paper, and make it clear to them that there might be very little time for them to look at the finished product. Email is usually not a good medium for this. You setting deadlines is not a great idea, but co-authors are in general very helpful to get the paper sent off.

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    The last sentence doesn't make sense to me. See the last two words: "seen of". Do you mean "sent off" or something else?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 15 at 12:54

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