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I am new here, and relatively young. This is my first book chapter, I usually publish articles, and I was invited to write a chapter as a co-author by a colleague. After analyzing what my contribution would be, I agreed.

I worked the whole theory for the article. I am from the Global South and my colleague and the editors are from the Global North.

One of the reviewers made some comments, which we addressed. Then, she requested me to change some concepts and replace it with “global north ones”, and now she asked to work on the text herself because she “doesn’t like” what we are writing and “the language” we are using. I want to withdraw my participation after the editor and the first author had a meeting, without me, and my friend gave her permission to work on our book chapter.

I am shocked, I have some articles in journals that are Scopus, and this never happened. The book is from a major publisher.

Is this normal? Is this okay? I feel very weird with this whole situation.

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  • 6
    This looks totally abnormal to me. Jan 20 at 5:27
  • 8
    I'm sorry that you're in this situation, I felt a pintch of scientific colonialism by your description.
    – The Doctor
    Jan 20 at 12:39

2 Answers 2

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I'm not certain that the following describes your situation precisely, but it is fairly common.

When a "lead author" proposes a book (or has one proposed to them), that author normally (not always, perhaps) maintains overall control over its contents, subject to decisions by the publisher. That lead author defines the contents and if it is to be a collaborative work, with chapters by others, still maintains a sort of editorial control, including what is to be in the chapters.

It isn't like a journal, in which the papers can be relatively independent, though "special issues" of journals are a bit similar. The book has a theme and the chapters contribute to that theme.

So, someone, most likely the lead author, has issues with what you wrote and someone (you suggest the reviewer) wants substantive changes. I don't find that terribly odd or unusual, even if it can have implications about respect and such. But it is likely that what you wrote doesn't conform to the overall concept of the lead author.

So, no, not unusual for the scenario described above, which, as I said, may or may not fit yours. It would be quite odd for a journal article IMO but not for a book with a lead author.

You have the option, of course, of withdrawing your participation and demanding that your work be removed. No one can publish things they might attribute to you without your consent. They would need to remove your contribution (not edit it) and start over on that chapter.

I also think that the fact that you feel "weird" isn't unusual. There was some sort of a misunderstanding or miscommunication and you have been caught in it. But the lead author and the publisher (through editors) still sets the "tone" and content for such a book. You probably can't change that, but you don't need to participate in something you disagree with.

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I suspect this could happen if the reviewer is part of the editorial team herself. Editors often do some editing, or have some (language) editing done by the publisher. Also the editor could in principle authorise a reviewer to propose edits. All changes should however be agreed by the authors. I don't think an editor could change an article that carries the names of the authors without agreement by the authors. It does happen though that edits are done before the authors are asked, and then the result is presented to the authors for agreement (and the authors can still change things).

Now in your case it might be that the first author agreed to this (the story there isn't totally clear to me) and the editor took that as an agreement of the author team. In this case the problem would lie with the first author, who potentially agreed on something "on your behalf" to which you wouldn't have agreed.

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  • +1 especially for the second paragraph.
    – Allure
    Jan 21 at 6:26

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