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I really want to submit a manuscript to a pre-print server, where it would be only proper to include the P.I. as a co-author. Only problem is that our relationship is completely shot, and the P.I. likely wishes to bury the work rather than publish. Posting to a pre-print may provide a way for me to recoup some record of research productivity (the work took many years of focused effort!). But would there be a copyright or legal precedent for a co-author to object and have the manuscript taken down after submission? To clarify, this would be an upload-first, inform-coauthors-later scenario.

While this situation would be far from ideal, the simple exclusion of the P.I. from the list of authors seems an even worse course for me to take, for many reasons.

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    Preprint archives require you to confirm that you have consent from all authors to publish the preprint (or rather, arXiv does and I am quite confident that other respectable preprint archives do too). Apr 3 at 20:48

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You caution is warranted. It is misconduct both to publish an article including intellectual contributions from someone you don't credit, and to publish an article, even a pre-print, without permission from the authors.

IANAL, but I think the problems will be of professional ethics, rather than of a legal nature.

Certainly if this person already has it in for you, you are handing them a stick to beat you with.

A better approach would be:

  • Prepare the preprint. Send it to all co-authors asking for their permission to publish. State that if you don't hear back from them in, say 2 weeks, then you will go ahead and submit the pre-print for publication.
  • Offer the authors the following options:
  1. Publish as is
  2. Suggest alterations to the currently proposed article.
  3. Be removed as an author of the article. If this is the case, ask them to identify the specific parts of the article they see as their intellectual property, and which they don't wish to be included.

In the end, I'm afraid that if you don't personally own the majority of the data/intellectual content of the article their is not much you can do. If the PI only contributed funding then you are giving them two choices: "I paid for this data, I deserve to be an author" or "I don't agree with the points you are making here, I wish to be removed". These are the two reasonable approaches. It could be that they have or feel they have contributed more than just funding. In which case, they may demand that much more is removed, leaving you with little to put in a pre-print. If a lot of data or ideas was generated by co-authors, then you also have to consider the possibility that the co-authors will take the PIs side, and again, leave you with nothing to publish.

I'm sorry it is like this, but it is the case that in a collaboration, any one author has the power to stop everything.

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  • If they are validly an author, then a fourth option is for them to refuse to have it published without removing their contribution entirely. Some authors can't be removed ethically. Publishing their work could be construed as plagiarism. So, take even more caution.
    – Buffy
    Apr 3 at 16:29
  • @buffy this is what I was suggesting with my third option. Apr 3 at 16:32
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    @Buffy and of course, they might insist that the whole thing is their contribtuion - that their contribution cannot be disentangled. Apr 3 at 17:32
  • Thank you all, your insights are extremely valuable! Yeah, in terms of contributions it is not an exaggeration to say that the conception, execution and analysis would all have been me, a handful of coauthors that only helps acquire the empirical data in lab conditions, and the P.I. whose only contribution was funding. So Anyon's latter advice seems to be my best course so far. Once again thank you all!
    – Curunir89
    Apr 4 at 16:16

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