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We are 4 co-authors for a paper. The four of us contributed significantly to the article, though, since approximately 6 months, two of them do not reply to the emails. Thus, we are two remaining contributors for the last months. I still want the four of us to be co-authors and I am sure this is the four of us wish. However, I am worried about what affiliations and emails should I use for the two authors in the probable case where they don't reply anymore.

We already published recently the four of us together, so should I use the previous affiliations? What if they changed since then? I guess the affiliations and emails are not that important but is there a good practice for that, like "unknown affiliation" or "no email provided" in the case they won't reply when submitting?

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    Can you make an effort trying to find phone numbers and call them? Or maybe contact people who know them better to ask whether they're fine and how to contact them these days? Commented Apr 25 at 13:48
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    Why don't they answer anymore? Was there a falling out between the parties, or what?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 25 at 15:30
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    In a lot (most) of publications don't include an e-mail for every author. The e-mail for the corresponding author should be enough. On the other hand, there might be an issue if the consent of the non-answering authors to publish the article is not already documented.
    – Pere
    Commented Apr 25 at 19:21
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    @Pere On the other hand, a lot of journals routinely ask for the email addresses of all authors upon submission. This provides a way to check that all authors consent, obtain their ORCID identifiers, etc.
    – Anyon
    Commented Apr 26 at 13:21

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I am afraid that you need the confirmation of all coauthors before submission. Submitting the paper with four coauthors and two of them not knowing of the submission is not an option.

However, if you can be sure that the two non-responding coauthors do read their emails you can send them the version you wish to submit and write

"We plan to submit this version to [some journal] on [some date in the not too near future]. If you have any objection, please let us know before [some date between now and the other date]."

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    This could also be one of the rare occasions where a "read receipt" on the email would be useful. Commented Apr 26 at 12:11
  • Does it mean that in the case where one or two of the coauthors don't read emails and there is no mean to contact him/them anymore, because he lives abroad, we should cancel the submission which is more than a year of work and, I believe, a well written work ready to be published?
    – JKHA
    Commented Apr 29 at 15:04
  • That would be indeed a tricky situation. But it also a situation which should be really rare. These days one can track down people by a lot of means and you should exhaust all ways that you can think of. If everything fails (email, phone, social media, indirect contact…), one may think about submitting in some way, but in this case the editor should be informed about the circumstances upon submission.
    – Dirk
    Commented Apr 29 at 15:57
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I would go one step further and indicate that since you need their active approval to submit, you can indicate that "if we don't hear from you by [date] we will proceed to submit the paper without adding you as a co-author".

Somehow it seems less of an issue to publish an erratum later on and add one or both of them back on than to run the risk of having to retract a paper because you submitted it without all authors approving?

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  • I would put "submitting a paper without crediting all authors" as a worse violation than "submitting a paper without approval of authors" in most cases. Adding authors is not a thing you plan to fix with an erratum unless there's truly a mistake; leaving out authors is certainly grounds for retraction as they have some ownership of the project and therefore the journal may not actually have copyright permission to publish it in the first place.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 26 at 17:47
  • Interesting perspective. So I understand the down vote. I guess both options are imperfect.
    – BioBrains
    Commented Apr 27 at 10:38

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