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I am a coauthor on a psychology conference paper that was accepted based on a short abstract. The first author became unable to attend the conference and offered the opportunity to present to the coauthors. I accepted and later found out that I need to prepare the slides and text for the presentation.

The first author had presented similar material to a very different audience (a practitioner audience in a workshop setting in Spanish) and offered me the slides from that presentation. The material needs considerable reworking: it needs to be adapted for a researcher audience; have a theoretical framework integrated; be shortened considerably; and be written in (or translated to) English. I should also say that I made scientific contributions to the overall project and these particular results.

My colleague agreed that given the extent of the changes, I should be first author (up from fifth author where I am currently) and he second (remaining authors unchanged). He contacted the conference organizers with the request, but the conference program has already been finalized. The first author believes that this means that no authorship changes can be made, but I am not sure.

There will be no conference proceedings, so the conference program is the only documentation, other than the presentation slides and any documents we distribute.

Can authorship changes be made in the presented version of a conference paper even if the conference program is already finalized? Can we list the paper on our cvs differently from how it appears in the program? Are there any written guidelines on this topic?

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    If there are no proceedings, is it really a paper? – jakebeal Feb 13 '15 at 6:22
  • Why do you care that much about the order of the authors for an abstract+presentation only conference? – Danny Ruijters Feb 13 '15 at 8:27
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    If there is no paper, then there are no authors. – JeffE Feb 13 '15 at 11:24
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I have very little experience with "talk only" conference papers (and, as jakebeal correctly asks, why is it a paper if there is no paper?), but generally, the ordering of authors (or even who is an author) of a conference submission has very little to do with who prepares the presentation or who actually does the talk.

Rather, the order on papers is usually either alphabetical or by some measure of "who did the most work" for the actual research that is being presented. Hence, a change in who presents a paper (which often happens, due to time constraints, visa problems, illness, ...) usually does not require a change in the order of authors, as the underlying work (and who did it) has not changed.

  • Just to clarify, it is quite common to present papers orally in psychology with no published version following. In fact, in my experience psych conferences rarely publish proceedings with the full papers. Thanks for your answer, which helps spell out some of the issues involved. – Guest Feb 13 '15 at 13:54
  • @Guest I guess we just find it highly weird to call a conference submission a "paper", if there is no actual paper. – xLeitix Feb 13 '15 at 14:48
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According to Science,

there are no hard standards for the order of authorship. Most institutions have guidelines, but few are written down.

Having said that, the situation varies from case to case. You need to consult with the conference organizers. As far as I know, the order of authors is not generally changed after submission, let alone after acceptance or publication of proceedings. This is also true for extreme situations; for instance, I know of at least two A* journal publications where the first author passed away after submission and the second author completed the article. Still, the original order of authors remained intact.

Also see related questions on the first author and the order of authors in a publication.

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