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Recently, I attended a conference as a corresponding author of a paper with five authors. After the paper was published in the conference proceedings, I realized that the technical editor changed the authors order by grouping them according to their affiliations. Is this acceptable?

I feel a bit responsible to my coauthors (being the corresponding author) even though this publication style also affected other papers in the proceedings. But what should I do?

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    I think some journals (in some fields) require that authors be listed in alphabetical order. – becko Apr 2 '15 at 14:36
  • This was not the case here. The authors were grouped according to their institutions. – Alex Apr 2 '15 at 17:57
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Is this a field where author order is assumed to matter (e.g., applied CS)? If yes, this is completely unacceptable. If no, it is still very strange, but maybe not a big deal in the end. I can only imagine that your paper was handled by a very inexperienced technical editor who is simply not aware that the order of authors is not just a stylistic question, but actually has CV implications (in some cases, at least).

One way or another, you should get in touch with the organizers of the conference (e.g., the publication chair if they have one, the general chair if not) and let them know. Maybe it is still possible to fix this, but at least the responsible people should be aware of this issue.

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    Even in fields where author order is not normally used to indicate different levels of contribution or seniority (for example, theoretical CS), this is completely unacceptable! – JeffE Apr 3 '15 at 14:36
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    In some sense it matters more in fields where author order doesn't matter, because in these fields all papers will be in alphabetical order unless there is some strong reason otherwise. If the authors of a math paper are listed as "Bethe, Alpher, and Gamow", readers will assume that Bethe made an extraordinary contribution to the paper so overwhelming as to override the usual conventions of the field. – Tom Church Apr 3 '15 at 20:39
  • Had the same issue on a highly respected publisher. They ended up publishing the paper again with the correct order. – Shake Baby Mar 1 '17 at 3:56
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(Copy Editor speaking.)

This is completely unacceptable and even for more than one reason:

  1. They obviously did not ask you to proof-read the final version. If they did, you would have spotted this change I suppose. Not making final proofs is acceptable only in small local workshops and seminars where minor mistakes don't matter since the publications are not quite real publications, and also where things are usually easy to correct.

  2. They deliberately changed the order of the authors. In fields where each position is something different, this is completely unacceptable. In fields where this is not the case and the authors are listed alphabetically, it's still pretty bad, because it raises a question why you chose this order (people won't assume it was the technical editor who changed the order).

What should you do?

  • Inform your co-authors. Let them know what has happened, that it wasn't your action and that you're looking into it more. The sooner you do this the better, to avoid confusion whether you're cheating them.

  • Raise it up. Ask both the publisher and the Program Committee chair for explanation of this action. Ask them to change it instantly -- they will probably tell you that it's impossible and they'll likely be right, but it doesn't matter. It's their mistake, not yours.

  • If you want, you can also speak about copyrights. The order of authors is, in my opinion, an integral part of the paper, and it means that they published something for which you did not transfer the copyrights.

I don't think you can change anything for your paper (it's probably too late), but you can certainly change something for other people publishing with the same publisher in the future. In my opinion, this is worth it.

  • Even if the editors cannot change the paper in the sense of replacing the faulty version with a correct version, if they want to they can certainly publish a correction somewhere. That would still be useful to the OP: he can place a link to that corrigendum on his CV / webpage and then people who care will believe him when he says he didn't do this. – Pete L. Clark May 8 '16 at 21:33

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