I was a summer intern at a research group while I was in high school. They submitted a paper with me as an author and it was rejected in large part due to similarity to their previous paper which I am not an author on. I wasn't aware of this misconduct and am concerned this could follow me into my future career. Also, what is a good way to explain not wanting to be an author on future submissions of this paper, even though I contributed significantly (in fact my work was the only novel part)? I also don't want to burn bridges.

Also, should I refuse to be an author on any future paper with them, even if the paper no longer looks similar to the previous work? At this point I'm not sure if I can trust my former supervisors.

  • 4
    There are different kinds of similarities. Does similarity mean it was viewed as plagiarism? Or just that the work was not novel enough to merit publication in that venue?
    – Kimball
    Jan 14, 2016 at 23:51
  • I'm honestly not sure, but they didn't cite their own previous work which methodologically was very similar (don't think they copied text or anything), which I believe violates the rule of the conference.
    – eagle34
    Jan 15, 2016 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


First of all, don't worry (yet). No one gets in trouble because a paper got rejected. If it had been retracted, that would be a different story.

Secondly, I would be slightly cautious on coming to the conclusion right away that this was misconduct. Work builds on old work. My latest manuscript was sent back because it didn't provide a proof that was 95% identical to a now 40 year old proof. If the paper is genuinely attempting to present published work as novel work (without mentioning that it was ever done before), that's certainly an issue. But if it's spends 80% of the paper saying "here are the things leading up to our contribution", that's fine. In my case, I resubmitted my paper with the proof, along with saying "this proof follows a nearly identical form as ...".

Finally, if you still feel that the work is, in fact, attempting to pass published work as novel, now you have yourself a situation. There's not really a nice way to handle it, but perhaps you could begin with saying "what do you think of the reviewer's comments about the work not being original?" If they do not give you a satisfactory answer, you can say "I'm sorry, but I don't feel comfortable putting my name on this work". As uncomfortable as that will be, the good news is that they cannot put your name on without your approval. Telling the group that you don't want your name on the paper will very likely burn a bridge, but it sounds like you may have more concerns by keeping that bridge intact.


If you don't want to burn bridges then I would continue to publish with them for now and observe whether their future behavior is appropriate. Assuming that you will need their support for your academic career to begin, it would be unwise to jump to conclusions and tarnish your relationship (which I feel that withdrawing authorship rights would probably lead to).

While I don't have the complete information about your case, it appears that they didn't engage in serious misconduct. Indeed, what occurred (not referencing their previous work and thus violating conference rules) might simply have been a mistake on their part rather than deliberate misconduct. Again I don't know exactly what happened but I can see situations where previous work might not be relevant to cite even if methodologically similar to current work (for instance if examining a different research question).

  • This response is well intended (therefore no downvote), but there is too much speculation about motives in this response. Cliff AB's response is more detailed as to which criteria should lead to which decision. Jan 15, 2016 at 1:51

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