8

I was actively working in a research project, contributing experiments, hypotheses and analysis. Suddenly, I was forced to leave the program. The adviser stopped to sponsor me and replaced me by another person (who had only contributed purification for 3 weeks). I was relegated from the second to the third or fourth author. The supervisor decided all this without consulting anyone in the project.

Finding this unfair, I resigned from the paper, and I specifically requested not to be acknowledged at all. Against my wishes, however, my name was included in the acknowledgement, as if nothing had happened. I was stunned. (The paper itself was not even very fascinating.)

What can I do to have my name completely removed from this published paper? This includes not only the authorship but also the acknowledgment and anything else.

Thank you for everyone's answers.

My point is I do not want to be in academic at all so there is not much to talk deeper of academic career.

I was never informed about this publication

ie I was not given a copy before it was sent to publication.

I did not know when and where it was published until I was looking for job and looking for details of that work after a year later.

I had very explicitly stated that I did not want to be involved in this publication by the time I left. This was cc'ed to a third party.

The result I had was not reproducible and I did not agree the methodology of the publication on top of the disagreement.

22

You can't, and you shouldn't.

Authors are obliged to give proper credit to everyone who does work contributing to a paper. This is why papers must cite earlier relevant research. By failing to acknowledge you, the authors would be falsely claiming credit for your work, just as if they had failed to cite a relevant paper in which you were an author.

Unless the acknowledgement is factually inaccurate, your disagreement with the authors is irrelevant.

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  • 4
    Sorry, there are papers I wouldn't want to be associated with, not as author, nor as acknowledged person. Of course, I probably wouldn't fight it out formally, but I would be quite clear I wouldn't want to be mentioned. In fact, some people may use an acknowledgement as a vehicle, and that's exactly why some top journals (I believe Nature, see above) require an agreement by the acknowledgees. – Captain Emacs Feb 9 '16 at 14:00
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    @CaptainEmacs: The question is really hard to parse, but I read it as a student (PhD- probably) working as first author on a thesis related project, then leaving over some disagreement, then adviser getting another student on board to finish the work and relegating the leaving student (who says to have contributed a lot to the project) to a less prestigious authorship position, after which demotion student wants to disassociate entirely from the project. I agree with what you say, but I think in the case at hand, JeffE's answer seems spot on, doesn't it? – gnometorule Feb 9 '16 at 16:06
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    @CaptainEmacs What I would want in that scenario is irrelevant. How would you feel if a random student submitted a really weak paper that cited one of your papers as its main source of inspiration? Do you really think you would have any standing to object? – JeffE Feb 10 '16 at 3:48
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    @JeffE citing a paper is not the same thing as acknowledging a contribution. I'm with the Captain, there are papers to which I really don't want people to think I contributed in any way. – Cape Code Feb 10 '16 at 9:25
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    This can actually be fixed by changing the current form to a line like: "The authors would like to thank a person who wants to remain anonymous for valuable contribution..." That being said, in my opinion getting angry for being demoted might be natural under the circumstances, but the actions taken by the OP are childish and might damage OP's reputation if word gets out.... – Nick S Feb 10 '16 at 19:07
4

I get the motivation to dissociate oneself from ... people one finds reprehensible, or unethical, or morally bankrupt. And yup, that acknowledgement might feel like a far-right/left organization endorsing a public person who is anything but far-right/left. One can feel "used" here, even slimed. Esp. given the common misunderstanding that being endorsed/thanked/etc by an organization does not mean that you agree with that organization or its goals.

But an acknowledgement is not a co-authorship. With an (co-)authorship you would vouch for the quality of the paper, you would "sign" it with your name and would have to stand (and fall) by it. Nope, an acknowledgement is done by the authors and which works from the perspective of the authors and which can be uni-lateral. (Exception: As JeffE mentioned if they claim something factually incorrect, e.g., thanking you for the data analysis when you haven't done it.)

If someone were to add me as co-author without my consent, I'd fight tooth and nail to get my name removed (and I'd win). But with acknowledgements -- and esp. here, if I understand this case correctly -- I'd distance myself (mentally) from the paper. It even might have been meant as a nice gesture (intention and how the action is perceived are not necessarily identical). And if not, it's an asshole move which (further) disqualifies that group. In the later situation, standing above it might actually show more maturity.

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  • As I said, I probably would ignore that myself. But I can see why people do not want to be acknowledged. There is a thing like having your reputation ruined by association, whether you like it or not. – Captain Emacs Feb 10 '16 at 13:07
3

While I agree with some other responses that you can try to contact the journal to have your names taken off, but I'd also like to propose another way of looking at it.

First, in future do not resign so easily. Your idea is your idea and even it is not completed by you, a publication is a publication. Unless you see that the study is going to a direction that violates your own or your professional moral standard, try to stick around. Another good feature of being a co-author is that you have to formally approve the paper before it's submitted. At that point you have a lot more secure contact with the editor and also more leverage.

Second, think what is to gain. Now, those collaborators got one more publication. You are still spending time trying to undo something that probably is not even wrong. (I agree with the author acknowledging you. For acknowledging you does not mean this paper is your idea, but if I don't I can get into trouble.) And please forgive me to sound like trivializing this issue, it probably does not matter. Thus far I have not seen anyone's career got ruined because he/she had been acknowledged in a paper. Most of those cases I heard of are about data fabrication, improper use of funds, and other criminal charges (sexual assault, adultery, etc.) Acknowledged in a paper? Nada.

Third, just look at this these yourself:

I was actively working in a research project, contributing experiments, hypotheses and analysis.

...

(The paper itself was not even very fascinating.)

I'd say, if this is not a wrong paper and if this does have some of your fingerprints in it, let this go. The adviser's decision to include you can be seen as insensitive, but can also be interpreted as fair. And for you, you can spend time and effort to get the name off a paper (which is probably not going to hurt you if left untouched.) And yet, when all the dust settles, you will find that you have not moved forward a bit. If you do feel so angry and upset, use that energy on your work and write something that you can truly be proud of.

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0

I agree with those who have recommended that you drop this matter--in the broader picture of an academic career, it is probably not worth the bad feeling that you are creating (even if that is not your intention) by fighting this matter which, although quite major to you, is probably relatively minor to your advisor, and perhaps to other co-authors involved.

That said, I also agree that it is your right to refuse to even be mentioned in an acknowledgement if you feel so strongly about it. I had an article where, for reasons of political conscience (nothing personal against any of the co-authors), a research assistant who actually merited co-authorship refused to even be mentioned in the acknowledgements. As some of the other answers have pointed out, this caused an ethical dilemma because I am obligated to acknowledge substantive contributors. Finally, I resolved the issue by mentioning this in the acknowledgements: "We gratefully acknowledge the indispensable contributions of an anonymous research assistant." This respected my research assistant's desire for anonymity, and yet satisfied my conscience that I was not failing to acknowledge his work.

If you still feel so strongly about this, you could ask the lead author to ask for a revision of the acknowledgement. Depending on the journal publishing process, it might or might not be feasible to make the change, but I recommend that you request the change directly by asking the lead author, not by contacting the journal directly--the journal most likely wouldn't make the change apart from the lead author's consent, anyway.

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