8

Assume I am involved with a work and the lead author is writing a paper. However, after every draft version, I see that not all my comments are well addressed in the revised version. I expect that if the comments or major suggestions are not addressed, then some explanation must be given. During the previous conversation, the coauthor did not raise any doubts or concerns about my suggestions. Thus I pointed out these issues in the paper again and they again fell on deaf ears this loop continues.

  • As I already spent a huge amount of time on this paper and made a significant contribution, I don't want to withdraw my coauthorship.
  • Topic is relatively new, in addition the current version is good enough to have a decent chance of getting accepted into a medium level conference.
  • Some minor issues (may be major) are bother me. I am not sure whether I am wrong. However, there is no discussion on on my concerns even after they are explicitly highlighted.

Should I just let the paper go? or make some statement? I don't want to burn bridges with any of my coauthors.

  • 4
    I can't allow myself to see these issues with the paper. — What does this mean? (In fact, I'm unclear on the first three sentences of your third bullet point.) – Mad Jack Jun 19 '16 at 3:08
  • @Mad Jack Edited. – Mithun Jun 19 '16 at 4:44
  • but I found there is no proper response for some issues in the revised version Would you please clarify what you mean by proper response? You mean no response? Or some response that you are not satisfied with? In other words, what kind of responses you think are proper responses? Or Improper responses? – scaaahu Jun 19 '16 at 4:55
  • @scaaahu By 'proper', I mean to say 1) if the issue was addressed, or 2) if not, give some explanation why was it not addressed in the manuscript. I didn't find neither of them. – Mithun Jun 19 '16 at 4:59
  • 5
    Have you tried asking your coauthor directly why they did not accept your suggestions? – JeffE Jun 19 '16 at 16:13
6

I have had this problem on a few occasions. Usually I got ignored over suggestions on points the lead author did not want to discuss directly because (i) s(he) felt (s)he was on the right side; (ii) s(he) felt (s)he was on the wrong side but wanted to push their version nonetheless; (iii) s(he) felt I was not in a position to criticise that part.

In all cases I demanded for an explanation, and this is why I can answer your question here. So, my first suggestion is that you contact this person demanding an explanation. (Mind that most people don't do these actions -- questioning parts of manuscripts where they are co-authors, and later seek to understand why they got ignored -- and that most lead authors prefer having passive "co-authors".)

How did I react in such situations described above? I will briefly explain:

(i) I tried to make my point clearer, which subtly meant I was trying to prove the lead author wrong. The lead author always insisted on their point without seeming to listen to what I said, while emphasising on how they took my suggestions on other points. I had to let these issues go, and they got published, and as a result I do not fully agree with some of the papers I participated in.

(ii) I insisted. This will make the lead author uncomfortable, and you will have to make sure this person understands you're not cornering him/her. Typically there is a clear mismatch with data or logic that the lead author doesn't want to hear aloud. Usually I got the problem fixed, usually the lead author wasn't happy and is now unlikely to collaborate with me in the future. I think that is OK, given the circumstances. Once I had to let it go.

(iii) This is the most common situation. Typically it involves a collaborator from a different field under strong influence of their bossy PI, where you're not sure which of the two is doing the writing or even answering to your emails. They do not appreciate being questioned "on their turf". You have to consider the possibility you're wrong there. Which I think is irrelevant, because if you are wrong then there's all the more reason you deserve a clear, logical answer. In such cases I insisted, and was authoritatively told to "keep to my business". I insisted again, and got ignored, and had to let it go. Usually the lead author apparently did see my point but was told by their PI (i.e. the last author) what to do. As a result the lead authors in these cases made sure to communicate they were open to collaborate with me in the future, while their boss cut communication.

Anyway, hope that helps. In the long run you're selecting whom you can work with.

10

In every scientific paper that I have been involved in, there has been opportunity for co-authors to directly edit the manuscript themselves, if they wish to make a contribution. If you feel that you have suggestions that are not being taken up, I would advise you to ask something like:

Would you mind if I did a pass on the paper to edit in some of the suggestions I've made?

If your co-author hasn't been editing in your suggestions because they are unclear, overloaded, or not able to do so, this will give you a chance to adjust the paper in the ways that you want. If, on the other hand, they actually disagree with your suggestions, then they may not want you to edit them in, and you can then actually have a discussion about whether and why the proposed edits should occur.

In short: I believe that you need to shift from being a passive critic to being an active contributor who provides actual text that accomplishes what you want to have accomplished.

  • 3
    I like the way that you suggest. By the way, in all of my previous work with coauthor went very smoothly. Sometimes, I am surprised to see the quality in final version compared to the first draft. This is due to the active involvement of all coauthors, no matter how much they write the actual text. For example, a good suggestion in motivation section can put the paper in different level, however, the actual text may come from another coauthor. – Mithun Jun 19 '16 at 13:31
4

There are at least three possibilities here:

  • The quality of your feedback is low. You might be wrong, incomprehensible, or nitpicky. Ask for feedback on your feedback.
  • The lead author is unable or unwilling to do a good job. In this case you should do more for them or withdraw your coauthorship.
  • There is a third author who is giving advice which contradicts yours. It might be important to the lead author not to upset this third person, so they might not admit this to you. The solution is to talk to other authors.
  • I totally agree with your first two. For the third, I say that I always send the comments to all authors. Further, I also try to make comments on comments by others if I found anything to mention. I agree that there might be a contradiction that is very true in every research, however, can be solved with an 'open discussion' among all coauthor. – Mithun Jun 19 '16 at 5:24
1

"If I were a reviewer"

I think a nice way to get people to step outside of their rigid viewpoints is to explicitly ask them to take the point of view of a peer reviewer. By saying something like "if I were a reviewer, I might wonder if X" (where X is your point). or "If I were your reviewer, I might want more evidence on this, considering XYZ".

This also has the advantage of putting you and your co-author on the same team, anticipating the concerns of a sometimes adversarial anonymous reviewer.

  • I shall adopt this one myself! – Scientist Jun 10 '18 at 12:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.