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My question is about German academic system, but I would also like to know the situation world-wide.

Any research/educational institution strives (at least in theory) to produce scientific output of high standards. This is the motivation to introduce some kind of internal review for all the papers produced there prior to the submission.

One example would be papers produced during the PhD study. Typically they would involve at least one senior author, typically a professor who has a function of a PhD adviser and who also shares an affiliation with the PhD student. This assures that the manuscript adheres to some minimal quality standards.

In some cases more stringent procedures are implemented, e.g., internal reviews in Max Planck Institutes.

It is quite clear that Professors at the Universities are independent researches and therefore do not need to undergo any internal reviews prior to submission (this post makes me wonder if it is really so). It is, of course, beneficial if they seek for the opinion of colleagues, but not required.

But what is the situation with scientific personal on the intermediate stages of their carrier? Can a Postdoc/Privat Dozent/Junior Prof. affiliate themselves with the university without being refereed internally by some Prof.? My guess would be that this is an individual policy of each university. However, it needs to follow some general rules which I would like to know. I anticipate following scenarios, partly discussed (in more general terms and not specific to a country) in other posts here:

1) One is free to publish without an affiliation. For many reasons it might be not a wise decision. Typically it would signal the editors that the author has some problem with his institution or has no job. This reduces chances of being accepted.

2) The author seeks for an informal internal review, gets the blessing from a professor and does not forget to acknowledge him/her. This seems to be an idealistic and not realistic situation: the prof. will most likely be pissed off having to do some job and not being on the authors list.

3) The author offers the “courtesy authorship" to the prof. However, this might be problematic if the work in not even remotely within research interests of the boss.

4) Being a coworker of the university is sufficient to use this affiliation on the papers. No internal review is required. This answer suggests that this might be the case even for undergraduate students, however, I greatly doubt it in the case of german universities.

The answer seems to be clear if some university equipment was used in order to produce the work. It is natural in this case that the head of the department is listed as an author. My question is mostly about the theoretical work that requires maximum a laptop.

In your answers, please, try to address

  • each of the aforementioned nonpermanent positions (Master/PhD students, Postdocs, Privat Dozents, Junior Prof., retired),
  • discuss cases of inter-institutional work (PhD student is not working in the same university as PhD advisor), and
  • consider other kinds of intellectual output (such a writing books).
  • If you think that (3) is the right answer, please, elaborate if it implies restrictions to write papers, books, etc. as a sole author for anyone who is not holding a permanent position.
  • If you are inclined towards (4), please, provide some substantiation.

Here is a little cartoon and a historical remark in order to encourage your response.

enter image description here

To put my question in a historical perspective: famous Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote all his works while being associated with the University of Königsberg (MA, 1755; PhD, 1755; Dr. habil., 1770). For instance, in 1749, he published his first philosophical work, "Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces" (written in 1745–47) not even holding a PhD title and possibly unpaid. Does it mean that this and all subsequent works were internally refereed by some professors. What has changed since that time?

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    Head of department listed as an author because you merely used equipment belonging to the department? That's not normal even if the kit was bought from the departments own funding. To quote the Vancouver protocol: "Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship" (this protocol isn't universal but even where not enforced it's often taken as a guide to good practice. – Chris H Aug 12 '16 at 14:09
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    @ChrisH In some fields, it happens. And beware that very few know about the Vancouver protocol. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 12 '16 at 17:58
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4) Being a coworker of the university is sufficient to use this affiliation on the papers. No internal review is required. This answer suggests that this might be the case even for undergraduate students, however, I greatly doubt it in the case of german universities.

Assuming sufficient experience to get something published in a quality venue, from what I have seen, this is the case at German universities.

  • Could you please elaborate. Throughout my scientific career I have always a great fear of publishing anything on my own in order not to face administrative consequences from my boss. I think I was explicitly told that according to the rules of good scientific practice only (3) is possible. – Rama Aug 12 '16 at 11:01
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    This is very discipline specific, so it would be impossible to have such a rule at the university level. For example, in some disciplines you are required to publish a given number of articles allone, to show that you can be independent researcher. In those fields rule (3) would make it impossible to gain a PhD. It may be that there are some departments/labs that have such rule. But it is certainly not general, and I would expect that to be the exception rather than the rule. – Maarten Buis Aug 12 '16 at 11:40
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    @Rama: (3) suggests "courtesy authorship", which in itself is often seen as unethical and bad scientific practice. There are various questions on this site on that topic. Authorship should be awarded for contribution to the paper contents, not "automatically" for formal reasons. – O. R. Mapper Aug 12 '16 at 11:52
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    A PhD student talks to her or his advisor about what (s)he is doing professionally. No surprises there.The advisor in return advises. Again, no surprises there. This does not imply some rule about the use of affilitiation. It is just a healthy relationship between an advisor and a student. – Maarten Buis Aug 12 '16 at 12:41
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    @Rama: Such a notice is necessary for reasons of politeness, not because there is any realistic expectation that the request could be denied. If "we do not study [a topic] in our department", the only real consequence would be to not spend many additional resources on it (and I'm not saying any; at least all professors I had the pleasure to work with would grant their subordinates at least some leeway on picking their own topics autonomously, even when the professor was not eager about the topic). Likewise, I cannot imagine any of these professors to be concerned about a publication - ... – O. R. Mapper Aug 12 '16 at 16:37
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Short answer: Technically, option (4) is correct; but option (2) is closer to good scientific practice.

Long answer:

It's not mentioned explicitly in your question, but I assume we're talking about a case where the professor / advisor did not provide any significant contribution to the paper, as otherwise there would be no need to ask. So:

First of all, O.R.Mapper's answer is absolutely correct - there is no obligation for anyone to get consent for publication. I guess they assume that peer-review will ensure quality publications.

However: In your comment to his answer, you write that

I think I was explicitly told that according to the rules of good scientific practice only (3) is possible.

I disagree that good scientific practice means offering authorship to someone who only proof-read the paper, even if he is your boss/advisor. But neither is it good scientific practice to submit anything for publication without discussing your ideas and/or results with anyone. So while (4) is technically correct, a variation of (2) is probably the best option wrt to scientific practice:

2) The author seeks for an informal internal review, gets the blessing from a professor and does not forget to acknowledge him/her.

Note that this review need not be from a professor, in my experience other PhD students often provided better feedback because they read the draft more thoroughly!

During my time as PhD student, I published several papers without my advisor as co-author, and didn't face any consequences. Of course, that doesn't mean that your boss/advisor won't give you a hard time (won't make you face consequences) if you don't add him as an author or at least ask for his consent. But then, this is rather department-specific (if not professor-specific) and may also vary between different fields.

  • Your answer and @O.R.Mapper answer and comments are quite indicative: on one side they declare the desired/idealistic situation, on another side both admit that "that doesn't mean that your boss/advisor won't give you a hard time (won't make you face consequences)" and "it may be that there are some departments/labs that have such rule". In order to implement (3) one needs to exercise some authority. And this cannot come out of blue, but must be supported by some regulations. – Rama Aug 12 '16 at 13:00
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    Authority and power can exist without regulation. Your professor can make your live really uncomfortable. That is power, and they can use that to impose rules, like rule 3, that have no foundation in other regulations or laws. – Maarten Buis Aug 12 '16 at 13:54
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Rule 2 and 4 are not "ideal", they are what I have experienced all the time. The fast majority of professors are humans who take their responsibility as mentor and advisor to their junior collegues and students seriously. (They may not have the resources, time, and/or skill to do it as well as one might like, but that is another story.) The worst thing that would happen to you when you publish without telling your professor is that (s)he is disappointed at not having the opportunity to make your work even beter and thus improve your prospects more.

Having said that, in any groups there are bad apples. I fear that you are in such an abusive situation. This is why I have been unwilling to categorically say that rule 3 never ever ever applies. If you are in such an abusive situation, going against your professor based on advise from an internet forum is probably the worst thing you can do.

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Earlier answers to this post are good, present reasonable arguments, however, all of them lack legal rigour. Therefore, I decided to post my own answer to the post. As a basis I am using Gesetz über die Hochschulen in Baden-Württemberg (Law on universities in Baden-Württemberg). Similar law exists in all other Lands.

§3 Freiheit von Wissenschaft und Kunst, Forschung, Lehre und Studium; wissenschaftliche Redlichkeit (Freedom of science and art, research, teaching and learning; good scientific practice) seems to be relevant. In section 2 we read

Die Freiheit der Forschung umfasst insbesondere die Fragestellung, die Grundsätze der Methodik sowie die Bewertung des Forschungsergebnisses und seine Verbreitung.

which translated in English reads:

The freedom of research includes in particular the formulation of the research questions, the principles of the methodology and the assessment of the research results and its dissemination.

The latter surely can be narrowed to the publication of results. So far so good, this excerpt seems to back all the previous answers. What remains to be seen is who is the subject of this declaration. I have only a limited knowledge of Jurisprudence, however, I would argue that this concerns University as a whole, not its particular members. Insofar, we are in the grey zone. Fully clarification can only be reached by the stare decisis, i.e., precedent.

I was not able to find any legal cases for any of the categories listed above, i.e. Postdoc/Privat Dozent/Junior Profs. However, I found a verdict of the Federal Constitutional Court (Urteil des Bundesverfassungsgerichts) dated by 05.29.1973 [1 BvR 424/71 ua - BVerfGE 3, 79], see also (VGH Kassel, Beschluss vom 12. April 1984, 6 TG 5049/83, juris) that

Er kann aber auch außerhalb seines Fachbereichs forschen.

or in English

He can conduct research outside of his specialist field.

where "he" refers to a university professor.

This substantiate my initial guess that this category of scientific stuff indeed possesses the full freedom of conducting the research. For this reason situation as described in another post here would have never happen in Germany. However, for all other cases, to the best of my knowledge the question remains unregulated.

  • The basis of that article is article 5 of the German constitution. – Maarten Buis Aug 14 '16 at 15:20
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    "What remains to be seen is who is the subject of this declaration." - actually, it's all in the text you are quoting from: The first paragraph first restates that universities are subject to the freedom of research, and then continues saying that the country and universities are obliged to ensure members of the universities (this usually refers to anyone officially "affiliated" with it) can take advantage of certain constitutional rights - namely those that ensure freedom of research. – O. R. Mapper Aug 15 '16 at 21:16

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