I recently completed a course project with some other students in my department. In this project, we discovered a few novel results that might be of interest to others in the field. I would like to revise and submit this project for publication (with the consent of my coauthors, of course).

The problem lies with one of the coauthors. The portion of the project that they wrote and sent to the rest of us was nonsensical. When reading their draft, it seemed as though they had not even read the reference material our project is based on. As a result, I and the remaining coauthors had to rewrite that portion from scratch, and the final report contains nothing written by that particular coauthor. (We left their name on the report since it was too late to change groups by the deadline.)

What should I do if we choose to publish these results? I worry that excluding the one coauthor might offend them if they saw the published paper. At worst, it might be considered academic dishonesty.


Based on what you write they did not contribute to the manuscript or the results described therein either due to lack of ability or due to laziness. I also assume they did not contribute any useful ideas. Thus, they are not a coauthor. It's as simple as that. The ICMJE criteria are useful for assessing if someone is an author.

In principle, this is independent of any considerations regarding their conduct in the course project. However, you should have reported their lack of useful contribution to the teacher since they would probably benefit from repeating the course. The problem now is that they could claim to be a coauthor since you put their name on your report and didn't tell the teacher. If the teacher sees the publication they could indeed assume academic dishonesty. Thus, I see two options:

  • Include this person as a coauthor and ask them to make a meaningful contribution since you probably have to rewrite most of your project paper to make it suitable for publication.

  • Explain the situation to your teacher, so you can move forward without getting in trouble with your school.

They chose to not make a valid contribution. Not being a coauthor is a consequence of that choice. Why do you care if that offends them?

  • +1 for: "you probably have to rewrite most of your project paper", also I think that option is the best moving forward. Talk to the person, see if they are interested in trying to publish it, then ask them to work with you to make a meaningful contribution. Chances are they don't even care if it gets published or not and will not help in the rewrite. At which point, it makes perfect sense to not include them as a co-author. – mikeazo Aug 26 '16 at 13:52

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