We wrote a case report (1 + 2 co authors). The case report was not accepted. I tried to convince the other co-authors to re-write and submit. I waited for 3 years and 6 months. The co-authors showed no interest after repeated calls. I wrote the case report completely fresh with review of literature.

Can I send for publication without the co-authors as they did not take part in preparing this revised manuscript?

  • 1
    If two manuscripts are different, why one guy should suffer. I think it is ethically ok to submit.
    – user65131
    Nov 20, 2016 at 12:14
  • 32
    You decided to take this course of action after 3.5 years?? Why wait that long?
    – user65092
    Nov 20, 2016 at 12:29
  • 11
    Are you saying that your co-workers have explicitly told you that they do not want to publish the paper, and that you can document this convincingly should anyone come asking in six months' time? Or have you simply not heard back after making two or three half-hearted attempts at contacting them, and you don't even know for sure that they got the message? See the difference between the two?
    – E.P.
    Nov 20, 2016 at 21:55
  • It sounds like you started fresh, discarding everything the co-authors of the original paper contributed, and did all the research and writing over again. If this is the case, I'd say that this new paper was written entirely by yourself and thus there are no co-authors. Document everything so you are prepared to defend this if it's ever questioned by the co-authors of the initial paper. Nov 21, 2016 at 13:14
  • Why not just simply call or discuss in person? Certain topics are better discussed not over email. Nov 21, 2016 at 16:39

6 Answers 6


It depends what the co-authors did. If they were involved in the work they should normally be authors of the paper. I think the important questions you need to answer are:

  • What exactly do you mean by "showed no interest after repeated calls"? I have never heard of someone who does not want a "free" paper published, unless they disagree with the methods or conclusions in the paper. What is the reason they are not interested?

  • Did you ask them if they agree to not have their name on it? If they agree: problem solved. If not, that means they do agree to be co-authors: problem solved.

  • 10
    Regarding 'I have never heard of someone who does not want a "free" paper published': A professor I worked with did not want to be included in publications unless he was involved in writing the paper, allowing him to ensure high quality standards (both in terms of ensured correctness of results and quality of the presentation). His argument is that publications make up a big part of a scientist's reputation and he considered it important that his reputation included "well-readable papers you can rely on".
    – Simon
    Nov 21, 2016 at 8:59
  • @Simon : Not completely unrelated to that of quality is the question of time available for such projects. I just had to turn down a very interesting continuation of an old project a colleague and I had. But I'm working on my habilitation thesis (lots of field research), working as TA, working in a non-academic job (for the money) and caring for my wife and our newborn daughter. There's simply no interest in other projects due to the lack of time available. Nov 21, 2016 at 11:05
  • 2
    A friend of mine didn't want to appear as a co-author of a paper because he felt its results weren't interesting. (The paper was fine in that it got accepted to a decent journal later.)
    – Pandora
    Nov 21, 2016 at 11:06
  • I think the point of view that @Simon brings up is especially common in math, where standards for co-authorship are relatively high. People often don't want their names on papers unless they feel they deserve it (famously, Adleman from RSA). However, I don't think this issue is so relevant here, as the people in question were co-authors at one point so presumably did work on the paper.
    – Kimball
    Nov 21, 2016 at 16:40

All persons that made a significant intellectual contribution to the paper need to be included as authors, even if they were not involved in the writing of the actual draft.

To still publish the paper without the co-authors, you need to remove all parts that contain a significant contribution by one of them.

  • 37
    No, this is not quite right. All persons that made a significant intellectual contribution to the paper need to be offered authorship; it is up to them to take it up but they can very well decline it without killing the manuscript.
    – E.P.
    Nov 20, 2016 at 18:12
  • 4
    @E.P. I think there may be field- or journal-specific rules that apply in this case, but such a right of declining authorship has clear disadvantages. In particular, the contribution of the remaining author(s) appears bigger than it really is, which is equivalent to having a team of "ghostwriters". Nov 20, 2016 at 19:04
  • 1
    @KonradRudolph I'm pretty confused by the broader question, particularly the 3.5yr wait, and OP's comment above. Mostly, I agree with Louic's answer, though.
    – E.P.
    Nov 20, 2016 at 19:31
  • 1
    The question about declining authorship was addressed in academia.stackexchange.com/q/19454/1010 Nov 21, 2016 at 0:27
  • 1
    @E.P. I don't think that rule solves everything. If an author doesn't like the current version of a manuscript*, is it really allowed/ethical that the other authors give them an ultimatum: either accept this version or allow us to publish your work under our names? (*For all I know this might be the case in this question.)
    – JiK
    Nov 22, 2016 at 11:07

It is not ethical to remove them as co-authors if they have made an intellectual contribution, no matter how long ago, but nor is it ethical to include them as co-authors if they have not explicitly consented. This presents a conundrum.

The way I have dealt with unresponsive co-authors has been to give them an ultimatum and deadline. Something like: "I will be submitting this manuscript on Tuesday next week. If I do not hear from you by them, I will assume that I have your consent to publish with the author list as attached." Depending on which way you have gone, add either "If you feel you should be included as a co-author, please let me know before then," or "If you would rather be taken off the author list, please contact me before then."

  • 3
    When delivering an ultimatum and a deadline, you need to have evidence that they received it. What if they claim they never received your message?
    – JRN
    Nov 21, 2016 at 0:51
  • @JoelReyesNoche it seems unlikely, since you are giving them every opportunity. At least you will be able to prove that you sent it, so proceeding was a reasonable action on your part. Unless you can speak to them in person, it seems there is no other option except yo abandon the paper. Nov 21, 2016 at 0:57
  • 2
    It's possible that the e-mail address you used is incorrect or no longer active. Or perhaps the addressee has moved to a different office or institution so the postal address is no longer valid. It doesn't matter if you can prove you sent it, if the other party can prove it never received it.
    – JRN
    Nov 21, 2016 at 3:22
  • @JoelReyesNoche for these reasons, you need to do your due diligence before proceeding: telephone them if possible, ask their colleagues or supervisor, if possible, or at least acertain that they are still listed as current employees on their institution's web site. Nov 21, 2016 at 5:28

Well, you can't include someone else's name on a paper if they don't want it to be included. And their acceptance must be affirmative, i.e., there must be no doubt that they are OK with that. Sending them an ultimatum won't be enough if you can't prove that they read it (for example, you can't be sure some e-mail was delivered and read). It might even become a legal case, and laws might be different in your country/state, since in some cases it's required that an action must be done signaling that they are OK – simply not answering the ultimatum isn't enough to say that they agreed.

You can't take authorship for something that you didn't write. So if someone wrote a paragraph, you can't use it literally, but you could rewrite it.

Results, au contraire, are public to who was informed about it, and that person can do anything they want about it. If someone paints a wall blue, anyone can write a paper about the wall becoming blue. If someone tells you "I painted the wall blue and 53% of the viewers said it was better", you can write about that. Of course, you can't say that you did the painting and observation. The exception to that would be some non-disclosure agreement, where you explicitly had to agree that you won't disclose the information you are about to receive.

It's expected that you offer the co-authorship to everyone that was involved in the analysis and conclusions of the research. For example, a laboratory technician that just measured some variable and gave you a table with values won't be a co-author. But if the person isn't interested in doing so, well, use the result and publish your paper.


Also found this piece of interesting information:

But until the results are so widely known and familiar that they have become common knowledge, people who use them are obliged to recognize the discoverer by means of citations [1]

[1] https://www.nap.edu/read/12192/chapter/10


The matter is simple. Two authors did not want to participate or further improve the manuscript. They made the third one wait for 3 years. If the third one wants to report the case without copying the matter from the first manuscript, then it is ethically and morally acceptable

  • 1
    That’s completely wrong. Contributions in science aren’t tied to the write-up of a paper. Even if a contributor never once touched a pen they may have a right to be include as co-authors. Your last sentence in particular seems to conflate copyright with scientific authorship. These concepts are completely unrelated (and additionally one is an ethical and the other is a legal concept). Nov 22, 2016 at 10:58

I think the question is deep rooted. Always happens between the seniors and juniors. In my opinion the co-authors should be removed as second time around they did not participate in the writing up. It appears the co-authors gave up thinking it is not publishable. Moreover >3 years is a long time to wait to get an answer. My vote go ahead and publish without their name.


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