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I am a postdoc in computer science. At the end of my first year I have submitted a paper to a reputable conference, co-authored by me, a PhD student and my adviser. It was recently rejected. Reason: it was a rushed submission at the insistence of my adviser, the project simply needed more time. Our submission was published as technical report on which he is a co-author.

At the beginning of 2nd year we have agreed that I will continue my work on this project and will turn it into a strong submission. Now, midway this project he gives me an "offer I cannot refuse": either I produce 2 papers or he fires me and expects me to finish the paper on my own.

To be short, he believes I cost him too much and is desperate to do some salami slicing. He wants to cut our planned strong paper into 2 weak halves. This could work, but could also lead to another round of rejects and wasted effort. In addition, the pace at which he expects me to work is unsustainable. Poor judgement and abuse, if you ask me. In addition, I quite disagree with his style of editing which emphasizes overstatements and "selling" over accurate technical contributions.

I expect to be fired any day now. His participation in this work, at least from my side, was financing me, supervising and editing the draft. By supervising I mean weekly meetings, listening, asking questions, mostly agreeing.

The research design and implementation is entirely mine. The original idea was proposed by some external collaborators who didn't wish to participate in this research.

My plan at this point is to remove the work of the PhD student (because it doesn't fit well the rest of the paper), add all the work I have done so far, re-write the whole paper and publish as sole author. According to ACM policy he won't have any substantial contributions left. As you can see from above, I question the quality of his contributions at all levels and am quite confident I can finish this work on my own.

He insists he still qualifies for co-authorship because he financed most of the research. However he is unwilling to finance me until the submission and expects me to finish the work on my own.

Question: What repercussions do I risk if I exclude him from co-authors?

I don't expect to get any good recommendation letters from him anyway, so this is not an issue.

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His participation in this work [...] was financing me, supervising and editing the draft. The research design and implementation is entirely mine. The original idea was proposed by some external collaborators.

From what I see, I think that your supervisor deserves an authorship of this paper. I think that you also should at least offer the external collaborator a chance to contribute to the paper and become a co-author, too.

  • Your supervisor (PI) was working on a particular topic and presumably is an expert in this field.
  • Your PI has an established network of connections, and was able to realise that the idea of external collaborator can work for the problem you are working on. The decision to apply a particular idea to a particular problem is a risky decision, and (in case of success) a significant contribution.
  • Your PI hired you. This is a risky decision, which itself is a part of a wider research process. The choice of people working on the research project is itself a part of "research design".
  • Your PI listened to your ideas (at least during the interview) and approved them. This is a part of "research design".
  • Presumably, you had a few research meetings with your PI, in which he listened to your ideas, corrected them and approved them. This is a part of "research design" (which is a continuous process).

The fact that your original manuscript was rejected (for which you are the principal author, I assume) can indicate that you are not yet prepared to write to a standard of independent academic researcher. That's why an advice your PI gives you is important and valuable. For this supervision process, and also formal editing on the manuscript, he (or she) deserves to be included as an author.

Now, to answer your question. If at this stage you decide not to follow your PI's lead, you will not benefit from his advice and support any more. Based on what you've said, it looks like this decision can significantly reduce your chance of becoming a successful academic researcher. A particular repercussion take a form of bad recommendation letters, cut off funding, lack of support in internal promotion process, cut off access to your PI's network of collaborators. But most importantly, it is lack of his personal support and advice. Academia is a complicated world, and many early career researchers (including some young professors) can not navigate themselves through it efficiently without a help of their mentor/supervisor/PI. The lack of this help is the most serious repercussion. Do not underestimate it.

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    While I agree with most of this answer (+1), this is certainly too strong: "The fact that your original manuscript was rejected means that you are not yet prepared to write to a standard of independent academic researcher." It can easily be the case that the author had bad luck with the reviewers. – lighthouse keeper Nov 24 '16 at 8:35
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    @lighthousekeeper -- it is a particularly unproductive thought to think that having one's paper rejected is "bad luck with reviewers". Nobody doubts that that may in fact happen occasionally. The vast majority of cases where papers are rejected are, however, because the paper simply was bad. To just chalk it up to bad luck deprives yourself of an opportunity to honestly think about what the reviewers may have had to criticize. – Wolfgang Bangerth Nov 24 '16 at 13:55
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    @WolfgangBangerth I certainly agree that it's a bad idea to generally attribute rejection to bad luck. I don't agree to the following premise: "The vast majority of cases where papers are rejected are, however, because the paper simply was bad". There is substantial evidence that "variability between reviewers is often the dominant factor as to whether a paper is accepted". – lighthouse keeper Nov 24 '16 at 14:51
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    @Desik Thanks for the details. I sympathise with your feelings, particularly on "salami slicing" publications and self-advertising. However, this issues are separate from authorship. He may be a terrible author, but he is still a co-author of this paper. – Dmitry Savostyanov Nov 24 '16 at 19:18
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    I want to thank for the answer and all the comments. It was very worth asking this question and getting your feedback. Otherwise I might have done something stupid:) – anubis Nov 25 '16 at 16:49
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"He insists he still qualifies for co-authorship because he financed most of the research. However he is unwilling to finance me until the submission and expects me to finish the work on my own."

I think this is the most relevant part in your post. From this, I am assuming your advisor agrees he made no contribution to the paper, aside from financing you. That, in my opinion, does not deserve a co-authorship, just a mention that this work was partially financed through ... blah and blah. Also, you should be thanking him for his feedback in the paper itself (he still spent some time doing that).

Of course, it is hard to know what repercussions you could have. He may simply know people and make your life difficult. Even if you don't ask him for letters of recommendations, people will know he was your advisor.

You need to contact another experienced researcher in your area, and get some feedback about your paper, and possibly enlist him(her) as a co-author if he/she can help you improve the paper to the level you like. Unless your paper is excellent, you need some senior researcher to help you moving forward, and your best chance is to use the quality work you accomplished so far to find another excellent researcher if you decide to un-list your current advisor.

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    I think the most relevant part is "supervising and editing the draft. By supervising I mean weekly meetings, listening, asking questions, mostly agreeing.". This sounds like pretty much what supervising is about and in my opinion this deserves Co-authorship. – DSVA Nov 11 '17 at 22:28
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Start searching for a new job immediately and don't invest time into this paper any more before you get a new job. As soon as you have signed a new job contract, do with the paper what you suggested earlier.

(Sorry, that's all, folks; nothing more to be said.)

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