Prof. X added me as a coauthor on a paper , although my contribution was minor. I told him so, he insisted and said it was necessary for me (I can't give details). Later my relation with Prof X seriously soured. I asked that he remove my name from the paper: I already have an OK publication record (about 100 citations) and I didn't want to pollute it with an undeserved paper, especially in view of the souring of my relation with Prof X. I had an essential contribution in all my previous papers. Prof X said it was impossible to remove my name since it was already submitted. I reluctantly accepted. The paper was rejected. Prof X wants to resubmit it to a less prestigious journal. I definitely don't want my name on it. Prof X insists to keep my name, saying that re-submitting the paper without my name might harm his reputation in the community. I can't claim to be white as snow : It's clear that I should never have accepted to have my name on this paper in the first place. I don't want to antagonize him further, but what should I do now ? Is it true that resubmitting without my name can harm his reputation ? Isn't there some way around this ? (My field is Math/Physics/Engineering. I can't give more details).

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    If he resubmits the paper without your name, it would look like he removed your name solely because of your sour relationship. This puts him in a bad light. Feb 25 '13 at 0:55
  • Some research funding programs award "points" to professors who successfully coached students. A great proof of successful coaching is the names of those students on co-authored publications. This might be Prof X's motivation. Feb 25 '13 at 3:24
  • @JoelReyesNoche, sorry, that doesn't resonate with me at all. First of all, who would know? Submitted (rejected) papers are not public. Second, who really would pass judgement on that basis? I don't know, maybe my personal experience is different, but I don't see anything here that would make me think removing your name is a problem or a big deal.
    – D.W.
    Feb 27 '13 at 23:25

Standards (and customs) for coäuthorship depend heavily on your field, but if you contributed to the work reported in the paper, you might first want to consider actually accepting coäuthorship:

  1. Unless you think the work is actually crap, there is no downside (having a few not-so-great papers doesn't actually hurt, even if it doesn't help your career).
  2. If you worked with prof. X, it might be nice to have something (a paper) to show for it.
  3. The relationship may have soured, but are you ready to burn that bridge? If he insists on coäuthorship, a flat refusal will annoy him, probably because it would hurt him for some strategic reason.

Now, on the other hand, it's entirely your choice to make. Nobody can force you: if it comes to that, just flatly state that you do not wish to be a coäuthor on the paper. After that was made clear, and in writing, there is little chance prof. X will submit it with your name behind your back: that would be a very severe breach of ethics, and grounds for immediate retraction of the paper when you find out.

Finally, on the question of whether resubmitting without your name can actually hurt him… yeah, it could be an annoyance. There are a few people (editor and referees for the first paper) who would have knowledge that the same paper was submitted twice with different author lists, which definitely gives a bad impression of the senior author.

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    +1 for "it's entirely your choice". If you don't want to be a coauthor, just say no.
    – JeffE
    Feb 24 '13 at 18:04
  • Of course there is a downside to having authors on a paper they had no part in: it dilutes the meaning of "authorship". If no work is required to get your name on the list of authors, then being on the list of authors isn't worth its space used on the page. That practice doesn't hurt one publication, but the entire concept and 100+ publications is nothing but an indication that you are cheating. And could you all please stop upvoting an advice that makes the entire discussion superfluous. Feb 25 '13 at 17:16
  • Thank you very much for all the replies. To user1129682: I wish I had 100 publications. I have only 5, and most of my citations come from two of them.
    – user6114
    Feb 25 '13 at 18:48
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    I disagree. If I see that you've written a low-quality paper, I am less likely to hire you. I may or may not get to read your other, high-quality papers. Feb 26 '13 at 13:28

The relationship may have soured, but are you ready to burn that bridge? If he insists on coäuthorship, a flat refusal will annoy him, probably because it would hurt him for some strategic reason.

This happens more than you think (user6114), it is common. Again the choice is yours. A know a few students that had this "offer". Offer to put someone has co-author or offer to be co-author...the decision is 100% yours.. but ... if the paper was alreday submitted you shouldn't ask to take out your name.


Adding to (and emphasizing parts of) the answers by Fx and MaybeAnotherPhD:

First there seems to be two issues: (1) you were added to a paper by the first author where you did (and still do) not think you deserved it and (2) you now are in conflict with the first author and may not want to be associated with him/her.

I think you can approach this from another perspective. Based on the assumption that you pursue an academic career, does this paper hurt you by, for example, it being bad science, or the first author being a persona non grata in the community? If the answer is no to these questions, I would as a general rule say, leave it. To follow up, there is not much you can do without raising a lot of commotion and probably risk being branded yourself even if that is not true.

I can understand your feeling of not being worthy of co-authorship, and my only comment there is that it is of course not good to be part of a paper if you cannot defend its content in some way or another. But, I think many end up being added to papers where their input may be marginal. I see it as a natural part (problem) of the process. Of course to add people left and right as a rule is something to be combatted, so save your energy for those cases.

Then to cap off by the uncomfortable truth, the system we live in pushes us to publish or perish (as was the title in a Science debate article some time ago). With time this paper is just one of many in your list and simply adds to your publication list. If it is good you may benefit from citations and that might be your reward in the end. In other words being a little pragmatic doesn't hurt.

  • We all know he wouldn't be the first persona non grata in the community, but I feel that's beside the point. With 100+ publications one has no need to be named author for work he didn't contribute to, even when persuing an academic career. Especially when persuing an academic career, you don't want that black spot on your record and somebody you have a sour relationship with knowing about it. You also don't want the article in that lesser journal. Feb 25 '13 at 17:26
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    @user1129682 I do not interpret 100 citations in the OP to mean 100 publications so I think there may be a little confusion here. Feb 25 '13 at 17:35
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    True. I think I misinterpreted 100 citations to mean publications. (I was wondering why the author has no fixed opinion if he is already that well established.) Still, coauthorship for work one didn't contribute in is flat out wrong. Even more than resubmissions. Feb 25 '13 at 17:49
  • @user1129682 I totally agree with you, it is wrong; but this world is far from perfect. I know lab technicians with publication lists seemingly approaching infinity, but nothing in it as first author (important in my field). Feb 25 '13 at 18:02
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    You've go to start somewhere and keeping the own publication list clean is what everyone can do. The order of authors on the list is becoming increasingly more important in my field as well. Stupid, if you ask me. I have also seen people adding a footnote "authors in alphabetical order". I think I'll adopt that! My scientific career is a means to an end anyways. Feb 25 '13 at 18:45

Gift authorship is unethical. At my institution it is explicitly forbidden by policy. Check if your institution has a similar policy; you may be able to use that as justification for your request.

Also, since you made a minor contribution, I would ask him to simply put your name in the acknowledgments. If he's worried the editor will view this change badly, you can offer to write a note to the editor explaining that you requested the change.


I wouldn't know if people care for a change in the list of authors as long as its length does not become ridiculous compared to the length of the paper.

If you don't want your name on that paper, have him remove it and go all the way! If he refuses you can always go past him and approach the editors directly. Explicitly stating to the editors "I had no part in this contribution" would hurt his reputation more than anything else by a long shot!

  • I truncated my answer. I hope the relevant parts are more visible now. Feb 25 '13 at 18:42
  • The decision to resubmit or not is indeed out of my control. Also, I have only 5 publications, but about 100 citations.
    – user6114
    Feb 25 '13 at 19:05
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    Your name on that paper means you claim credit for the work leading up to the publication and the publication itself. Don't claim credit if you didn't do the work. If you want/need more publications, do more work and/or publish more of your completed work. And if you don't want to be on a publication, don't be on it. Don't let them scare you. The previous submission did not lead to a publication so it is no problem to take you off that list. Your name, title and publication list is the only thing you can get out of academia. You don't want it to be fraud; not even a little. Feb 25 '13 at 19:24

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