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I am the first author of a manuscript that was recently "accepted in principle". The submission, peer review and revisions of this manuscript happened after I left the laboratory of the corresponding author where I was a postdoc. I was actively involved in the revisions (by email)and guided the graduate student who did the revisions. Following peer review and revisions, the corresponding author wanted to include data (obtained by the graduate student) which I did not approve of. This data was then not included in the revised manuscript or the rebuttal letter. After we received the "accepted in principle" email, the corresponding author again informed me that he wanted to include this data. I objected again. But it appears that he has submitted this data (which was not part of the peer review and has not been seen by the reviewers) without my consent. I would like to write to the editors of the journal asking them to stall the publication of this manuscript since I did not consent to the content and since it includes unreviewed data. Am I correct in doing so?


Update from the OP:

I have an update on my issue and would appreciate more inputs. I made more attempts to convince the lead author to not include this data, but he did not agree. I finally contacted the journal editor. She sent a rather timid email to the lead author saying very clearly that it was okay to add in data after peer review since manuscripts are not "frozen" after they are accepted in principle. She said she was willing to include this data if it strengthened the manuscript and asked the lead author to contact all co-authors and obtain their consent before the final submission.

The lead author is still refusing to change his decision. He told me that he will easily get all other co-authors to consent to this. In which case, he said that it will appear that I am trying to suppress useful data. I feel bullied here since I cannot match up to his seniority and his relations with the co-authors. He has so far not provided any clear scientific reason for including this data.

Any guesses on what decision the journal will take if both I and the lead author continue to disagree, and I am the only one not giving consent?

  • "which did not go through peer review" - yet? Or was rejected, after the data were added? As intermediate statement, it is not ok that they submitted without your agreement. Your name is an author, so you need to support the contents of the paper. Do you have a specific reason to refuse? Don't you trust the data? – Captain Emacs May 12 '17 at 10:09
  • @CaptainEmacs I think he meant that this was added in the proof stage, where no peer review is happening. – PsySp May 12 '17 at 10:15
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    @Anonymous In both your questions the answer is clearly "no". – PsySp May 12 '17 at 10:20
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    I do not think it is so much about legality. But it is not ok, neither the squeezing in of the data, nor not asking you for consent (when it is really clear you are against it, we are obviously not talking about minor changes which you may be considered to accept by default). However, keep in mind that you will break your relations with your co-authors if you go straight to the editor; it would be probably better to give them the chance to be part of this correction process (although the final outcome may be the same, it leaves at least a small opening). – Captain Emacs May 12 '17 at 10:58
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    I'll add, also as reaction to @xLeitix measured response below: if you trust the data and you believe them to be just detracting from the main story, this is more a matter of taste, and ruining your work relations with your colleagues may be not really worth it - more critical is the issue of sneaking the data in post-review. However, let's face it, the peer-review is somehow treated as a sanctification process, which it is emphatically not. That being said, I personally think that new information should not be sneaked past the review process, as a matter of trust between reader and author. – Captain Emacs May 12 '17 at 11:05
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Dogmatically speaking, your co-authors clearly acted unethically. You claim to have made clear that you oppose including this data, and they did anyway. Independently of whether it is ok to add more data at the proof stage, all co-authors need to sign off on a paper or changes that are being made, and you did not.

That being said, there is always a pragmatic angle to these arguments. As much as we would like otherwise, miscommunications and differences of opinion happen in collaborations, so there will often be aspects that one or more of the co-authors are not fully on board with (and papers get published anyway). As such, you need to decide for yourself how important this issue is to you:

  • Is this issue important enough to you to go into a, potentially lengthy, argument with your co-authors and the journal editor (who may not be thrilled to be sucked into what is effectively an internal quarrel between you and your collaborators)?
  • Is this issue important enough to permanently sour the relationship with your co-authors?
  • Is this issue important enough to just not have the paper published?

Only you know the answer to this questions, but if the root of the problem really is that your co-authors wish to include data that "does not contribute to the story of the paper" then the answer may easily be "no" if you think about it calmly.

  • In general I agree. Observe that these arguments work for the OP's co-authors as well and, in their case, their answer to your 3 question was clearly yes. – PsySp May 12 '17 at 11:02
  • @PsySp That's not at all clear to me. They may have just assumed it's not that big a deal. – xLeitix May 12 '17 at 11:12
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    I am not a regular visitor here, I saw this question just by chance. It seems it is a standard one here, and the pragmatism and conformism is being broadly preached here. Looks like scientists 'new religion'. In short, I strongly disagree with your perception! Why acting proper and honestly implies "permanently sour the rel. with co-authors". They have already been in a sour condition, and defintely not due to OP. – yarchik May 12 '17 at 13:04
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    Thank you all. Your comments have made me sit back and give this careful thought. I am inclined now to talk more to the corresponding author and give him a chance to remove the data, before going to the editor. – Anonymous May 12 '17 at 13:28
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    @Anonymous Yes. It is better to talk with your co-authors and show your mild "surprize" (frustration) that they went on and did what they did. If that doesn't work out, and you still feel uncomfortable with the whole story, you could contact the editor (but maybe you could let them know beforehand) – PsySp May 12 '17 at 13:32

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