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N is the first author for a paper (PhD work) and there are three co-authors, B, C and D.

B and C are from the same department and the author D is from different department but they are all from the same institution. B had the biggest contribution in terms of the experimental work and N spent a long time writing the paper.

The paper was sent to all for revision. After the paper is ready, the co-author submits the manuscript considering herself as the corresponding author without the first author permission. The problem is that she gave an incorrect email address of the first author to the journal.

Is this situation illegal? Can the first author contact the journal and at least change his correct email address?

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    Illegal??? That seems pretty extreme. – Jon Custer Jun 7 '17 at 16:32
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    Isn't it logic that the person submitting the manuscript is the corresponding author? – Emilie Jun 7 '17 at 16:56
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    You don't say what field you're in. In the life sciences fields I'm familiar with, "Corresponding author" has no prestige or value attached to it, but is merely an indication that this person is doing the administrative work associated with processing the paper, handling requests for reprints (almost nonexistent now), etc. Instead of assuming malice, why not simply ask the coauthor to correct your email for you? – iayork Jun 7 '17 at 16:58
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    Why did you want to finish it yourself? Do you think there's some prestige or value attached to it? If her understanding is that "Corresponding author" is a minor administrative role, then she could have taken it over as a favor to you. You seem upset far out of proportion to the issue. – iayork Jun 7 '17 at 17:15
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    Probably the reason the submitter sees no reason to change the email is because it really doesn't matter. It won't be in the publication in any way, it's just for you to receive emails about the publication process. I think you are way more concerned about this than you need to be. If you are losing access to that email address imminently and can't have mail forwarded from that address you could ask the editor to update it for further correspondence. – Bryan Krause Jun 8 '17 at 4:07
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Legality doesn't really come into this, but academic ethics most certainly does.

The real problem here is that the paper was submitted without a clear agreement amongst the authors that it was ready for submission and about who would submit.

From your story and comments, I assume that you are "N", but you don't say which of co-authors B, C, or D submitted. I am guessing that one of those co-authors is your advisor, and I believe that's who you need to have a conversation with.

  • If your advisor was the one who submitted (or told the other co-author to submit), they may have had good reason for doing so, or may have thought that you had already consented to submission.

  • If your advisor didn't think the paper was ready to submit, they need to know that it has happened so that they can help defend both of your interests.

Depending on what happens in your conversation with your advisor, there are three basic paths from here:

  1. It was a misunderstanding of some sort or a basically harmless error, and nothing needs to be done,
  2. The journal editor can be contacted to change paper meta-data, or
  3. The article needs to be withdrawn and resubmitted at a later date.

From what you have written so far, however, it is impossible to tell which is the appropriate course.

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I assume that your field is one of those where "first author" is important (indicates how much work N contributed) but "corresponding author" just means the person willing to handle correspondence about the paper. If that's correct, and if the order of authors wasn't changed, and if I were the first author N, then I would be happy that B or C or D has volunteered to take over the work of dealing with future correspondence.

If "gave an incorrect email address ... to the journal" means that an incorrect address will be published in the paper, then I would write to the editor to try to have it corrected. If, on the other hand, it only means that the journal can't reach me by email, then I wouldn't worry about it, because the journal is supposed to contact the new corresponding author, not me.

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