24 September 2010

With or without you

Earlier this year, Dr. Isis discussed the following situation.

A trainee (student, post-doc, what have you) finishes up data collection a collaborative research project. The project would not have been possible without help from the collaborator, who made substantial contributions to the design and data collection of the project.

The trainee starts writing it all up for publication, then tries to get input from the collaborator, but hears nothing.

Trainee tries emailing, contacting, all sorts of goof faith efforts to get input from collaborator. Still nothing.

Should the trainee go ahead and submit a paper anyway? If yes, with the collaborator’s name or without?

There was a fair amount of discussion on this in Dr. Isis’s blog (which I was participating in). A decent number of commenters said that the lack of response from the collaborator was reason enough to submit the article without the collaborator’s name on it. The best known guidelines for authorship say that if you don’t participate in writing, you shouldn’t be listed an author.

A case pretty darn close to this showed up on the Retraction Watch blog earlier this month.

It did not surprise me that the journal editor took the side of the omitted authors in that case.

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