Q: Can I remove one of the co-authors during manuscript revision stage?
Hi, I submitted my paper to The Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) and got major revision. While revising my paper, I removed the fifth author. Now the editor has asked me to explain the reason. How should I explain it appropriately? Do I need to provide any material? Will my paper get rejected because of this? Thank you!
You have not mentioned why you removed the fifth author and whether you did this with the approval of all the other authors, including the person you have removed. It is unethical to add or remove an author once you have submitted your manuscript. Any changes to authorship should be made only with the approval of all the co-authors. If your co-authors are aware of this, you can tell the editor the reason why you removed the fifth co-author.
According to the ICMJE guidelines, a person can be an author if he/she has done all of the following:
- Made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Was involved in drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
- Gave final approval of the version to be published; AND
- Agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
If an author does not fulfill any one of the above criteria, he/she does not qualify to be an author. If you feel that the fifth author did not fulfill all of the above criteria, you can explain that to the editor.
Make sure that you provide a document signed by all the co-authors (including the fifth author) stating that they agree to this change. It is difficult to say whether your paper will be rejected because of this, but the editor will definitely make investigations to confirm that you haven't done nothing unethical before processing your paper.