Q: How can I add another corresponding author during proofing?

Detailed Question -

My manuscript got accepted after a major revision. The editor sent a link for the proof, but did not notify me of the deadline, only saying that the manuscript would be updated one week after the proofing completes. Here is a timeline of the developments since acceptance.

  • August 27: The manuscript got accepted.
  • August 31: I received the proofing link and was told the manuscript was online.
  • September 2: I clicked the proofing link and started editing.

I changed one of the co-authors to a corresponding author. (To be very honest, I did not know at first that this journal allows two corresponding authors.) However, on the editing dashboard, it only shows that I have added another corresponding author, but there is no asterisk sign next to his name. I am not sure whether my change has successfully added him as a corresponding author.

I feel anxious now. My supervisor scolded me, saying that only the second author or corresponding author can be ‘real’ authors. (He did not mention this during the major revision.) I searched online and came across 50-50 [mixed] responses.

What should I do to add another corresponding author while not affecting the acceptance of my manuscript?

1 Answer to this question

Firstly, congrats on your acceptance! Your paper is now at the proofing stage, which means it is almost published. We understand your anxiety at the present challenge, but don’t worry – this will not affect the acceptance of your manuscript. :-) At the most, there might be a bit of a delay in its publication, but it should not be too problematic to sort that out.

Coming to your query, there are actually multiple aspects to it. So, let’s take them one by one.

Adding a second corresponding author

Yes, some journals do allow including two corresponding authors, and yes too, this is not always clear in their author/submission guidelines. Go through this case study to read about a similar scenario in the past: Does your target journal allow more than one corresponding author?

However, what is not clear from your query is the reason or need for adding a second corresponding author. Has your supervisor asked you to include a second corresponding author, that too, for a legitimate reason? Has this second corresponding author made a contribution as a second corresponding author? Has this second corresponding author taken over from (replaced) the earlier corresponding author? Without knowing the reason, it would be difficult commenting further on this part of the query. To put it in another way, adding a second corresponding author should be not a challenge especially when the journal has a provision for it. So, what needs to be established is not the mechanics of the addition, but the ethics of the addition.

Defining ‘real’ authorship

Contrary to what your supervisor is saying, the second author or the corresponding author is not the ‘real’ author, or rather, they are not the main or first author. Yes, the corresponding author is typically a senior researcher, that is, a senior author. But the first author, the one who has made the most significant contribution to the research, is the first author.

For a better understanding of authorship (who is an author and who is a corresponding author), you may refer to the ICMJE guidelines on this: Who Is an Author? [ICMJE]

Resolving the issue(s)

There are actually two issues here. One is the reason for including a second corresponding author. The other is actually adding this second corresponding author in the journal system.

The second should be easier to resolve. In case you are not sure that you have presently actually added a second corresponding author, you can write to the editor about this. If needed, you can take a screenshot of the existing form/field and share this in your email. The editor should be able to guide you on how to make the addition – after all, they have guided you so far on your manuscript. :-) However, they too will come back to the first issue: asking you why you wish to add a second corresponding author, that too, at such a late stage. So, you need to first resolve that issue, after which, the remaining action(s) should be easier.

Hope that helps. For more insights into the matter of corresponding authorship, you may find the following resources useful:

Hope the matter is resolved soon – all the best! And again, congrats on the acceptance, and hopefully soon, also the publication!