Q: Is it ethical for a reviewer to remove a coauthor's name at the revision stage?
The journal gave me his name, and I am planning to send a letter to his university as it [he] is a professor and it [he] is cooperate [cooperating] with a person [with] whom I have [had] several conflicts in my research institution.
Thanks for your question. Please note that we have made some edits to your question for enhanced understanding. Still, a few parts seem unclear/sketchy… How/Why did the reviewer have the authority to remove your coauthor’s name? (A reviewer typically doesn’t have this authority/prerogative.) How/Why did the journal give you this reviewer’s name? (If it was a blind review, they shouldn’t have. If it was an open review, you would already have his name.) Also, the last part, about the reviewer possibly cooperating with someone from your institute with whom you have (had) conflicts – with the removal of your coauthor’s name being an example of this scheming – may be beyond our scope to answer, as there may be a lot in the background that we don’t have information on. Anyway, we shall share this with our ethics expert and get back with a response shortly.
As mentioned in our initial response, many aspects of this situation are unclear. First, do you mean that you were removed, or was a different coauthor removed? Second, as mentioned previously, peer reviewers do not have the authority to “remove” a coauthor. We assume that the reviewer might have recommended the removal. But do the other authors agree with this?
We have responded to a similar situation previously (What should I do if a reviewer removed my name as a coauthor during the revision stage?). As mentioned in the response there too, this is an unusual situation. Even to add a coauthor, the reviewer can at best put forth a suggestion (as you may read in this previous question: Is it ethical for a reviewer to recommend adding a co-author to a manuscript?) As you may know, the final decision must be made mutually by all the coauthors. For changes in authorship during the submission process, many journals request all authors in question (current as well as those recommended to be added/removed) to complete a change of authorship request form, with the corresponding author(s) justifying the reason for the changes.
In your case, we can think of a few scenarios:
- Perhaps the reviewer felt that the contributions of that coauthor were insufficient to warrant coauthorship. If so, in the resubmission letter, the corresponding author(s) should assure the journal editor that that particular coauthor’s contributions fulfil all the and that they do not agree with the removal.
- Perhaps the peer reviewer is biased towards a senior author or the first author or against the particular coauthor in question. If so, their judgment would not be objective, and this would constitute a compromised peer review. This should immediately be brought to the attention of the editor, who would decide what action is to be taken further. If the paper ends up getting published, and the peer review is found to have been jeopardized, a retraction might be initiated.
- The suggestion to remove a coauthor was made by the reviewer, and the coauthors differ on their views on this. In this case, we would recommend that the issue be resolved among all the authors by discussing it openly. Some points for consideration would be: Why do some authors feel the inclusion is not warranted and why was this not brought up before submission? Would a change in the author order (based on the quantum of contribution) help bring everyone on common ground?
Hope that helps. Remember that any necessary intimation should be made to the journal editor, explaining/supporting the changes made. All the best for an amicable, satisfactory resolution.