REALLY out of the loop…

Ok, this time I mean REALLY out of the loop and I dislike being out of the loop in this way. Here’s the story. I am out of the office because the wonderful woman who takes care of my two daughters during the summer has the day off (I’m working Saturday- just in case you think I’m a lazy slacker). I received an email- with an attached manuscript. The email to which the manuscript is attached basically says- dear co-authors- we are submitting this manuscript today. Today- this morning actually- with that email- is the first time I have laid eyes on this manuscript to which I am a co-author.

So, I start reading the manuscript- and I start editing (because I’m pathologic about this)- and there are a few nomenclature and writing type things that need fixing that I see straight off… I haven’t even gotten down to the data yet- so I send the primary author a brief email saying… here are a couple of things you might want to fix- thinking that if they are going to submit it at the end of the day they might actually appreciate a little input- and I might catch something they have missed. My younger daughter is napping so I have a minute for this right now. I promptly get an email back saying… Sorry but we have already submitted the manuscript. SAY WHAT???

I guess I was under the mistaken impression that co-authors should at least get a look at the data and the manuscript BEFORE it gets submitted. Now, I don’t want to be the moral authority (I gave up being the moral authority on just about everything long ago)- and I’m just going to say that straight off- and I am a somewhere-in-the-middle author on this paper- but geez- it is not like I’m an undergraduate student worker (and I’ve had many excellent undergraduate student workers but rarely one who could make useful contributions to a manuscript because they generally just lack experience here).

I am stuck between some very senior people on this deal- and pretty much all the conversation goes on without my input, despite the fact that I think this project is really, really cool and would put a terrific effort into it if afforded the opportunity. And I was put on this manuscript for a couple of critical things I helped with, which was generous.- so I feel like I should just be grateful and quit complaining. And I don’t want to ruffle any feathers- because said senior people can influence my T-T survival- and people can be odd about this sort of thing. But- I’ve got this sore spot about being the afterthought- it really REALLY bothers me, and I feel trapped.

When I told my husband this tale- he said- are there any flaws in the data…? And I have to say… Geez honey- How would I know? I didn’t have the data prior to submission.


13 thoughts on “REALLY out of the loop…

  1. Poor form by those people. In fact, for every journal I submit to, you have to certify that everybody has seen the final copy.

    If politics weren’t an issue, I would ask them to email the journal and tell them that they mistakenly sent an old copy of the manuscript. that gives a few days for you to see this.

  2. That is so not cool.

    Any chance there is a co-author that held up the manuscript for a long time so they bypassed everyone else in hopes that it wouldn’t happen again?

    Is the lead author a senior someone? I would not feel good about this.

  3. They’re really not allowed to do that, but you don’t have a lot of power in this instance, and I’d let it go, as long as you don’t think anything critical is wrong.

    I’ll admit to having done this once to a junior collaborator, who I thought wouldn’t care. She was annoyed, and I was wrong, and I now try not to forget to include everyone with some reasonable opportunity to sign off. Sometimes, I’m pretty sure I won’t get any feedback, so I might not give enough time to provide any real feedback. But, even in those cases, I wouldn’t have clicked submit without official permission.

  4. Totally not cool. While most journals in my field require the lead author to certify that all authors approve of the manuscript, it’s obviously not a constraint on some people! It’s like asking the fox to certify that the hens are still breathing. I had a collaborator who did this type of thing and it drove me nuts (and I’m no longer collaborating with him).

  5. yeah, this is lame. i find people using, and myself favoring, the approach of “this is going in in one week please return comments by [date]”. this gets around the issue of people just blowing it off to some extent, they can’t bitch you didn’t give them a chance to look at it. and you are not left at their mercy.

  6. That is completely out-of-line. There are a few journals that require all authors to physically sign a “consent” form. It can be a huge pain in the ass (we once had to fax the form sequentially to co-authors at 6 different institutions), but I think it’s a good idea. All co-authors, in my opinion, should be given the opportunity to review a manuscript before it’s submitted. I use BikeMonkey’s approach too–people who don’t want to read it don’t have to, but they have to acknowledge they were given the chance.

    Like other people I’ve said, I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about it now except politely express your concern about how this was handled to the senior PIs on the paper.

  7. This is WRONG. As I tell my students, if your name is on the paper you are responsible for it. Granted you can’t always know every detail of every experiment, but not knowing or understanding the contents of a paper does not make an author any less responsible for it. Not being given the chance to read the manuscript before submission is a denial of your rights. If this is how your collaborators behave I would find a way to withdraw from the collaboration. For your own protection.

  8. Everyone-

    I was stunned, because I know it is not right- and I would never consider doing such a thing to a co-author. I would give a co-author a short leash- i.e. I would like to submit this manuscript 1 week from today- I welcome your comments etc. on the manuscript within that time frame. I think that is a perfectly reasonable approach.

    I want a look at the data- then I will edit the manuscript and pass it back.

  9. The f word-

    The username is making me laugh!

    Ya- I’m just only getting to the heart of the manuscript. Just discovered that I don’t even have all the figures or figure legends. So much for looking at the data.

  10. SO not cool. I really really hate this. It’s happened to me a couple of times and the advice I’ve had has usually been ‘well its another paper with some good people and it won’t matter in 5 years time so just let it go’ but it’s UNETHICAL and also just plain rude. Agree with your normal handling of the situation, and hope you manage to persuade them to at least let you see what you’re signing up to!

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