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Is this grounds for a lawsuit?

  1. Jan 6, 2009 #1
    Let's say a professor you're working under puts your name as an author on a paper without your knowledge or concent. You're then told its past the deadline to remove your name from the paper and the paper gets submitted with your name on it anyways. (Not having contributed anything to it or have been aware). Is there grounds here to sue said professor for forgery or misuse of your name without concent?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2009 #2
    He probably thinks he's doing you a favor... Why don't you want your name on this paper?
  4. Jan 6, 2009 #3


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    That was my initial thought and question as well. On a patent application, it would be illegal to put your name on it without you having been a significant contributor. Don't think anything similar applies to publishing papers.

    Are there errors in the paper that you think should be corrected before publication? Has it already made it past peer review?
  5. Jan 6, 2009 #4
    Because I didn't contribute to it. Not one thing. None. And no one signs my name to papers\obligations without my consent.

    I was only made aware of my name being on it after it was too late to take it off as a list of authors.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2009
  6. Jan 6, 2009 #5


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    Your consent to work for the professor may have committed you to an explicit or implied right for him to credit you for work on his projects. Please check that before you dump on him. Many students appreciate being credited, even if their work was ancillary to the research project, and he might have thought this was good for you.

    "No good deed goes unpunished."
  7. Jan 6, 2009 #6
    I never signed any contract with him agreeing to this. The problem is that it's a total lack of consideration to sign someones name to an obligation without telling them. It's just not right.
  8. Jan 6, 2009 #7


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    Is it possible that you inspired him through:

    a) casual academic discussion
    b) submitting homework to him that asked open-ended discussion questions.
    c) any research that you have contributed to that he could adapt to his work.
  9. Jan 6, 2009 #8
    No, he and I don't like eachother and no longer work together.
  10. Jan 6, 2009 #9


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    Then it's certainly quite puzzling that he chose to include you as a co-author!
  11. Jan 6, 2009 #10
    If I find out my name makes its way onto any papers I'm going to write a letter to that journal and tell them to retract my name from it.
  12. Jan 6, 2009 #11
    Tell him he can put my name on it if he'd like
  13. Jan 6, 2009 #12
    If you're not here to answer my question then leave.
  14. Jan 6, 2009 #13


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    Gold Member

    Ask him why first.
  15. Jan 6, 2009 #14
    So let's pretend Cyrus is completely self-serving here (we have no reason to think he is)

    He could:

    a). Leave his name on the paper and have one more publication. Depending on where he is in his career this could be quite a big deal for him.

    b). Retract his name by contacting the journal, making a big deal about it, etc. If people in the field know him at all and he can get something with his reasons for retracting his name published (assuming there are some scientific reasons as well) AND assuming he has no loyalty to this professor... then it might help him more to publish a retraction....

    c). sue the professor on dubious legal grounds.... I don't think this would accomplish anything....
  16. Jan 6, 2009 #15
    To be clear, I'm not getting a PhD, and I'm not trying to become a professor. I'm not here to publish as many papers as I can. The only thing I did was to collect data for a friend of mine because he asked me for my help. I agreed to collect the data for him. I find out more than half way into the deal that I'm supposed to be a co author and its too late.

    I do not deserve to have my name on a paper for collecting data. What a joke. If I'm putting my name on any papers its going to be because I helped with some form of analysis.

    My question still stands though: What right does an advisor have to sign your name to obligations you were not made aware of.
  17. Jan 7, 2009 #16

    Math Is Hard

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    Did you talk to the professor about this and explain that you didn't think your contributions (helping your friend collect data) merited being listed as an author? What did he say?
  18. Jan 7, 2009 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    To specifically answer the question, of course you can sue. You can always sue.

    Whether you will win is another matter. As is what sort of judgment you will receive, and as is what you will collect.

    There are two questions a court will probably ask you - what damages did you suffer, and what remedy is appropriate. You might think about the answers to those questions before launching a drawn-out and expensive legal action.
  19. Jan 7, 2009 #18
    I'm not going to sue :)

    But I am seriously PISSED OFF about the matter. So I wanted to know if it's illegal or not to use someones name without their permission.

    Anyways: Damages: Using my name without my permission
    Remedy: Take name off paper.
  20. Jan 7, 2009 #19
    Dude you're just angry at the guy and trying to find anything you can to get a dig at him.
  21. Jan 7, 2009 #20
    And presumably you did collect that data... right?

    Quite honestly, often most of what students at the undergraduate contribute to papers is just such a thing... simply the collection of data (even data slightly peripheral to the study... such as a case where I had an undergraduate measure surface roughness of some samples with AFM... and used his results to select which samples to study), a program to help collect or analyze data, or the manufacture of suitable samples to study. If some of the data collected from your small contribution was used in the process of publication, then leave it at that. To some extent you deserve to be listed as a coauthor. (Presumably there's a list of at least three or four authors, and you aren't the top/first author, right? -- In that scenario, people who look at your CV will assume your contribution is slight, and you won't be asked the full details of the work, although it's be good to remember the techniques used to collect the data.)

    It is surprising perhaps, that you weren't contacted... maybe your friend was supposed to pass on the info and neglected. Or maybe the professor feels bad about your personal relationship, and wanted to offer this as a sign of healing/respect.... even perhaps a sign that he would be willing to be a reference for you (it would be hard to give a bad reference once you're a co-author on a paper. right?).
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