Scientific publishing from the "afterlife"?

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How long after a scientist's death can papers be published with this very scientist as coauthor? I assume this is the case for all scientific work where he or she participated to such a degree that justifies listing as coauthor...living or dead.
But there's a case that got me wondering. I read something about late astrogeologist Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker and did some online research in which year he died again (1997) and what ads.abs.harvard.edu lists as his last few published papers. Making an author query in the Author Information Form for "Shoemaker, E. M." I get results dating back as recently as February 2011 together with C. S. Shoemaker and other coauthors. While the most recent ones are just minor planet observations the last real paper about meteorite craters dates January 2004. This might well be a long research study being published several years after Shoemaker's death. But what about those minor planet observations? Carolyn S. Shoemaker was Eugene Shoemaker's wife, so I imagine that she wanted to honor her late husband as coauthor in those observatin submissions. But is this allowed so many years later? Isn't this the only such case...assuming what I think is really correct?

Best,

Lucas
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
704
347
How long after a scientist's death can papers be published with this very scientist as coauthor? I assume this is the case for all scientific work where he or she participated to such a degree that justifies listing as coauthor...living or dead.
But there's a case that got me wondering. I read something about late astrogeologist Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker and did some online research in which year he died again (1997) and what ads.abs.harvard.edu lists as his last few published papers. Making an author query in the Author Information Form for "Shoemaker, E. M." I get results dating back as recently as February 2011 together with C. S. Shoemaker and other coauthors. While the most recent ones are just minor planet observations the last real paper about meteorite craters dates January 2004. This might well be a long research study being published several years after Shoemaker's death. But what about those minor planet observations? Carolyn S. Shoemaker was Eugene Shoemaker's wife, so I imagine that she wanted to honor her late husband as coauthor in those observatin submissions. But is this allowed so many years later? Isn't this the only such case...assuming what I think is really correct?

Best,

Lucas


I don't see why there should be any limit on this. Papers written by X are found. Y polishes them up and publishes them with X as coauthor. Fine.
 
  • #3
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My point is how can someone be a coauthor of a paper when he/she is long gone and the research in the paper almost certainly was not conducted by this person anymore while still alive? When he/she participated in the paper's research then it's clear and one makes a respective footnote about passing away - at least I came across some papers of this kind. But just honoring a person should be done somewhere along with the acknowledgements in my opinion.
In the case of E. Shoemaker, I totally admire his science and lifetime work, but to put him as coauthor 14 years later is just confusing concerning paper research participation and thus not appropriate...IF it's just for honoring or remembering him. After all, I haven't seen any papers with Albert Einstein or Carl Sagan as coauthors.
 
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It's really up to the authors of the paper who they list - it's no one elses business IMO. Mathematicians often use fictitious co-authors and even pseudonyms for themselves.
 
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In addition vogue has dramatically changed over times. A century ago it has been normal that publications were from a single author. Helping students haven't been mentioned, research wasn't done in teams like nowadays. Today in the publish-or-perish-world where every single publication seems to be equivalent to reputation, the list of authors serve some goals which they formerly did not: Introduction of students, listing of team members, seeking reputation by the name of well-known co-authors and last but not least: do not forget someone. It's by far more networking than it used to be. And if Shoemaker's part whether it has been real or just fundamental to make a publication possible then why not mention him in accordance to today's practices.
 
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  • #6
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The author list is like free money. Why not print as much as you can? It don't cost nothin'. Maybe someday I'll see an author list longer than the paper itself. Not that I care.

Whenever there is an artificial metric created to obviate judgement, stuff like this happens.
 
  • #7
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Maybe someday I'll see an author list longer than the paper itself.
I think there are good chances with papers from CERN.
 
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If a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci is found, is Leonardo da Vinci then quoted as a sole author in a science journal, or a coauthor?
Any publications, in 21th century scientific journals, of previously unpublished research made before 20th century?
 
  • #9
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If a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci is found, is Leonardo da Vinci then quoted as a sole author in a science journal, or a coauthor?
Any publications, in 21th century scientific journals, of previously unpublished research made before 20th century?
AFAIK Fermat's last theorem has been found in his estates; not quite sure about Galois. And Kafka's complete work had been destined by him to be burned!
 
  • #10
jtbell
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It's really up to the authors of the paper who they list

A famous example in physics is the Alpher, Bethe, Gamow paper. (Bethe didn't really contribute, but Gamow couldn't resist adding his name.)
 
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  • #11
f95toli
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It's really up to the authors of the paper who they list - it's no one elses business IMO. Mathematicians often use fictitious co-authors and even pseudonyms for themselves.

I believe this used to be true to a large extent. However, due to various scandals over the past few year more and more journals now require you to specify how each co-authors contributed to the work. Nearly all also require you specify a valid e-mail address for each author.
 
  • #12
Daz
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However, due to various scandals over the past few years...

F. D. C. Willard? Willard “co-authored” a number of papers which appeared in Phys. Rev. Lett. Eventually Willard was un-masked as a domestic cat when he (or she) started receiving invitations to give invited presentations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.D.C._Willard
 
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  • #13
f95toli
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I was thinking of the Schön scandal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schön_scandal

Several of his co-authors got into trouble, especially when some of them essentially stated that they had not been directly involved in the work.
Many of them were (and are) highly respected in their fields (e.g. Batlogg) but they should clearly have asked more questions at the time.
If you have your name on an article you ARE responsible for its content.
 
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  • #14
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It's really up to the authors of the paper who they list - it's no one elses business IMO. Mathematicians often use fictitious co-authors and even pseudonyms for themselves.
I did not know this is possible...what a kindergarten! When I read a paper I expect and want all authors to have participated directly, at least to some extend or some period, in the paper's research - for me that's just logical. Honoring, praises, funny statements (I also came across those) etc. belong to the end of the paper to the acknowledgements and similar sections. Any praises of scientists who did not participate directly but whose earlier research made the actual paper's research possible in my understanding also belong to the acknowledgement on the one hand and to the references on the other hand.
Maybe I'm/was just naive cos I was just in college. But anyway, for me, this has to do with integrity and honesty...what I totaly expect from serious scientists of any field. At least I'd have this strict policy.
 
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  • #15
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Because of the news today I've read Einstein's original publication on gravitational waves (1916). The same article would have had de Sitter as co-author if it were published nowadays. (Just to underline my remark on changing habits.)
 
  • #16
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Because of the news today I've read Einstein's original publication on gravitational waves (1916). The same article would have had de Sitter as co-author if it were published nowadays. (Just to underline my remark on changing habits.)

The famous 1905 special relativity paper had exactly one citation : Besso, who claimed he didn't do much.
 
  • #17
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The famous 1905 special relativity paper had exactly one citation : Besso, who claimed he didn't do much.
In the 1916 paper he cites correspondence with de Sitter twice, thanking for his hints on the choice of coordinates and solving the differential equations. This might not have been so important but translated into nowadays practice, it would have led to a co-authorship: the more the better and don't forget anyone.
 
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  • #18
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In the 1916 paper he cites correspondence with de Sitter twice, thanking for his hints on the choice of coordinates and solving the differential equations. This might not have been so important but translated into nowadays practice, it would have led to a co-authorship: the more the better and don't forget anyone.

"I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine." Tit for tat. Quid pro quo. You'd think there would be a word for that, but there isn't. Cronyism is a bit of a stretch.
 
  • #19
jtbell
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Eventually Willard was un-masked as a domestic cat
I wonder if he was a descendant of Schrödinger's cat?
 
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  • #20
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I wonder if he was a descendant of Schrödinger's cat?

It depends on whether or not the nucleus has decayed.
 

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