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Due to unforeseen circumstances, I am not able to present my paper at a Computer Science conference. Without the presentation the paper will not be published. My instructor has said that she will present the paper instead, but wants to move me from the primary author to the second author. I did all the work as a graduate student while she reviewed and gave general feedback. What is the proper etiquette here? Is it okay to move her to primary because I cannot present?


In the interest of fairness to the professor, I want to provide some more background. This started off as a end-of-semester project. Each student needed to come up with an idea, then propose, implement, present and write a paper on it. I initially proposed a vague concept of using PSO to train neural nets. My instructor said her lab is working on something similar and if I wanted, I could tackle an extension to their algorithm, which depending on the outcome could lead to a published paper. During the course of the semester, my instructor offered little to no help for the project, presumably because that would give me an unfair advantage. All the work, code, paper, the specifics of the algorithm extension are all mine, and all I had was the published paper of the previous algorithm to work on.

After the semester was over, I decided to see if I could get it published. I noticed a lot of mistakes I made with my implementation during the tight semester time-frame and spent several months iterating and refining my process and results. I was put in touch with the previous researchers who offered little help with the exception of getting a portion of their source code, which was also of little help to me. I would venture to say that my professor's role in this was mostly advisory, although at the end of it, I would send my paper to her to proofread it.

Fast-forward to now, my instructor is claiming that because I am not presenting, I am not taking ownership of my work. She is also claiming that the work was her idea and based on her lab's previous work. She gave me a choice of swapping authors or withdrawing the paper. Note that a camera-ready version of the paper has already been submitted. I offered to withdraw from the conference. She then tells me that she has already registered the paper so I shouldn't withdraw, but she wants the source files for my work (I assume latex files?).

She has now invoked university policy and copyright law, saying that since both our names are on the paper, I cannot withdraw without her consent, which she has not given. Since she shares ownership of the paper, she claims she is also entitled to the source materials of the paper. She has offered not to change the author order.

That is the majority of the story. The actual email conversation was not as civil. I have graduated and moved on... we never actually met face to face since this was an online class. So... given the above story, have I done anything wrong? Is the instructor entitled to the source material for the paper? This is for the IEEE WCCI conference this summer. We are the only two authors on this paper. This is my first paper, this is not her first paper.

1 Answer 1

Who presents a work should not affect its authorship.

Authorship is determined by the contribution to the publication. That work is complete at the time when the publication is accepted and the camera-ready is submitted. Now, it is entirely reasonable (and in fact common) for a paper to be presented by somebody other than the first author, and it's quite normal for the presenter to highlight their name in the presentation. In no way, however, should that change the authorship of the paper.