A final year student, and two other researchers in law, all from the same university, undertook research into a recent court judgment on the rules in relation to civil servants making public comments. Based on this research, a manuscript was drafted to be submitted to a double anonymised peer reviewed journal. The manuscript is highly critical of the judgment’s reasoning and impact. All three are named authors on the manuscript, as all three actively engaged in the research and writing.
Just prior to submission of the manuscript, the student was successful in obtaining employment in the civil service. Ironically, the student is now subject to the rules criticised in the manuscript. Breach of the rules can have severe consequences, including dismissal.
The student has approached the civil service and disclosed the authors’ desire to submit the manuscript to the journal. The proposed journal is not based in the country that the authors are from. The draft manuscript was provided to the civil service. In the draft manuscript the student is identified by name and as affiliated with the university. The student’s employment with the civil service is not disclosed in the manuscript and it is expressly stated in the manuscript that the research and writing of the manuscript happened while the student was completing their studies with the university.
Over a series of months, senior managers in the civil service have explicitly denied the student permission to be an author on the manuscript. Based on this communication, it is the strong opinion of the authors that if the manuscript is published with the student as a named author without permission, it is likely that the student will be dismissed.
The authors want to submit the manuscript and contribute to the debate on the extent of civil freedoms in their country. However, they do not wish to jeopardise the student’s employment. They also believe it would be extremely unethical for the manuscript to be submitted without the student acknowledged as an author. A significant part of the manuscript was the student’s research and writing. Also, from the tenor of the communication from the civil service management, the student would be in breach of the rules even if they were not a named author and rather acknowledged and thanked in the article.
Questions for the Forum
- How can the authors still submit the manuscript while minimising exposure to the student? Would editors be comfortable handling such a manuscript?
- Would editors be comfortable handling such a manuscript?