A paper was submitted to an online journal with the order of authors A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. After review, the manuscript was accepted for publication, subject to the authors making some minor changes. While making the formatting changes, the submitting author changed the order of the authors to B, A, C, D, E, F, G. This change was not noticed by the editors and the manuscript was published on the website as a preliminary PDF document while the final HTML form was being prepared. The submitting author was notified of acceptance and the posting of a preliminary version. At this stage, author A contacted the editors to say that the author list was incorrect. As the manuscript was not in its final form, it was still technically possible to make changes to the author list at this stage. The editor contacted authors A, B, and G (submitting author) to ask them to agree between them the correct author list and to contact the editors, via the submitting author, within one week. The editor also suggested that a possible solution might be to indicate that the authors A and B contributed equally. Author A contacted the editor to say the author list should be A, B, C, D, E, F, G and author G contacted the editor to say that the author list should be B, A, C, D, E, F, G. Given this disagreement, the editor decided it was not the editor’s position to mediate and asked author G (submitting author) to confirm that all authors were aware of the decision to list the authors as B, A, C, D, E, F, G. Author E contacted the editor to say that he was happy for the order to be decided by author G (submitting author). However, author G did not reply. After receiving no reply, the editor contacted author G again, saying that unless they heard to the contrary, the article would be published with the author list B, A, C, D, E, F, and G. After a further week, the editor had still heard nothing from author G and therefore decided to publish the article with the author order B, A, C, D, E, F, G since this was the order the submitting author had specified. The paper had been in preliminary form for over four weeks. The journal’s practice is to send an acknowledgement at submission to all authors. Papers are published on the same day as acceptance or shortly thereafter. This is the citation that PubMed picks up for indexing. The finalised html version is then posted a few days later. The journal now also emails all authors at acceptance stage. Should the case have been handled differently?
order. In cases of dispute the journal might want to sanction temporary withdrawal of the paper from the website. _ However, the order, which promoted author B, would have already been picked up for citation purposes. _ The journal could post a temporary retraction, but this would lay the process open to abuse by those maliciously objecting to the authorship order. _ A comment could be posted, outlining the authorship dispute. _ The journal could review its editorial policy and procedures concerning authorship disputes. _ Rearrangement of authorship often occurs in cases of duplicate publication or where co-authors are clearly not looking at the work.