A manuscript was submitted to a journal and after the review and revision process, the submitted manuscript was accepted for publication. During the manuscript revision process, the corresponding author was in contact with the journal: answered all of the emails, performed revisions of the manuscript, prepared answers to the comments of the reviewers, etc.
When the manuscript was accepted for publication and the corresponding author was asked to review the final revision of the manuscript, the corresponding author stopped answering emails. The journal tried to contact the corresponding author several times. The journal also tried to contact the co-authors and the university (the department of the authors), but no response has been received. Thus the manuscript is ready for publishing, but the journal is unable to contact the authors of the manuscript.
Question(s) for the Forum
- What should the journal do?
The Forum advised not publishing the paper if the editor does not have final consent from the authors. A suggestion was to contact the authors and the authors’ institutions with a specific deadline, stating that if no response is received within this time frame, the paper will be withdrawn. The editor may wish to also send a registered letter by post to ensure the authors have received the request. The authors require permission from the journal to formally withdraw the paper if they wish to publish it in another journal.
The main reason for not proceeding with publication is that if issues arose with the paper after publication, the authors would need to be contacted, especially if the editor does not have access to the raw data. Authorship implies responsibility for the research presented in the paper. If the authors are not responding, then no one is taking responsibility for the work and therefore the paper cannot be published. The paper should not be published without the corresponding author's final approval.
Another question is whether the author signed a journal publishing agreement. If not, the paper cannot be published from a legal and copyright perspective also.