In a recent AA exchange, it was noted that Ernest Williams’ last publication appeared 11 years after his death. Anthony Geneva wondered “how far one could take posthumous co-authorship. What’s stopping me from including Darwin as a co-author on my next manuscript?”
Indeed, just what are the rules? Are you comfortable with the idea that a paper may be published in the future and the deceased you listed as a co-author, without the opportunity to agree to be a coauthor, much less comment on or contribute to its content? What’s to keep someone just from tacking on the names of prominent figures in a bid to make a paper more publishable or to gain more attention?
In this case, the paper, Poe et al. (2009), made clear their rationale: “Williams and Miyata are deceased and are included as coauthors for the following contributions. Poe was able to diagnose each species and identify MCZ specimens on the basis of Williams’ unpublished notes, which clearly were influenced by Miyata’s work on the second species described herein. Additionally, Williams is responsible for Figure 6. Subsequent to submission of this manuscript, the editor provided Poe with a chapter of Miyata’s Ph.D. thesis, never published, describing the second of the two species described herein. Poe incorporated information from this manuscript into the diagnosis of this species.”
(full disclosure: I am the editor who worked with Poe to craft this arrangement)
Does anyone know of any discussion of how these situations should be handled? Do any journals have rules about it?