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GradSrudent3645

Unable to complete journal paper by the deadline. Is this a problem?

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Main Question:

I submitted an abstract to a well known journal (in the field of Civil, Aerospace, Mechanical Engineering) a couple months ago and the abstract was accepted. Due to major changes in unrelated circumstances, it will not be ready/adequate. Is this a problem? 

Background:

I am a graduate student at an American engineering university. I submitted a journal paper a couple months ago and it was accepted. However, my circumstances changed over the past months, and completing this paper is no longer a priority nor plausible. 

My funded research (unrelated to the said journal paper) is requiring too much of my time, and I am likely planning to leaving the program. Also, my wife would prefer me to leave the program and pursue an engineering job with a salary. To further compound problems, my personal computer (which carries the work corresponding to the paper) has broken down permanently (that is, the computer is completely dead). 

As a result, my priorities have dramatically shifted to job applications and interviews. At this point, completing the paper by the due date (one week) is no longer a priority, nor feasible. However, I would like to one day return to a career in academia and get a PhD. Would neglecting to submit this paper negatively effect my reputation? In your opinion, would this hurt my professional relationship with my advisor (who was working on the paper with me)? Would this hurt my ability to publish in the future with this journal?

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This is really a question for your advisor. I would guess that (1) not being able to make the deadline would not by itself be a problem: you write the editors to request more time, and I would bet you could easily get 2-4 more weeks. You could probably also ask for a second extension if you needed it (but of course there may be external deadlines or other considerations that could lead to a different answer than my guess here). (2) If you can't make the deadline and also don't want to pursue the paper any longer, you could write the editors to apologize and withdraw the submission; I again don't foresee any trouble with doing that. No reason why you couldn't submit to that journal again. (3) Now for the kicker: this is a co-authored paper. Backing out will hurt not only you but your advisor as well. Here I think there is a lot less leeway. Backing out on commitments to co-authors will legitimately piss them off. Since this is someone who is writing you letters and who you want to keep on your side, you need to do damage control. You need to sit with your advisor and tell him that your priorities have shifted and you can't make the deadline (and/or you can't contribute to this paper any longer) and you want his advice on what to do next. Your advisor could choose to press on with the submission without you as a co-author, or to withdraw, but you need to reach an agreement before you do anything else. Once you have a strategy, do not simply neglect or ignore this paper; write the editors to inform them of your decision as soon as possible, and make sure your correspondence is strictly professional. If you maintain an appropriate behavior, it shouldn't hurt your ability to return to a PhD program or publish with this journal in the future. 

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