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Topic: Authorship issue---unfair situation  (Read 2670 times)

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Offline kamiyu

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Authorship issue---unfair situation
« on: April 14, 2016, 07:50:09 AM »
Hi everyone, I am a 3rd year PhD student who is in problem now about authorship issue. I really wish someone experienced to provide me some suggestions/insights.

I have been working on OLEDs and I am responsible for inventing new structures of emitters + synthesis + characterization. Normally speaking, I will be granted first authorship for sure.

But my work needs some photophysical characterization and this is done by a new coming PhD student.
My work takes me 3-6 months while photophysical characterization takes at most 1 week.

Now, my supervisor wants her to be the first authors for some of my projects (I have done about 10 projects, but due to some reasons of the collaborator and therefore some delay to publish)

I am wondering why my supervisors wants her to be the first author. Things are so unfair in this group and many things are just a joke!

Offline Dan

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Re: Authorship issue---unfair situation
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2016, 09:16:44 AM »
Aaaah, publication politics.

Unfortunately this happens quite frequently, and in some groups the authorship practices make no sense at all. I've been fortunate that my PIs have all been fair, but I know a few people who have been stung by political authorship decisions. It can be a very emotive issue, try to keep level-headed and polite. You can also talk to the student currently in the first author slot and see if she thinks it's fair. I know of situations where the first and second authors of a manuscript have approached the PI together to request an order change (and bizarrely were refused by the PI).

My advice is:

1. If you disagree with the PI's chosen order, ask him/her to explain the contributions of the author you think has been inappropriately placed, and prepare a summary of your own contributions for comparison. Don't be aggressive - remember that the author you feel is misplaced may have done more than you are aware of (often the case in interdisciplinary work), so be prepared to back down gracefully if that is the case.

2. If you still disagree, objectively and politely make your case. You can also point out that you will soon be looking for work, and that it is important to you that the authorship order is fair. A lot of seasoned PIs seem to have forgotten how important authorship order is to young researchers and don't realise the grief that it can cause.

3. If you and your PI can't agree, you can suggest the compromise of joint-first authorship (the "equal contribution" footnote). This is a good tactic when confronted by a dictatorial PI who refuses to justify or change the order they have chosen. Remember that your PI has the final say - there is no sense in causing a big argument, especially if you have more papers in preparation with them. A dictatorial PI may punish your insubordination with more unfair authorship placement in future manuscripts. While you may not feel that joint-first is necessarily a fair reflection of author contributions, it might be the best option you have.

4. If you have a lot of (potentially) first-author publications in the pipeline, you should consider whether this is a fight worth fighting - especially if your PI is the dictatorial type. You may have to make the political decision to let it go and maintain a good working relationship with the boss (from whom you will need references soon).

As you will have guessed by now, I tend to avoid confrontation. Others may prefer more aggressive approaches. It depends what kind of person you are and the mentality of your PI.

Good luck, I hope it works out.
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