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Fourth first author

Discussion in 'Student Research and Publishing' started by premeddick, Jan 5, 2007.

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  1. premeddick

    premeddick Junior Member

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    My PI just told me that I am going to be a first author on a paper he is submitting. The only think is that there are going to be four first authors and I am going to be listed fourth. Does this look pretty bad? Is it still technically a first author paper? By the way there are around 15 or so authors total. Let me know what you think.

    Dick
  2. Scottish Chap

    Scottish Chap Moderator Emeritus

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    Sadly, this is becoming a popular trend in basic sciences where everyone wants to claim ownership with an anterisk highlighting >2 authors as the " equally-contributing first author". As far as citations go, and as far as the research community sees it, you will be fourth author - even with the asterisk that says otherwise. Still, it's a publication, and you should feel good about that.
  3. qwopty99

    qwopty99 Veterinary Optometrist?

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    don't have experience with this, but u basically summed it up: you're going to be listed fourth.
  4. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus

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    I've never heard about this before, but it sounds ridiculous. Fourth name listed = fourth author.

    The fact that there's 15 authors makes me think it's some big multi-center clinical trial, which is cool to get your name on, regardless.
  5. Scottish Chap

    Scottish Chap Moderator Emeritus

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    Oh, it's quite common in basic science where egos are a little larger and more fragile. I've encountered it multiple times in my past career (three "equally-contributing" first authors).
  6. premeddick

    premeddick Junior Member

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    Yeah its a weird way to stroke more peoples egos. Do it mean the same thing for the fourth person as it does for the first person? If i were in a phd program would it count as one of my required first author papers or do i need to be listed first? Thanks for you input.
  7. Scottish Chap

    Scottish Chap Moderator Emeritus

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    Totally unethical, but those are issues that you face in graduate school.
  8. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus

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    This actually answers one of my questions about your response - if they're all first, then shouldn't they be able to list it on their CVs with their name first? They're all first, so they're all equivalent, right? :laugh:

    To the OP - If you can catch it from reading between the lines, the asterisks and the "equally first author" stuff are politically-driven. As a PhD student, you need to do your own work and thesis, like what Scottish Chap said, for your degree. No thesis committee worth anything would let someone use a paper like that to count towards graduating.
  9. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus

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    Just to clarify, papers that fulfill the requirements of a PhD should be almost entirely the student's work. In this sense, papers where a person gets added in the 11th hour does not count towards fulfill the PhD requirements, nor should a thesis committee allow anyone to do so.

    I personally would not like to be a student researcher and have my supervisor add another author to my work at the last minute, especially an "equal first author," because I feel that it would be untrue and diminish my role in my work.
  10. Scottish Chap

    Scottish Chap Moderator Emeritus

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    In the end, it all boils down to a huge lesson in humility. Some people were not so lucky and let the whole process crush them. I had little doubt about my ability and that helped me to cope with it, but I really experienced first-hand how graduate students can be abused, and the the guilty party gets aways with unethical behavior because it's graduate school and that's just how it is.
  11. MasonPrehealth

    MasonPrehealth Director of Admissions

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    Welcome to the world of collaborative research. I would question why you have four shared first-authors, but I don't really know about what you're doing. There are instances where each of you have done yeoman's work to produce the data, so I wouldn't fret.
  12. premeddick

    premeddick Junior Member

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    We published a paper in Science a couple months ago and about five of us did a tremendous amount of work for the paper. Only two people (the most senior and the one who came up with the idea) got to be first author on that paper (the rest of us were lumped in with many supporting people) so our PI is sort of rewarding the rest of us for our work by having 4 first authors on a follow up paper in a smaller speciality journal. I am not a graduate student, just a full time lab technician hoping to go to medical school, so I am pumped about having a Science paper and now a sort-of first author paper. Thats the back story i guess.

    -Dick
  13. ifpx181

    ifpx181

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    As a tech, PIs are not obligated to put your name on papers, but if they do, you should be thankful. With that said, a co-first-author is pretty good for being a tech regardless of the impact factor of the journal. Also, your name is on a Science paper, you should be proud. I, myself was a tech for 4 years and had 4 publications(1 sole first-author MCB, 1 co-first author JBC, and 2 co-author MCB/Dev. Cell). You are doing a good job! Now, apply to med school. Good luck!

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