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Navigating authorship?

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aplainjane

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I know that having a publication looks great when applying to med schools, so I've made this desire clear to my PI. He already turned down one of my ideas for a paper (which was to expand my independent research poster) and gave it to a grad student to publish instead. Fine, I get that there's a pecking order in lab and I'm just an RA.

Now, I've created a coding scheme and have coded hundreds of videos using this scheme. He asked me for an update since "the paper is ready and we're just waiting on the data" from me. I had no idea a paper was in the process of being written, so I have missed my opportunity to contribute writing-wise. When I asked him if I could be part of it, he said it's basically done and that I can get involved in other future opportunities (which he's said multiple times and never follows through).

My question is: By creating a coding scheme and coding videos that are to be used in the main outcomes paper, should I persist and ask to be included as an author on the manuscript?? I don't want to step on toes or sound entitled, plus I don't know authorship protocol. But I've been at the lab for several years now and he always says I do a great job and take on more responsibilities than any other RA. I just wish it would materialize into something I can put in my apps beyond a LOR. Thanks!
 
D

deleted1063986

IMO, one should be credited as an author if they are contributing data.
 
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aplainjane

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IMO, one should be credited as an author if they are contributing data.

After reading online guidelines, I would agree. Everyone that is currently on the writing team knows that I conceptualized the coding scheme and have been coding the videos, so I'm not sure why they would exclude me from the writing process. My PI has seen my work via other abstracts and editing tasks and always praises my work. If you or anyone else has suggestions on how to assert my place as an author, please let me know. I'm at a point where it feels like I will never be included in major works in this lab, but I'm applying to schools this year and don't know if it's too late to find another lab.
 
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aplainjane

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It can’t be possibly done if the data isn’t done- someone still needs to write up results and conclusion or at least modify them. Is there an advisor or someone else in the lab who might be able to advocate for you Before you turn over the data? The issue I’m assuming is that you’re getting a letter of recommendation from this PI? Has it been written already? Depending on that, I’d still seek to advocate for an authorship. Maybe reaching out to someone in the lab who can do that for you. You can send a final request too but it has to be done very tactfully.

People get on papers for less. I would advise you to seek out a different PI for this year (rather than volunteering there) who may be more amenable to you writing papers as this lab is a sunk cost and not thinking of your best interests.
Already got a LOR but I have a feeling the grad student on the project (the one who could speak to how much effort I've put into it already) is potentially trying to prevent me from being an author. Otherwise he would have invited me to be part of the meetings they've been having.

I'm seriously considering moving to a new lab like you said, but I think it may be difficult finding a job rn because of the pandemic. Thank you for your insight... I've gone from feeling whiny and entitled to feeling justified in my reaction.
 

HouseJC

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I'm a PhD student here applying for MD, so for us, authorship on papers is a hot commodity. For my lab, which is a basic sciences lab, if you've performed an experiment which has directly contributed to a figure on the manuscript, then you are an author. As for "where" you are on the list, that depends on how much work you've done, pecking order etc. So for you, coming from a non-coding lab background, I think you merit authorship.

It's your decision of whether or not to fight for your position. I've seen the movie multiple times with both bad and good outcomes. Just be wary of burning the bridge with your PI even though he/she wrote you a LoR already. When applying to a new lab, the prospective PI will definitely talk to your old PI for a reference, so you don't want a bad rapport. Further, if you want to work in the same field, people talk to each other, which may not bold well for you if you make a fuss. Again, I'm neither telling you to fight nor surrender. Just laying out the options for you.

Furthermore, in the future, at the start of any project, I recommend talking to the first author or senior author about authorship. It might be an uncomfortable discussion, but if you wait until the end to discuss, it will get worse. Just my .02.
 
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aplainjane

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@HouseJC Thanks for the advice. I think the general trend in this particular lab is that the full-time RAs (like myself) collect and code data while the grad students and post-docs write the papers and become authors. I definitely don't want to burn any bridges, but would also like to see my 3+ years of quality work materialize somehow, like in the form of a paper. Thank you, and good luck with applying this cycle!!
 

Justapremedguy

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Yeah I got screwed over on authorship by a PI too. Spent a year doing two experiments, one may be included, and the results gave very helpful direction which led the PI to do a big third experiment after I left the lab and publish on that. So I basically gave them a map to the good experiment and got left off
 

NYABC

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You absolutely deserve authorship, also I don't understand why the grad student its trying to prevent you from getting it. If he's first author and you're forth (for example), what impact could it possibly have on him? If anything, it makes the research team look bigger and more impressive. I have been on papers with 4 authors and papers with 12 authors. It doesn't matter.

My advice? Stick up for yourself. A similar situation happened to me before medical school, the PI and I agreed I would be first author, I did >70% of the work, then he tried to demote me to second author at the moment of submitting the paper. I called him out on it and we came to an agreement, but we almost had to get an independent mediator. At the end of the day I felt SO much better standing my ground and he actually ended up apologizing. Next time you work on a study, agree AHEAD of time what will be done by whom and that if you are contributing to a work you expect authorship. And if you're doing > 50% of the work you should be first author. Period.

The good news is since starting medical school I haven't run into this problem again. So far I've worked on three papers and three different PIs and they have emphatically insisted I have first author position (because they realize it means more for me than it does for them). Good luck!
 
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aplainjane

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Update -- talked to my PI, outlined how I had contributed/why I liked the topic, was told "I don't let RAs have authorship because you guys are too hungry." So... after three years, I'll now be looking for a new lab. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read + post advice!
 
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yokiguz

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Update -- talked to my PI, outlined how I had contributed/why I liked the topic, was told "I don't let RAs have authorship because you guys are too hungry." So... after three years, I'll now be looking for a new lab. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read + post advice!
I've heard so many of these stories. Why do so many PIs always do this? I'm sorry you had to go through that and it sounds very rough to deal with.
 

NYABC

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I would see if there is a research oversight group at your institution and consider making a complaint after you leave. Not giving authorship to people who make substantial contributions is unethical and condemned by the ICMJE, and therefore against the policies of Annals of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and many others. Not to mention that without authorship one may obscure conflicts of interest, which is ethically dangerous.
 
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yokiguz

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I would see if there is a research oversight group at your institution and consider making a complaint after you leave. Not giving authorship to people who make substantial contributions is unethical and condemned by the ICMJE, and therefore against the policies of Annals of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and many others.
Kiss that LOR goodbye in that case.
 

NYABC

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Kiss that LOR goodbye in that case.

Agreed, I would wait until after you get the LOR if you can't get a new one. Although, I'm not sure I would trust this person to write a good LOR, he sounds pretty cruel. I did not get a LOR from my PI and no one ever asked about it. But if you're worried you can even make the complaint after you get into medical school and ask for it to be anonymous. It's up to you, but if you feel strongly about it OP could at least look into it.
 
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