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QUESTION: Will I be an author for this paper???

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med329

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I'm currently helping a graduate student with his BME research project. Since he already had a really solid idea of what kind of work he needed done for the project, I wasn't able to contribute much in that regard. However, a lot of my experiments pertain directly to sections that he'll include in his paper. Additionally, he will be gone for a few weeks at an international conference, during which I will have to independently carry out relevant experiments. I plan to stay in this lab for the long-term.

Oh yeah, now to think of it, he did mention early on that his mentees (undergrads) would likely receive authorship on publications if they were diligent and dedicated. However. he hasn't mentioned anything so far about me being on this paper (which he plans to get out in a couple months). I feel like, since I'm dedicating a substantial portion of my time (unpaid research), asking good questions, performing relevant experiments, that I could or could not end up on this paper... Apparently it depends a lot on the grad student... What do you guys think????????
 

I'm No Superman

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How on earth would any of us know this?
 
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I'm No Superman

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But isn't that really awkward and makes it seem like I'm just doing research to be an author...

It's not awkward at all, just say "Hey I've really enjoyed working on this project, and was wondering if I might be on this paper?"
 

med329

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What I'm kind of worried about is the 'intellectual contribution' portion because he (like I said) already has a REALLY SOLID idea of what he wants in the paper, so I don't think I could contribute even if I wanted to. Also, he delineates the experiments I'll be doing, so I kind of (at the moment) just does as he says. BUT I've tried to ask a lot of good questions and the experiments I'm doing will be included in the paper as well as the data I've collected.
 

I'm No Superman

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If you feel awkward asking the PI, you can ask the grad student/ ask the grad student to ask the PI. But it shouldn't be awkward.
 

Goro

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Grow a spine and ask the PI already.



I'm currently helping a graduate student with his BME research project. Since he already had a really solid idea of what kind of work he needed done for the project, I wasn't able to contribute much in that regard. However, a lot of my experiments pertain directly to sections that he'll include in his paper. Additionally, he will be gone for a few weeks at an international conference, during which I will have to independently carry out relevant experiments. I plan to stay in this lab for the long-term.

Oh yeah, now to think of it, he did mention early on that his mentees (undergrads) would likely receive authorship on publications if they were diligent and dedicated. However. he hasn't mentioned anything so far about me being on this paper (which he plans to get out in a couple months). I feel like, since I'm dedicating a substantial portion of my time (unpaid research), asking good questions, performing relevant experiments, that I could or could not end up on this paper... Apparently it depends a lot on the grad student... What do you guys think????????
 
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The Knife & Gun Club

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^this

we have no way of knowing lol. Also he's at no responsibility to include you as an author, so if he does its as an altruistic gesture
 
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aldol16

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Unless he's directly including your work as a figure or supplemental figure in the paper, there's no expectation of adding you as an author. He could just give you a shoutout in the acknowledgements section for your help. The point of authorship on a paper (in principle) is to acknowledge direct ownership of some critical aspect of the project - work that is important enough to be included.
 
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aldol16

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The idea behind authorship is actually more than that. You are expected to have been involved in every single stage of the project. Planning, experimenting, writing and research.

Not necessarily true. The author contributions section delineates who contributed what. In most cases, we graduate students have already designed the projects with the PI and the undergrad comes in at the right time to help carry it out. Very rarely do undergraduates have substantial input into the actual design of the project. That's why I hate it when an undergrad mentee asks me if he/she will be published by the end of the summer or year. Ideally, I would agree that there should be higher standards to be included in the author list but if that were true, almost no undergrads would have publications or even posters.

In the great majority of publications that have >3 or so authors, you can go to the author contributions and check it out yourself. The third or fourth or fifth, etc. authors generally do not contribute a lot to the project. But the fact remains that their data was essential for some aspect of the project and that's why they're on there. Usually, the first author and the PI are the ones who designed the project at the beginning. This is especially true for big biological projects where many people come on in later stages of the project.

For example, since Zikavirus has been so big on the news, take a look at the recent Nature paper that established causation for microcephaly in an animal model: http://www.nature.com/nature/journa...18296.html?WT.feed_name=subjects_neuroscience. Only four authors are listed as designing the experiments. The rest carried out the experiments or carried out some other aspect of the project.
 
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bearintraining

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It depends on the lab and the PI and perhaps even the student's impression of you. Ask but be prepared to accept any answer.
 

aldol16

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http://www.icmje.org/recommendation...ing-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

Please see this link. Literally this first link that I found. "Contributors who meet fewer than all 4 of the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged."

Now is this actually done? No of course not. That doesn't however change what SHOULD be done.

I'm reading this and that link does nothing for your case. Since it's important that people understand this, I'll quote the first criterion here:

"Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work"

Notice the term "or" that is sprinkled throughout this criterion. It is clear that this criterion can be satisfied by helping design the work or by acquisition of data or analysis of data or interpretation of data. The latter ones are more typical of undergraduate research assistants. If one required that all authors be part of planning/designing the project, then the poor NMR and mass spec specialists across the globe would have their publications halved - or more!

Now, the only other possible argument that can be made based on your link is that undergraduates normally do not have a huge role in drafting the paper. I'll quote that criterion here:

"Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content"

Notice again the "or" above. Usually what I do if I'm first author is I send the paper to all authors listed after I've written it (including the undergraduates if I had any) and ask them to look over and revise it, paying special attention to the part relevant to their work. Each of them will then give their approval, after which I will send the paper on to the PI. Undergraduates rarely have anything to say at this stage but that doesn't mean they weren't given the opportunity to participate in the drafting of the work, which is specifically provided for here, in yet another quote:

"all individuals who meet the first criterion should have the opportunity to participate in the review, drafting, and final approval of the manuscript"

In the end, these are also just guidelines. Nature actually doesn't even have specified criteria (http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/authorship.html).

If you're arguing that you personally believe that authorship should require being involved at all stages of the project including design, then just say so. I would tend to concur in principle. But your link does not back that statement up.
 
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aldol16

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This is what I think: A lot of undergrads collect data that their grad student told them to collect through experiments that their grad students explained them how to do. They are then added on to the paper as an author. This is obviously not ok IMO. I think authorship should be given to people that made a critical impact to the study. A good becnhmark for this would be if you were replaced by another person, would the final paper look different? If all you did was collect data through predefined experiments, any undergrad could do that. If you were actively participating in which experiments to do and how to perform them, made improvements on the experiments, gave suggestions on the interpretation and statistical analysis of the data, helped to define the scope of what was important/relevant: these are all aspects that require critical thinking. If you were replaced, the project might have ended up very different. Just my two cents, people that collect data deserve to be acknowledged in the acknowledgements, but do not deserve to be added as authors. To do so dilutes the value of authorship.

Great. I concur with that opinion. However, what would then happen is nobody would want to volunteer in a lab anymore. PIs like undergraduate labor because it's mostly free and they don't have to pay for your tuition, stipend, and health insurance. Without that source of labor, the rate of publication and getting work done would decrease. What are PIs anymore? They're figureheads. They get the money and then they design experiments and hand them off to the first-year graduate students who don't have the skills to come up with their own projects. Without undergraduates, I would not be able to handle 3-4 projects at once because of the sheer volume of work. So to sustain that, I give out little bits of projects to undergrads with the understanding that if it works, their name will eventually end up on a paper. I think it's a good system in that everybody wins - the grad students and PI get more papers out and the undergraduates get their names on those papers.

I don't think it necessarily dilutes authorship because it's also understood that first authors come up with most of the project with the PI and have the most intellectual contribution. The second, third, fourth, etc. contribute less, with the exact magnitude located in the author contributions section. The exception, of course, is when you have the asterisk that says "these authors contributed equally to this work." So there is a pecking order in the author list and most people who are familiar with scientific publications understand that.
 
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QuizzicalApe

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But isn't that really awkward and makes it seem like I'm just doing research to be an author...

I got my name on an article in a major journal because I was doing research just to be an author for the purposes of being accepted to fellowship. I probably did way less work as a resident on it than you're doing right now on this thing.

There's no shame in doing research to build your CV. Nobody expects you to be a lofty scholar motivated only by pure love of the platonic concept of wisdom.
 
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ed*26

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It really depends and you should just ask him. In my lab, authorship goes to those who are directly involved in writing the article, or who had some leadership-type role on the project. For example, I did all the data processing, statistical testing, etc, and wrote the actual draft, so I'm first author. Another student on the project did most of the early pilot data that helped inform the project and also did a substantial amount of data processing and is helping to edit the paper, so she's second author. My PI is the last author. The students who just did what I told them to will not be listed.
 

cactusnrocks

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You can ask in polite and professional manner. If not, at least it will be good practice for you talking with superiors.


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ed*26

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Great. I concur with that opinion. However, what would then happen is nobody would want to volunteer in a lab anymore. PIs like undergraduate labor because it's mostly free and they don't have to pay for your tuition, stipend, and health insurance. Without that source of labor, the rate of publication and getting work done would decrease. What are PIs anymore? They're figureheads. They get the money and then they design experiments and hand them off to the first-year graduate students who don't have the skills to come up with their own projects. Without undergraduates, I would not be able to handle 3-4 projects at once because of the sheer volume of work. So to sustain that, I give out little bits of projects to undergrads with the understanding that if it works, their name will eventually end up on a paper. I think it's a good system in that everybody wins - the grad students and PI get more papers out and the undergraduates get their names on those papers.

I disagree with the above -- not about the undergrads being necessary to productivity, but about the necessity of rewarding them with authorship. Most undergrads do lab work for free without getting authorship on an article, and many without even a poster. The biggest labs, where undergrads arguably have the lowest authorship rates, are still ultra-competitive to get into. At the undergrad level it's more about the experience, getting that letter of rec, and being able to demonstrate that you can understand and perform research. Authorship guidelines are there for a reason.

Also, if you think that designing relevant experiments and convincing a government or commercial entity to give you huge sums of money is "figurehead" work, you probably have a poor understanding of the administrative side of research.
 

FootballFoot

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I disagree with the above -- not about the undergrads being necessary to productivity, but about the necessity of rewarding them with authorship. Most undergrads do lab work for free without getting authorship on an article, and many without even a poster. The biggest labs, where undergrads arguably have the lowest authorship rates, are still ultra-competitive to get into. At the undergrad level it's more about the experience, getting that letter of rec, and being able to demonstrate that you can understand and perform research. Authorship guidelines are there for a reason.

Also, if you think that designing relevant experiments and convincing a government or commercial entity to give you huge sums of money is "figurehead" work, you probably have a poor understanding of the administrative side of research.
Why the the biggest labs have lowest undergrad publish rates? Are these the most prestigious labs?
 

aldol16

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I disagree with the above -- not about the undergrads being necessary to productivity, but about the necessity of rewarding them with authorship. Most undergrads do lab work for free without getting authorship on an article, and many without even a poster. The biggest labs, where undergrads arguably have the lowest authorship rates, are still ultra-competitive to get into. At the undergrad level it's more about the experience, getting that letter of rec, and being able to demonstrate that you can understand and perform research. Authorship guidelines are there for a reason.

Also, if you think that designing relevant experiments and convincing a government or commercial entity to give you huge sums of money is "figurehead" work, you probably have a poor understanding of the administrative side of research.

Yes, that is the point of working in a lab at the undergraduate level. But as mentors, we also want to help our undergrads out (the ones that are actually there because they enjoy science) because if they can be productive enough to publish, that will let them get into the top grad schools. So even a third author for them will allow them to stand out. I don't think undergrads authorship out of pity - they have to have done at least some part of the project. Also, you obviously didn't read the above about author guidelines. Undergraduates easily fit into the authorship guidelines.

I suspect that your understanding of the administrative side of research is not sound. Who do you think writes all the grants? The PI? No. He gives the grant proposals to us graduate students to write. He then "revises" the proposal and sends it on. And if you've never written an NSF or NIH proposal before, these are hefty pieces of work that we have to do on top of our projects. Designing relevant experiments? The PI doesn't do too much of designing experiments versus "designing" projects. He reads journals and has "interesting questions" he wants answered. It's up to the poor first year graduate students to answer those questions, designing whatever experiments they have to.

A lot of what the PI does nowadays to go to conferences and present the work being in his/her lab - the work that we graduate students are doing. Most PIs have not done bench research for years, if not decades.
 

aldol16

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Why the the biggest labs have lowest undergrad publish rates? Are these the most prestigious labs?

That's pure conjecture. Maybe in that poster's experience, the big labs around him/her have had the lowest undergrad publication rates but publication depends on PI and graduate student mentor. Several of my friends in the lab refuse to put undergrads on papers even if they helped substantially in data acquisition.
 

Goro

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This is not correct. People who make intellectual contributions to the MS are those who deserve authorship.

The idea behind authorship is actually more than that. You are expected to have been involved in every single stage of the project. Planning, experimenting, writing and research.
 

JustAPhD

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This is what I think: A lot of undergrads collect data that their grad student told them to collect through experiments that their grad students explained them how to do. They are then added on to the paper as an author. This is obviously not ok IMO. I think authorship should be given to people that made a critical impact to the study. A good becnhmark for this would be if you were replaced by another person, would the final paper look different? If all you did was collect data through predefined experiments, any undergrad could do that. If you were actively participating in which experiments to do and how to perform them, made improvements on the experiments, gave suggestions on the interpretation and statistical analysis of the data, helped to define the scope of what was important/relevant: these are all aspects that require critical thinking. If you were replaced, the project might have ended up very different. Just my two cents, people that collect data deserve to be acknowledged in the acknowledgements, but do not deserve to be added as authors. To do so dilutes the value of authorship.

It doesn't dilute the value of authorship because everyone already knows it occurs. What you say is great and all (and I don't disagree with you, keep in mind), but it's simply not how it works in many labs. Obviously there are exceptions, and this varies on a PI/lab basis.
 

ed*26

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Why the the biggest labs have lowest undergrad publish rates? Are these the most prestigious labs?

Yes, this is conjecture based on experience. Bigger labs have an abundance of grad and post-grad students almost by definition and thus usually don't need undergraduates to be major contributors to projects. Smaller, ambitious labs are more likely to have more projects going than their grads can handle and have bigger opportunities available for undergrads. For example, I inherited my project after our grad student went to get her post-doc and there wasn't another available to keep the project going. But, every lab and every project is different.

I suspect that your understanding of the administrative side of research is not sound. Who do you think writes all the grants? The PI? No. He gives the grant proposals to us graduate students to write. He then "revises" the proposal and sends it on. And if you've never written an NSF or NIH proposal before, these are hefty pieces of work that we have to do on top of our projects. Designing relevant experiments? The PI doesn't do too much of designing experiments versus "designing" projects. He reads journals and has "interesting questions" he wants answered. It's up to the poor first year graduate students to answer those questions, designing whatever experiments they have to.

A lot of what the PI does nowadays to go to conferences and present the work being in his/her lab - the work that we graduate students are doing. Most PIs have not done bench research for years, if not decades.

I based my reply off of your original quote:

They get the money and then they design experiments and hand them off to the first-year graduate students who don't have the skills to come up with their own projects.

Which implies that the PI is involved with the grant writing and experimental design. In my lab, the PI writes the majority of grants herself and designs every experiment (there's been several times when she didn't tell anyone that she was applying for a certain grant, and suddenly we have a new three-year project!). She's very invested in growing the lab, so she's constantly pulling new projects into the lab herself. I suspect your experience is more reflective of an "established" lab with an older PI.

In the future I'll be more clear and preface everything with "it depends on the lab, but..."
 

aldol16

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I based my reply off of your original quote:

Which implies that the PI is involved with the grant writing and experimental design. In my lab, the PI writes the majority of grants herself and designs every experiment (there's been several times when she didn't tell anyone that she was applying for a certain grant, and suddenly we have a new three-year project!). She's very invested in growing the lab, so she's constantly pulling new projects into the lab herself. I suspect your experience is more reflective of an "established" lab with an older PI.

In the future I'll be more clear and preface everything with "it depends on the lab, but..."

I don't see how being the recipient/manager of the funds leads to proposal-writing but I do see how I wasn't clear with "designing experiments." My experience is indeed in an established lab with tenured and seasoned faculty. In fact, it's a top 10 graduate program for my field so this experience is similar across the entire department with the exception of non-tenured faculty, who one can still spot in lab and who still have extensive input into proposal-writing. I keep up to date with what happens in other labs during the grad student socials and with my friends who are spread through the department. The rest of the faculty members are mere figureheads for their groups - they have substantial input in directing the mission and research goals of the lab and providing accountability for the lazy graduate students but other than that, they tend to spend their days keeping up to date with the current research and coming up with difficult questions for us to answer with the occasional writing of a review article in there although he also delegates most of that to us grad students. Oh, and 3-4 day long conferences every couple of months.

My point about author guidelines still stands. You are certainly entitled to your opinion of what should constitute authorship but in practice, that's not how it works and even the authorship guidelines (when present) don't support that view.

Yes, this is conjecture based on experience. Bigger labs have an abundance of grad and post-grad students almost by definition and thus usually don't need undergraduates to be major contributors to projects. Smaller, ambitious labs are more likely to have more projects going than their grads can handle and have bigger opportunities available for undergrads. For example, I inherited my project after our grad student went to get her post-doc and there wasn't another available to keep the project going. But, every lab and every project is different.

Bigger labs do have an abundance of post-docs and graduate students but undergraduates still get publications by working with the graduate students. The more graduate students there are, the more likely you can find one willing to share the work. Doing so, you will get second, third, etc. author publications depending on time spent and luck. Smaller labs with non-tenured faculty will also have unique opportunities - the most unique one is the real possibility of a first-author publication because you have a bigger chance of getting your own project. So while becoming an author as an undergrad is possible in both circumstances, the real difference lies not in whether you get authorship but whether that's first author or subsequent author.
 

MaxPlancker

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There isn't any role expected of an undergrad. At this stage, it's all about how much you want to get out of your experience and of course, a bit of luck. When I got into my lab, I bugged my mentor consistently for a period to start working on my own project which I funded with a big grant that I got. If you want to go big, you have to be aggressive and back it up with substance.

What should merit authorship is completely dependent on the PI. In the future, if I'm a PI, I will certainly be generous to students who show potential and deliver results because I know the value of pubs at that stage in their training. I will also spend lots of time to write stellar recs for the students that impress me. Mentorship is a cycle.
 
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