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Removed as first author before the FINAL submission of accepted paper?!


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#1 dedee

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Posted 15 February 2015 - 01:46 PM

Hi,

 

I haven't been here in a long while. I left science after my PhD, got an industry job and I am happy about it. 

Today, I've received an email, in which my former Postdoc (babysitting me though my PhD) colloquially informs me that he removed me as a first author from the paper resulting from my PhD. From the final submission of an accepted paper, where I have been a (co-)first author throughout the entire submission-reviewal process.

 

I just had a serious WTF moment, and need to vent to somebody who understands wink.png

 

Background story:

During my PhD, I had a PI and a PostDoc under whose "supervision" I worked  - which means we worked on related projects and my PI had little knowledge about it.

Anyway, my PhD was a fairly painful experience: PI with no idea about my subject but a real wish for a really highly published paper, post-doc with little idea about methods, me in a project way too large for a 3y UK PhD programme. Because my PI does not particularly care for small papers he was against just publishing the screen we did with some low level analysis. Back in 2010 you could still do get papers like that published, and in good journals too.

I got a few papers out of collaborations, and finished my PhD without a 1st author paper (UK system!). 

I left academic research because I've had my share of it and no wish for more.

 

The postdoc also left and opened his own lab. He took my work, and his new post-doc took another two years until the thing is finally publishable, because today, the paper is of little relevance, and the lions share of data was given away to a collaborator by the PI and was published already in a Cell paper. 

Anyway, now it's all fine, the paper is accepted in a minor, but okay journal. This evening I got a an email from my former Postdoc (now PI) to tell me that he has just remove the "first-author star" (shared with his postdoc) from my name, before submitting the final version of the manuscript to the journal. His reason has nothing to do with the work, or the paper: He has a lab review in April, and has been advised that it would be much better to not have anybody from his former lab as a shared first author on "his" paper. 

 

He has actually written that. I have this email sitting in my mailbox, and I am totally flabbergasted.

 

 



#2 mdfenko

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 10:44 AM

how much of the paper was your writing and/or data (regardless of subsequent editing)? if it is substantial and it was me then i would contact the editor of the journal and share the email with him/her.


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#3 dedee

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 01:16 PM

I didn't write the paper. Neither did the (new, sole) first author. The last author did.

 

In terms of data: I designed and build up the experimental system (incl. validation), did three large screening experiments (Time-course microarray, time course ChiP_PCR, time course DNAse hypersensitivity) analysed the data + did validations + clustering method + validation of that. 

 

What was done additionally: quite a lot of additional data analysis on DNAse data, further validation experiments for that. 

That's actually quite some work. I can see that. 

 

But if he wanted to remove me as a first author, he should have come out of the closet earlier, not in the last possible moment. I am not contacting the editor quite yet though. I'll see whether I can talk through that issue with my former postdoc/now PI. 

 

I have also calmed down a little, and actually find the situation somewhat comedic. If I was still working in science, I would be less amused, I have to admit.

Thanks for answering!



#4 Tabaluga

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 01:26 PM

I'd be very angry if that happened to me, I must say. I'd suggest first trying to clear up things in a friendly way with that postdoc. If he still firmly refuses to acknowledge you, then, and only then, I'd first let him know that I'll eventually inform the editor about it and still see if that has an effect on his attitude. If he still doesn't acknowledge you, I'd write to the editor as the final escalation step.

 

Good luck !


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#5 dedee

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 11:05 AM

To report back: I have had a fairly long conversation with my former postdoc yesterday evening. Following that, I've had an email delivered to my inbox today: I've got the co-first author star back. :))

 

Thanks for the replies.



#6 Ameya P

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 10:43 PM

Hey Dedee,

 

Nice to know you are getting credit for your work and you have been able to resolve the issue amicably without involving the journal editor. 

 

As someone who is judging your former Post Doc from these posts alone, I would say that he/she is still a nice person because he could have simply published without informing you and since you are no longer in academia (and presuming you do not stalk your former lab mates by their publications), you would probably never know! 

 

So somewhere, your former post doc was in a dilemma somewhere and that's why he/ she wrote to you in first place. Who is not really so good is the administrative team at his new work place who "advised" him for not sharing credit with another workplace. Tells a lot about this place of work and their working standards!  


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#7 dedee

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 11:12 AM

Hi Ameya,

 

thanks for the answer, but I am afraid it is not like you think. My post-doc is probably neither a good or a bad person - I am not a big fan of that notion anyway. Good/bad is always dependent on how a story is framed. Apart from that, your view of the situation is not totally accurate:

 

I have left Academia, but I am not living on another planet than all my science friends. I have been in contact with my former postdoc about the manuscript - we've been regularly exchanging emails and discussing via Skype occasionally. Also, I do follow my former field, at least in the form of regular pubmed queries. It would have taken me  a week (max) to notice that my first author position mysteriously change to something else.

 

Also, my former postdoc has not been in the type of "dilemma" that you imagine, and he did not write me "in the first place": He wrote AFTER he submitted the final version to the journal.

 

I was talking to him, and I know how we ended up in that situation. I do have a lot of empathy for him. Also I'd say that he was advised well concerning the issue of a first author from his former workplace. That does, however, not make my postdoc's behaviour any less wrong.

 

What he did is either absolutely amoral or spectacularly amateurish. In his case it was more the latter: the professional thing to do would have been to just discuss authorship a lot earlier (he never did). When a manuscript is accepted, first authorship is absolutely not debatable for me anymore, except something really major had happened.

He saw that after my objection, apologised and eventually fixed his mistake. Case closed. 

 

We actually had a enjoyable and warm chit chat after this issue was discussed. I am really happy how this all ended. Head-to-head confrontations are somehow working out well in my experience. 


Edited by dedee, 20 February 2015 - 11:48 AM.





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