Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Paper published without my students name

In general I am very generous with my paper author list i.e. if some one contributed some idea, figure, anything else, I put their name in the authors list of the paper. This is to be fair and also to generate good will.

I have a student who used to work for another research group. He claims that he did around 50 to 60% of the work described in the paper (I believe him since he has no reason to lie). He also drew some of the figures in the paper.

However, when the paper got submitted (and published) his name was not in the authors list. He was not even in the acknowledgements.

He came to me and asked for advice on what he can do. He has already written to the senior author of the paper (who is yet to reply). Frankly, I didn't had any advice for him. I do not know what to do in these cases.

What would you do or can do? Is writing to the editors of the journal a fair play? How about writing to the funding agency? Has any one of you or student have been in this situation before?


  1. Luminiferous AetherJuly 5, 2016 at 10:15 AM

    Back in grad school, I knew a prof whose student filed a complaint against him for not including him on the author list. If I remember correctly, the univ's ORI and NIH were involved in the investigation. In the end they found no wrongdoing on part of the prof. I remember that the student's lab notes played an important part as evidence of contributions to the study.

  2. They are punishing him for defecting or he's lying about how much he contributed. Both are possible and not mutually exclusive. It happened to me personally a couple of times, where I felt I probably should have been included in the author list because I did do some nontrivial work for the paper, but ended up with an acknowledgement or nothing. I take it in stride and make a mental note never to do things for those people again. Some people are selfish. Some people have a very high bar for coauthorship. In the case of your student, someone probably wanted him off the paper, likely whoever is the new first author; or maybe the vindictive former boss. Tell the student to take a deep breath, curse under the breath, and move on.