First author publication

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First author publication

Postby Lisa D » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:57 am

I am a recent MPH graduate, working voluntarily in a medium-tier US University for more than 6 months (without pay- not a US citizen). My boss is old (>65 yrs), with lots of publications. I really enjoyed working with him, but one thing that I am getting annoyed is that he wants to be the first author in all the publications. I wrote one article recently, but he put my name as third author, as there was another girl who worked before me on the same project. She got the second authorship though I had to redo everything from scratch. Collaborators of the project are fourth and fifth authors. During the authorship discussion, I told him that she should be considered before me. He replied "you could be 3rd author, while she gets 2nd author". I really don't know why he still wants to be the first author. He don't need a first author publication to gain anything. On the other hand, it may help me in securing a job.

My question to the forum is: Is it normal in the academic field to have PIs take up first authorship even when it is published in a low impact journal?
Lisa D
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Re: First author publication

Postby P. Lues » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:43 am

It was pointed out a few months ago on this forum that most journals have strict rules about authorship placements and if the rules aren't followed, the paper can be retracted by force. Maybe look up what the journal says on this matter.
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Re: First author publication

Postby Mark L. » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:01 pm

What is MPH? In the biological sciences the first author is generally the student whose project resulted in the paper, and the PI who paid for the study is in last (corresponding author) position. My PhD boss would routinely have two first* authors and two corresponding! authors on each paper. Tell your boss you don't mind being last and that you also don't mind handling all those pesky emails (reagent/reprint requests) the paper will generate. Corresponding author is much better for your career.
Mark L.
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Re: First author publication

Postby Lisa D » Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:47 pm

What is MPH?

Master of public health

Maybe look up what the journal says on this matter.

I did looked at many of journals where he submitted before. Usually, the PIs name comes last.

Among his >200 publications, 90% had his name as first author. Other 10% he had collaboration, so obviously, it came out of other lab (his name was in the middle).

He is also the corresponding author.

I posted this to know if anybody has the similar experience or not.
Lisa D
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Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:34 am

Re: First author publication

Postby Chris » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:59 pm

Some PIs put their name first on everything. Clearly, that's the case with this guy. I wouldn't expect to change his mind on this. I also wouldn't worry about it having much of an effect on your career. Everyone who sees the publication will know that he didn't do the work himself. The second author vs third author might be more of an issue, but it sounds like you've discussed that with him and his mind is made up. If you really want to be first author on some publications, you'll need to change groups and maybe change status (volunteer status is pretty tenuous!).
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Re: First author publication

Postby J.B. » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:28 pm

This is a very old method of assigning authorship. Before journals were electronic, PIs often put their names first because they were the most recognizable name. That way when people were casually flipping through the most recent issue of _______, the PI's name was right at the front and people would be more likely to read it. While most PIs have now adopted the new style (PI goes last with an asterisk to denote them as corresponding author), some have not.

I agree with Chris' last statement. Rather than focus on where your name should go on an author list, you should focus your efforts on finding PAID employment.
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Re: First author publication

Postby RGM » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:25 pm

I would NEVER work for someone like that. I know of someone, a former chair at Brown university, who routinely put his on all papers, even if he had nothing to contribute. I believe he was typically senior author haha. The faculty hated it.

My advice is to leave this lab and work for a normal realistic person that will PAY you. Why would you even consider doing unpaid work? I'm sure you have a good reason, but being a non native, surely there is some way to get money where you are located??
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