co-first authorship

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co-first authorship

Postby Doug » Tue Jan 25, 2005 2:09 pm

How do people view the asterisk indicating "these authors contributed equally to this work"? Do you believe these authors really contributed equally? Or is it an indication that the authors with the asterisks contributed much more than the other authors in the list, but maybe not equally?

co-first authorship

Postby anonymous » Tue Jan 25, 2005 2:50 pm

Well, as someone who has been involved in that, I tend to view it the way it worked for me: unfairly. In my experience, the 2nd person didn't do anywhere near as much writing or formatting as the 'real' first author. I would say, if someone tries to talk to you into taking 2nd author with an asterisk, but you know you'll be doing a lot of the writing, you should argue long and hard for an explicit note. Sometimes even after the fact, but before the paper actually gets submitted or the final proofs are accepted, it's worth staking your claim. Normally people write something like "these authors contributed equally to this work", but it usually means "contributed to the experiments." Perhaps it would be worthwhile to word it differently and say "these authors contributed equally to the experiments and writing of this work" (or some more elegant version of that).

If it's too late for you, and you already have one of these not-quite-equal publications on your CV, your best bet might be to try to get one of your recommenders (preferably the senior author or one of the senior authors) to say, as diplomatically as possible, just how much work you actually did and that the asterisk is really significant, and your contributions should not be overlooked or undervalued. If you can get your co-first-author to write a letter for you too, saying what a joy it was to work with you and how indispensible (sp?) you are, even better!

co-first authorship

Postby Bill L. & Naledi S. » Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:07 pm

The suggestion to have a co-first author serve as a reference to discuss your capabilities as a researcher, writer, and collaborator is a very good idea. It increases the chance than an employer will know the significance of your work and it reduces the possibility that you will appear \'petty\' if as the second of a \'co-first authorship\' you try to state the value of your contribution.

Good suggestion, anonymous!

Bill L. & Naledi S.
Bill L. & Naledi S.

co-first authorship

Postby Doug » Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:21 pm

I guess the real question is how to handle a situation in which (1) the project has taken a long time to complete and only one publication will result from the work; and (2) two people contributed much more than the other authors, but not equally. How does one properly acknowledge both authors' contribution? Stating that both contributed equally is inaccurate, but listing one as second author might not do justice to that persons efforts.

co-first authorship

Postby Andy » Tue Jan 25, 2005 5:15 pm


If two people did NOT contribute equally, then they should not be listed as "co-first" authors. There are a lot of ways to measure "contributions." If you can't draw a clear line, then list as co-first. If you can clearly and fairly state that one person was the "prime mover" then list that person as first alone.

I hate the "co-first" culture. It's so politically correct. And I am a member of a "co-first" team.


co-first authorship

Postby Julia » Tue Jan 25, 2005 5:56 pm

I agree with Doug that this often happens where a paper has taken a long time and a lot of work.

In my case I've observed this happen where the "1st" author needs the first authorship to get their advanced degree - so said the PI - while the "co-first author" (i.e. the second author Post Doc that did at most of the experiments AND half the writing) got somewhat shafted.

In this situation the Post Doc took the co-first author gaciously but we knew it was detrimental to him not to have the actual 1st. In any case fighting for it would've made his position uncomfortable so I guess a 2nd author publication is better than a bad letter of Rec.

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