Paper Authorship In The Biomedical Sciences

Aug 31 2008 Published by under Science Publication

There have been some discussions lately in the science blogosphere about paper authorship in the biological/biomedical sciences, and I think it would be useful to tie those discussions together and add a few more thoughts here.


(1) The idea that paper authorship should be resolved explicitly (and in writing) at the beginning of a collaboration sounds very nice, and is a decent idea. But check out this scenario:
Two labs are collaborating on a project with the understanding that one lab's PI is the senior/corresponding author of the first manuscript that will result and that lab's trainee is the first author. All of a sudden, when the project starts to smell really good, the secondary lab's Pi starts suggesting all sorts of additional experiments to be done--surprise surprise--in her lab! Sometimes this is just an attempt to shift the balance of effort from one lab to the other, so as to open the door for "renegotiation" of senior/corresponding and first authorship.
Now what the fuck do you do? Fun, huh!?
(2) If you want scientists who, themselves, are trainees--either grad students or post-docs--and not 9-5 technicians to contribute experimental effort to a manuscript, it is appropriate that the effort be contributed on a collaborative basis, and with the expectation of co-authorship. To expect a scientist for whom authorship matters--i.e., anyone other than a technician--to contribute experimental effort to a manuscript without authorship is totally fucking ridiculous.
(3) What happens when someone contributes substantial experimental effort to a project, but the experimental results don't end up in the paper? Some have argued that such an individual should categorically not be an author. I say it's not so fucking simple. If the outcome of those experiments--positive or negative, or even failed--influenced the overall course of the project, then there is a good argument that the scientist who performed those experiments should be an author.
(4) The idea that lab heads who didn't "do" anything on a project--design or perform experiments or write the manuscript--should not be authors is completely fucking ridiculous. Who created and maintained the conceptual, methodological, and physical environment within which the project was performed? That merits authorship.
(5) Provision of a reagent--such as a novel clone, cell line, chemical compound, genetically altered organism, etc--to another lab prior to first publication of that reagent *always* merits authorship of the trainee(s) who generated the reagent and the PI of the lab in which the reagent was generated. While the generators of the reagent can, of course, decline such authorship, they are *always* entitled to it.

49 responses so far

  • Agreed that the first usage of a novel reagent etc deserves authorship. You want to get into the folks who have published multiple times with their mouse but still want authorship after they give it to you?
    I find it morally skeevy but understandable from a pragmatic "mice cost a lot to make" viewpoint.

  • If you want scientists who, themselves, are trainees--either grad students or post-docs--and not 9-5 technicians to contribute experimental effort to a manuscript, it is appropriate that the effort be contributed on a collaborative basis, and with the expectation of co-authorship.
    That supports my original argument about not wanting to include our dumbfuck research assistant as a coauthor in the first place for running one western; she will contribute a tiny amount of experimental effort and absolutely nothing resembling collaboration to the study. She is a career RA of below-average intelligence who is under the misapprehension that she deserves to be promoted to junior faculty ... despite the fact that she can't think, write or analyze and that her lab skills would be considered basic, at best.

  • Venkat says:

    When there are 2 first authors in the paper, if the relative contributions are like 60-40, is it common practice to place the 60% guy in the front even if its not the alphabetical order?
    Conversely, if the order of first author names is not alphabetical, is it understood by readers that the guy whose name appears first contributed more in the 'equal contribution'?
    i guess the answer is 'it depends...', but i was wondering if there is some kind of consensus on it.
    (yes, i'm the '60% guy' in a paper i'm writing)

  • qetzal says:

    My thoughts on PhysioProf's points:
    (1) No way can every project fairly decide authorship at the start of a collaboration (i.e. before even doing the first experiment). Having an understanding up front is good, but there has to be room for change. No project goes exactly as expected.
    (2) Agreed.
    (3) I'm not convinced. If the experiments significantly influenced the course of the project, I'd expect some specific reference to them in the paper. Even if it's along the lines of "We attempted to determine if X was due to Y, but the results were not statistically significant (not shown). This led us to determine if X was due to Z. As shown in Figure 5...."
    In that case, I might be convinced that the person who tested Y should be a co-author. But if you can't point to something in the paper that they did, I can't see that authorship is appropriate.
    (4) Agreed.
    (5) Agree, but if it's a novel reagent and a crucial part of the study, the reagent and it's preparation would have to be described in the paper anyway, so naturally the person who created it will be an author.
    @Venkat:
    Absent a statement on relative contributions, I always assume 1st author did "most" of the work. If you really did 60%, I agree you deserve 1st authorship. But, does your colleague agree you did more?

  • To number 5, I think you should add novel algorithm or software.
    Sometimes these don't even get mentioned in the materials and methods.

  • Venkat says:

    @qetzal:
    The other person graduated and we decided on co-first authorship apriori, as the contribution was more like 50-50 at that time. I was just wondering abt the order of names among first authors and any unwritten conventions in general. Even if we had decided not to be co-first authors, I still would be uncomfortable pushing someone who did 40% of the expts to be 2nd author. Funny thing is, the other person was inconsiderate and initially 'offered me' second authorship!

  • neurolover says:

    #4 & #5 are only justifiable if the manuscript states clearly that that's the role of the individual:
    Author contributions: LH (lab head): "created and maintained the conceptual, methodological, and physical environment within which the project was performed"; TR (Trainee who created Reagent): "provided reagent used in the study"
    I think including either of those groups without such a designation is not just inappropriate, it's unethical.
    Here's what you sign at JNP:
    "The authors attest that:
    1) The manuscript is not currently under consideration,. . .
    2) The manuscript is truthful original work without fabrication, fraud, or plagiarism;
    3) All authors have made an important scientific contribution to the study and are thoroughly familiar with the primary data; and
    4) All authors have read the complete manuscript and take responsibility for the content and completeness of the manuscript and understand that they share responsibility if the paper, or part of the paper, is found to be faulty or fraudulent."
    Not every journal requires this, but if you are publishing in a journal that does, including people for #4 & #5 and allowing the lab heads/trainees who provided reagents to sign off is unethical. Both those folks can read and understand the paper, and then they can be justified in signing, but they have to do that. And, their limited contribution should be noted, though it still doesn't absolve them of any responsibilities.
    It could be that we are moving towards a form of group authorship where each individual in the author list cannot vouch for the complete paper. But, giving people authorship when they can't vouch for other parts of the paper, I think, actually increases the possibility of fraud in other parts of the paper (for example, if we're giving authorship to people who write the software, if their software comes up with a cool result, we increase the possibility that they're going to commit fraud). That's a concern for me, and a reason why I'd like to stick for everyone being responsible for the whole paper until we have to abandon it, because it's just unreasonable to expect someone to really understand all parts of their manuscript.

  • neurolover says:

    Honestly, 60% v 40%? How does one make that calculation? I'm being a bit snide, but not completely. Are there projects in which someone can know that they made a 60% contribution, you know, as opposed to a 56% or 51% or 63%? In projects I know with multiple first authorships, the two contributed different things, so it would be like saying which is more 90% of the oranges or 75% of the apples?

  • PhysioProf says:

    "Multiple" first authorship is a total fucking scam, with the purpose of getting non-first authors to shut the fuck up and stop griping about authorship. The fact of the matter is that the only thing that matters one iota to peers and colleagues who are assessing a CV is *actual* first authorship. A second-listed co-first-athorship is *no* better than a second authorship.

  • Venkat says:

    @neurolover:
    in my case its simply 6 apples vs 4 apples. anyway, i mentioned random numbers just to give an idea.
    anyways, even in general, it is entirely possible that in some instances 3 oranges may be objectively (ie., agreed by almost all) estimated to be greater than 5 apples. (i feel like a fruit-seller now.)
    but since its a fucking scam anyways :), i dunno how anyone assessing a CV can look and tell who the 'actual' first-author is.

  • "Multiple" first authorship is a total fucking scam, with the purpose of getting non-first authors to shut the fuck up and stop griping about authorship. A second-listed co-first-authorship is *no* better than a second authorship.
    Totally agree on this one, with a little less profanity though 🙂 The notation indicating that there was an "equal contribution" of the two first authors listed WON'T appear on PubMed or any other search engine so the paper is always going to be cited as First et al.

  • CC says:

    She is a career RA of below-average intelligence who is under the misapprehension that she deserves to be promoted to junior faculty ... despite the fact that she can't think, write or analyze and that her lab skills would be considered basic, at best.
    Then run your own western! It's normal practice (albeit contrary to the theoretical rules) that that contribution from that person calls for authorship, regardless of how much you dislike her.
    BTW, Venkat: first "first author" is first author; second "first author" is second author, end of story.

  • Art says:

    (1) ...Two labs are collaborating on a project with the understanding that one lab's PI is the senior/corresponding author of the first manuscript that will result and that lab's trainee is the first author. All of a sudden, when the project starts to smell really good, the secondary lab's Pi starts suggesting all sorts of additional experiments to be done--surprise surprise--in her lab! Sometimes this is just an attempt to shift the balance of effort from one lab to the other, so as to open the door for "renegotiation" of senior/corresponding and first authorship.
    Now what the fuck do you do? Fun, huh!?

    Two papers!
    (2) If you want scientists who, themselves, are trainees--either grad students or post-docs--and not 9-5 technicians to contribute experimental effort to a manuscript, it is appropriate that the effort be contributed on a collaborative basis, and with the expectation of co-authorship. To expect a scientist for whom authorship matters--i.e., anyone other than a technician--to contribute experimental effort to a manuscript without authorship is totally fucking ridiculous.
    Agreed.
    I'm curious about the notion that authorship should not matter to technicians. My techs care (and cared) greatly about this, for many reasons. (Professional pride, keeping open options for advancement, career change, etc., etc.)
    (3) What happens when someone contributes substantial experimental effort to a project, but the experimental results don't end up in the paper? Some have argued that such an individual should categorically not be an author. I say it's not so fucking simple. If the outcome of those experiments--positive or negative, or even failed--influenced the overall course of the project, then there is a good argument that the scientist who performed those experiments should be an author.
    This eventuality can be taken care of in a well-written paper, with judicious reference to "data not shown".
    Otherwise, this opens the prospect of adding as a co-author everyone who was ever involved in a project (after all, even those people 20 years ago laid a foundation that was essential for today's work).
    (4) The idea that lab heads who didn't "do" anything on a project--design or perform experiments or write the manuscript--should not be authors is completely fucking ridiculous. Who created and maintained the conceptual, methodological, and physical environment within which the project was performed? That merits authorship.
    I'm not sure I agree. But I cannot imagine a lab head who is so disconnected that (s)he contributes nothing, even conceptually.
    (5) Provision of a reagent--such as a novel clone, cell line, chemical compound, genetically altered organism, etc--to another lab prior to first publication of that reagent *always* merits authorship of the trainee(s) who generated the reagent and the PI of the lab in which the reagent was generated. While the generators of the reagent can, of course, decline such authorship, they are *always* entitled to it.
    Agreed.

  • Then run your own western!
    CC: this isn't something I was given a choice about - my PI told me to give her the samples to run. It's definitely indignant sour grapes on my part more than anything 🙂

  • neurolover says:

    I can cite at least one instance in which the * (these authors contributed equally) matters:: HFSP (Human Frontiers Science Program) fellowships (for post-docs) require evidence of independent work as a graduate student, in the form of first author publications (I think they actually mention a limit of at least 1 or 2). In the directions, it states that "equal contributions" count, if officially designated on the manuscript. So, if one's attempts at first authorship fail, for that little reason alone, it's worth fighting for the * designation. But, clearly, it's better to be the first author. And, one can reasonably assume that even at HFSP the first author will be considered the more equal of the two.
    I'll also say some of this is field specific. Perhaps JNP actually requires that form because the field has less lax authorship conventions than others (certainly, nothing like the equivalent of running a western would be considered appropriate for authorship), rather than because they are theoretical. I have never appeared on as an author on anything where I couldn't sign a form like JNPs, and I have always felt confident that all the authors can honestly sign the form (regardless of whether it was required). It seems like some other fields have time-consuming experimental steps that do not require significant knowledge of the science. The western thing, I guess, and I also think it can be a common practice in some kinds of clinical science where everyone involved appears on many papers, just in different order.

  • juniorprof says:

    The person that actually writes the darn paper should be the first author. If its the PI that writes the whole thing she should be the first author. If its the grad student, postdoc and so on, same thing...

  • neurolover says:

    Hey juniorprof -- have you guided a trainee through writing the paper (as opposed to writing it yourself)? I think if we used the standard of writing the paper as the criterion, the world as we know it would change. I'm a bit of a stickler for authorship lists. I feel strongly that everyone should be able to vouch for the entire paper, and have made serious attempts to challenge the validity of any aspect of the data that seems at all questionable. I do annoying things like re-run everyone's statistics. But, if the standard was that the first author *wrote* the paper, I'd fall far short.

  • PhysioProf says:

    The person that actually writes the darn paper should be the first author. If its the PI that writes the whole thing she should be the first author. If its the grad student, postdoc and so on, same thing...

    This is completely fucking ridiculous. Who "writes" the paper is not relevant to who should be the first author.

  • Lab Lemmingl says:

    "This is completely fucking ridiculous. Who "writes" the paper is not relevant to who should be the first author."
    Of course it is relevant. Anyone who reads the paper is going to read what was written, not what happened behind the scenes. They will then direct inquiries to the person who did the writing.
    And (4) is absurd, because you then get authorship payments- I had a lab director with no interest or expertise in my project offer me lab time in exchange for authorship- looking at the standard commercial rates, it was the equivalent of $3-4000. But there's no way this guy would have qualified as an author in any normal sense of the word- he just had some free machine time and wanted a zero cost publication.

  • Lab Lemming..
    Authorship payments?

  • S. Rivlin says:

    The idea that the head of the lab gets an automatic authorship simply because of her position is rediculous. With such a logic, the chairperson of the department where the lab is located, the dean of the school and the president of the institution should also have their names on the paper.

  • PhysioProf says:

    The idea that the head of the lab gets an automatic authorship simply because of her position is rediculous. With such a logic, the chairperson of the department where the lab is located, the dean of the school and the president of the institution should also have their names on the paper.

    BZZZZT!!! Wrongo!
    The logic is completely different. I know you're not a complete idiot, Sol, so I'll leave it to you to figure out how.

  • Andrea M says:

    About multiple authors: in my field (structural biology) there are a lot of papers that comprise two parts, the actual structure solution, and the validation of its predictions in cells / model organisms.
    None of the two parts of the paper can be self sustaining. An unvalidated structure is essentially an untested prediction; and without a model to validate, one would not have done the nice in vivo experiments.
    These papers are usually the result of a collaboration of two labs with complementing expertises. The two PhDs / Postdocs who were responsile for the structure and the validation usually end up as co-first authors.
    I would argue that, in this case, there are really two first authors, and not second authors in disguise. Whoever is reading their CVs should realize that. And probably does.

  • neurolover says:

    Andrea M -- I also know of two first authorship papers that fit exactly in your example (for example, a computational model + the experimental data that validates it, i.e. apples & oranges & both required for the final output).

  • neurolover says:

    PP: you haven't addressed whether you support the "lab head" contribution that states what you said they contributed. Is that cool? or do expect authors to lie about the lab head contributions?
    I think you're wrong about the lab head, and I think you're wrong because it's bad for the science to have such people along for the ride. Someone has to be responsible for the ultimate "truth" at least at the time of publication of the manuscript. And, it cannot be the first author, because they have nothing to loose and only potential gain from fraud ('cause, if they're going to be kicked out the field anyway, without the result, they benefit from taking the gamble and hoping they don't get caught). The person who has something to loose is the corresponding/lab head/pi, who is in the field, and could get kicked out. That person has to vouch for the paper, and they have to suffer significant loss if they turn out to have acted fraudulently. That has to be an important part of maintaining the integrity of the published science.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    neurolover,
    Just like me, you haven't figured it out yet, but PP knows that you are not a complete idiot so he'll leave it to you to figure out how his logic is working.
    On my CV there are several papers I published as a postdoc, where I'm the first author along with other parasites who did nothing, but whose authorship I was not consulted about and whom did nothing on the study. These included the head of the lab and the head of the institution. The head of the lab got his name as the senior author simply because the work was done in one of his labs, though he had very little knowledge or expertise in the particular topic the study dealt with and was not involved either in the planning of the experiments or the writing of the papers. I was told that this is how things done. Yes, he paid my salary and yes, he provided the space and the supplies, but thet's all.

  • NeuroStudent says:

    umm..if he paid your salary then I would assume you were being paid from one of his grants and therefore you were technically working on something related to one of his grants, so how did he not contribute to the papers? If somehow you were paid by some random slush fund this may not apply, but generally grad students/postdocs are paid from RO1s, individual NRSAs or institutional training grants, any of which require a contribution from a PI--therefore the PIs technically contribute to all of the work that arises from the grant.
    pretty much the paper wouldn't exist without the grant and the grant wouldn't exist without the PI

  • NM says:

    "On my CV there are several papers I published as a postdoc, where I'm the first author along with other parasites who did nothing, but whose authorship I was not consulted about and whom did nothing on the study."
    I can say exactly the same thing about my CV. Except I wouldn't call them parasites since they contribute to the environment in which the work is done. I just don't get my knickers in a twist over it- especially when I've been granted the ability to be #1 on that list by those further down the order.

  • Venkat says:

    Given that there are ppl (PP, CC, ProfinTraining) who think that the first-listed first author is superior to the second-listed co-first author and the fact that genuinely 'equal' contributors may get listed second as a co-first author (i agree on this with Andrea/neurolover), i am tempted to predict that postdocs/grad students with last names that come earlier alphabetically are likely to be more successful in landing jobs.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    NM,
    Parasites they are! How an authorship on a paper could be justify by one's knowing nothing about its content or not being involved in its writing? Of course, there are other types of parasites on scientific papers. For example, those who "selling" the use of their specialty equipment for an authorship. Most scientific journals today list specific qualifications for an authorship. Simply being an awardee of a grant that funds a study does not qualify one to be an author, unless s/he was involved in designing or executing the study or in writing the paper.

  • CC says:

    i am tempted to predict that postdocs/grad students with last names that come earlier alphabetically are likely to be more successful in landing jobs.
    As Andrea M notes, once you get a foot in the door, the details of what you did and didn't accomplish are sorted out in a way that author list-obsessed grad students and postdocs often don't realize takes place. People can use their own judgment, and they call your PI to find out what really happened.
    But the last name issue has certainly been studied, although it's worth noting that last name is heavily confounded with ethnicity, particularly at the very end of the alphabet.
    Anyway, you're missing the point is that in biomed research, the first "co-author" is determined by authorship priority, not alphabetical order. If your PI is giving you the alphabetical order line (and you're not a physicist or on some massive genomics paper) propose flipping a coin instead.

  • neurolover says:

    PP set out particular instantiations of places where people's authorship might be questioned by some, and which he disagrees.
    My principle is that authors should be able to vouch for the content of the paper and that the author's actual contribution to the manuscript should be noted. Within that principle, each of the instances PP describes might or might not be acceptable. I think the first part of this test might become harder to satisfy as experiments and manuscripts become more and more complicated, but in that case, I think the second part becomes even more important, because it designates what part of the paper each individual *is* vouching for.
    The case of the bogus stem cell/incontinence study in Austria is a good example of how "honorary" lab head authorship goes badly awry, and I think there are others. I care about the authors, and the scientists, but I base my ethics on where these decisions contaminate or influence the quality of the science itself.
    Oh, and I am starting to fear that PP is defending the "non care bear" stuff in science, rather than just telling us how to cope with it. It's always a tough judgment call. You can think the grant awarding schemes are messed up, but you have to cope with them as they are, if you're going to stay to fight another day. But, at some point, you do run the danger of being complicit in bad behavior, rather than just figuring out how to work in an environment in which it exists. DM -- you have my confidence that you try to walk this tightrope. PP, not so much.

  • Andrea M says:

    neurolover:
    pretty much the paper wouldn't exist without the grant and the grant wouldn't exist without the PI
    ---
    I would say that's what the acknowledgements section is for. We sincerely thank Professor XYZ for providing the funding.

  • PhysioProf says:

    PI efforts over time provide a specific scientific intellectual and infrastructural milieu--conceptual and methodological--within which particular projects arise and flourish. This is *much* more than just "paying for shit". The idea that a post-doc spends time in a PI's laboratory, comes up with ideas for projects/experiments, and thinks that those ideas have sprung solely from the mind of the post-doc and do not involve substantial scientific contribution from the PI is totally fucking delusional.
    I really fail to see why this is so difficult to grasp.

  • I would say that's what the acknowledgements section is for. We sincerely thank Professor XYZ for providing the funding.
    Andrea, any student of mine who even considers publishing a paper with that in the acknowledgements about yours truly will find themself out the door, flat on their ass, before they can blink.
    ...for providing the funding. Ungrateful little snakes. But, perhaps this is the result of us referring to more senior scientists as "PIs" instead of what they really should be -- "mentors."

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Science ala PP and Isis:
    "You are my postdoc. Your ass belongs to me. Everything you think of, every idea you may have, your intelect, they are all mine, part of your ass; that's how science done today, you little shit."

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Here's even a better idea. Make the postdoc sign a contract that all his future papers based on his postdoctoral research must include the name of his "mentor" PI.

  • PhysioProf says:

    Sol, you are totally full of fucking shit. The relationship between a PI and a post-doc/student is a FUCKING COLLABORATION between a MENTOR and a TRAINEE! Just because you think you got fucked by unscrupulous PIs doesn't mean that's how it always works.
    Your fucking perseveration on this shit is really, really getting on my motherfucking nerves and I am close to just banning your sorry ass, because you are starting to do nothing but detract from the discussion here.
    We get that evil PIs stole shit from saintly post-docs in your previous scientific life. Now give it a fucking rest.

  • Wow! How did I get lumped in with PhysioProf? Don't you know we're feuding?
    However, I happen to believe he's right in this case.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    neurolover:DM -- you have my confidence that you try to walk this tightrope. PP, not so much.
    soo. well, I pretty much agree with PP's points in the original post. for the scientific spheres in which I operate.
    My bottom line on this authorship thing is that it is first and foremost a communication device that is highly dependent on subfield cultural practices. Consequently there is no universal right/wrong. I think people could stand to recognize this a little bit more, especially the outraged grad student or postdoc who can't understand why fumblefingersDuh is a middle author.
    The authorship communication can also change over time which is why I have minimal patience with Sol's position, which seems to me to be pining after the good old days a little bit too much.
    I have a lot of trouble envisioning this supposedly common scenario where the lab head (no, not the division head or frickin' department chair, we are talking about a reasonably bright and obvious distinction here. Sol I'm looking in your direction) has absolutely no contribution to the paper. I just don't see that. Even with the big lab, international schmoozing, jetsetting PIs. This may be my PI blindness I don't know. But I do sometimes wonder wtf people are on about with respect to these supposedly non-contributing PIs.
    Now, am I any better than PP on the "verging from descriptive into prescriptive" for this stuff? I don't know, perhaps a little. Perhaps it is more that I've been more broadly experienced in subfield publishing traditions that range from one or two author to the highly competitive multi-lab bench-science collaborative traditions that define much of our frame of modern bioscience?

  • PhysioProf says:

    The authorship communication can also change over time which is why I have minimal patience with Sol's position[.]

    You seem to have a lot more fucking patience with it than I do. At this point, I'm at about negative motherfucking infinity.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You are just riled up because Isis cleaned your clock on round 1...
    Perhaps you should try the Chicago way?

  • neurolvoer says:

    "I have a lot of trouble envisioning this supposedly common scenario where the lab head (no, not the division head or frickin' department chair, we are talking about a reasonably bright and obvious distinction here. Sol I'm looking in your direction) has absolutely no contribution to the paper. I just don't see that."
    me neither -- even in a big lab, and even with a big pi collaborator, I've always thought they participated in the project, through discussions, reading and commenting on the data and manuscripts, . . .
    But, the story of the lab head in the Austrian fraud case does suggest it happens (perhaps more frequently in Europe, I think).

  • S. Rivlin says:

    neurolover,
    Why do you think it happens more frequently in Europe? Simply because the one case you know about happened there?
    My experience did not happen in Europe, it happened here in the US. I know of several other American cases, though I cannot give you any statistics.
    Rather than allow for an automatic inclusion of the head of the lab as an author on every paper that has her lab name on it, I think it is better to specifically establish the criteria that qualify one to be an author, whether she the head of the lab or not.

  • juniorprof says:

    Sol, just a few more reminders and you'll finally achieve scientific martyrdom

  • miko says:

    "Who created and maintained the conceptual, methodological, and physical environment within which the project was performed?"
    Pretty generous to a lot of PIs to grant them this...I work in a non-profit academic research institute-- salaries and research expenses all come from the same pot, not grants to labs/PIs. Some of the PIs probably couldn't tell you the major findings of some papers were, or what methods were used. I think it's rare that a PI doesn't deserve authorship, but it happens.
    And what about MDs who get authorship for signing the scrips for a clinical study?
    As for technicians, I don't think running a gel counts as authorship...an intellectual contribution is required. Though by that criterion, a lot of PhD students shouldn't get authorship of their own work.
    Anyway, author bloat is the way it goes... it's interesting that the more people want "authorship" the less it means. I mean, everyone basically filters out anyone but first and last. I'm embarrassed to even list things where I'm 2nd or 3rd on my CV.

  • Andrea M says:

    Self quote:
    I would say that's what the acknowledgements section is for. We sincerely thank Professor XYZ for providing the funding.
    I was being sarcastic here, but I forgot the 1st rule of internet comments - it's next to impossible to tell if something is sarcastic or said in earnest. Sorry everyone for not making that clear, my bad.

  • PhysioProf says:

    Sorry everyone for not making that clear, my bad.

    Now we're fighting and telling Sol he sucks, so it's TOTAL WIN!!!!!

  • S. Rivlin says:

    WOW, it appears that I'm about to be kicked out of this blog for disagreeing with the blogger. Even his "junior" is now warning me. I am really not sure what the fuss is all about. I have been a scientist longer than most of the bloggers here or their responders; I have seen more scientists' crap than any of you want to believe exists. Most of you tend to elevate the PI to the rank of "vice God" and make it sounds as if without her name on every paper that come out of her lab, even if she had nothing to do directly with the study, somehow will deprive her of being recognized as vice God. Grow up and get back to the real meaning of science and scientific research. By grabbing for more respect and recognition for being the PI you losing sight of the big picture of science.
    I remember an embarrassing incident in the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience several years ago, where a PI made an oral presentation of a project of one of his postdocs. During the Q&A he could not answer even one question about the specifics of the experiments or why the study was designed the way it was executed. He sheepishly admitted, right there on the podium, that his involvement in the project was only marginal and that he should allow the postdoc to present the work.

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