Sunday, May 8, 2011

ordering authors

I have a particular weakness when it comes to research, because every team I have ever worked with has been made up primarily of people I considered very good colleagues, and often friends, either before we started working together or very early in the process. I guess this means I've been very lucky, but it has also resulted in my inability to deal with situations in which my collaborators are not friends and/or are not very well known to me. I have a hard time with the interpretive part of communication that is so easy when you know someone well or know how they will take your comments.

I have previously mentioned a new collaboration with international and high-profile researchers. So far we've gotten almost no real data beyond field observations, but we think we have some exciting things to say IF the data we anticipate do come out as expected. I was recently asked how I viewed the order of authors for this project, which I have a hard time answering since we haven't even gotten the data back much less started writing a manuscript.

I was working on this project very briefly before my colleagues were brought in, and I was therefore able to pinpoint field locations to start our work together, but the interpretive piece came together quickly because of their previous expertise. One of them in particular was able to get us a connection for the analyses we needed, making publishable data a possibility. I think the order overall probably depends in part upon who's doing most of the writing, and while I don't really feel the need to insist on being first, I'm also not ready to hand over first authorship without even seeing what we make out of what we've started and how much my previous work plays a role.

So, while I will probably answer with some version of "I'm not set on being first but let's wait and see", it seems like a strange question to be asked at this point in a project. Maybe older, wiser, higher-profile scientists have been burned before and see a need to organize this kind of detail? ...or at least I tell myself. Maybe I've just been sticking too close to my comfort zone when developing collaborations.


JaneB said...

In my experience, in any collaboration it makes life much easier to talk about author issues early and often - and to at least agree the principles of author order, especially if there's a disparity between the publication needs of the team members or the chance of a paper in a top-ranked-journal. Even when dealing with friends. Because whilst I've never had this problem, I've seen friendships ended over authorship rows... so I think this is a good sign that the people you are working with are trying to be good, thoughtful collaborators!

JaneB said...
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Liberal Arts Lady said...

That sounds about what I expected - thanks for the input!