Screw You, Coauthor (academia- and work-related rants here!)

So, I did this paper with a woman in my program (we’re both grad students). It was a good paper; we presented it at a big conference, and the written version will be a chapter in a book. Pretty cool, right? Well, we had some rough patches, partly because of a misunderstanding on my part, and bat-shit craziness on hers. She must control everything, but she wants it to be a 50-50 enterprise. So, that means I do a shit ton of work that she throws out, then complains that I don’t work hard enough. Whatever. That paper is done, turned in; outta sight, outta mind.

There’s one small problem, though. Before our working relationship went to shit, we were both asked to write a paper for an online journal that does fun, lit-review type papers. It was a big honor to be asked, especially because we’re still grad students and all. Neither of us wanted to give up the paper, so we decided to give it another try.

It started out pretty bad, when I got an email from her informing me that I have to “win back” her respect, and to do this I should make the bibliography that we’d be working off of. I roll my eyes, pretend not to notice, figure it’s her lack of social skills, and make the most kick-ass bibliography in the history of bibliographies.

And things went well for a few months as we avoided each other. Then we met a few times, and it was awkward but we were both so excited about what we were writing about that things were okay. Woo hoo and all that.

Fast forward to last week. We’re getting close to the deadline, passing drafts back and forth. The first draft, she had written our names down with hers first. I was a little pissed about that (mostly because that’s what she did the last time, which was part of my misunderstanding). But, whatever, nothing’s set in stone, right? So I switch the order, writing a note to the effect of “Hey, we’re doing two papers, there’s two of us, two ways to order our names, so why don’t we do it this way this time?” Now, maybe I’m the one with poor social skills, but it really didn’t seem like a huge problem. Nothing’s set in stone, right? Well, I get a email from her the day before she leaves for a conference saying that she is “very upset” about the order change, and that she “talked to people” and we can’t “move forward until we’ve sorted this out.” Wha–? What the–? Fuck! So, she’s been on strike for a week, holding the draft hostage (though that hasn’t stopped me from doing some work on it), and we’re talking tomorrow. I’d seriously rather drink Drano than have this little talk with her, but, whatever, we’re both adults and there’s no way I’m going to let it be her name first again.

Oh, but there’s more. That conference she went to? She presented a poster with another student. They used a bunch of the data that I and our undergraduate research assistants gathered for the original paper she and I wrote. That’s not a big deal, such borrowing happens a lot in our field. The same data can be analyzed in different ways, all of which advance the science. But, you see, it’s common courtesy to acknowledge where you got your data. She and her coauthor did not. So not cool. So very not cool. This is on top of all the media whoring (interviews in newspapers and on the local NPR station) she’s done using our work but never giving me credit. Classy.

The two halves of this sentence don’t go together very well. Yes, I agree that you have a legitimate claim to be the first author here (unless it violates some custom in your discipline where, say, the authors are expected to be listed in alphabetical order unless one of them was really the main author).

But I don’t think drawing a line in the sand over this, when the person you are working with clearly has some serious craziness and academic ethics issues, is the “adult” thing to do here. It sounds as though you will be much better off just finishing the collaboration you’re signed up for, letting comparatively unimportant issues slide, and never working with this witch again, or giving her access to your data.

You can’t really win against selfish and unscrupulous people, especially when they’re encased in a protective shell of crazy. You can only quarantine them.

You could try bringing up the issue of not getting acknowledgement for the use of your data in her conference presentation, which is definitely an inappropriate thing to do, but I doubt that’s going to go well.

Don’t make a big drama out of this or start a feud, but just stay away from this person as much as you can.

Shit, in my frothing at the mouth, I forgot to invite y’all to share your own rant. So, please, wallow in your anger with me.

Oh, and are you saying that you’re accepting other people’s academia- and work-related rants in this location? If so, can I just say that creating an index is fucking HARD? I was here in the office literally ALL GODDAMN WEEKEND, from 7 AM Friday to 8 PM Sunday, with only a couple of pizza runs to the local cafeteria, snatching a few hours’ nap on the carpet from time to time. By Sunday, I was so embarrassed about my unhygienicness that I wouldn’t even venture out to the cafeteria, subsisting on snacks from the vending machines instead. WHY do we do this to ourselves?

(I think the index did turn out kind of cool, though. Indexing seems to be actually rather fun in a sort of excruciating way: ghod is it ever a lot of brain-frying hard work, but it’s really a unique experience. I can’t think of anything else that is quite like it.)

Kimstu, yeah, you’re definitely right on a lot of stuff. I’m trying my darnedest to stay calm, and venting here has helped a little. Believe you me, the last thing I want is drama. The thing is she’s walked all over me thus far (which was not clear in my OP), and I feel like it’s a matter of self-respect, almost, that I at least don’t totally give in about the name thing. If she has a damn good reason why her name has to be first, that’s one thing. But I have the feeling she’s just upset that I got uppity on her; I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I would love to just cut and run, but not doing this paper has would hurt my future career.

As for the acknowledgment thing, I’m probably going to talk to a third party first and not bring it up tomorrow.

Co-authoring is tricky. Lessons learned and all that, next time you’ll know a couple of things to negotiate in writing up front.

I haven’t spoken to my co-author in 20 years and we were good friends for about 5 years. Feeling must be mutual because we could both easily track down the other with about 5 minutes effort…

I hope this isn’t seen as a thread hijack, but as my own Academia rant:

OP’s like this remind me of why I despise the institution of Academia; it’s a place for all of the playground tattletales and bossy know-it-alls to get together, insulate themselves from the real world and from ever having real jobs, and then spend the rest of their lives in a self-absorbed, self-serving cocoon. Academia does nothing for society at large and nothing for the culture, but instead merely exists to pat itself on the back and justify its own existence…at least long enough for the next generation to come in and repeat it all.

Peer-review that. :rolleyes:

Kimstu, that is hardcore.

China Guy, you are so right. But I’m working on another paper with *three *coauthors, and it’s great. Totally copacetic. It’s so much about personality, and I have, indeed, learned a lot.

Freejooky, I agree with you on a lot of fronts. I just wish I didn’t like the research I do so much. I really can’t imagine doing anything else, but I can’t take the back-biting and the ultra-competitive nature of a lot of people in the ivory tower. I do disagree, though, that academia does nothing to help the world at large. A lot of it is masturbatory crap, for sure, but a lot of it does some good. I hope my work does some good.

“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

Henry Kissinger

I left academia at the first opportunity after graduate school and I will never go back.

Oooh, oooh, we can rant about academia?

Mr. Professor of mine, please stop your rampant ego-trip, for I would really love to read a text this entire that isn’t penned, edited, compiled, or otherwise breathed upon by you. Really.

Grad school is hard.

That’s all I got. Because I have to read two more articles tonight and I shouldn’t be looking at the SDMB right now.

You admit your reason for wanting your name first is just symbolic. So why should she have the burden of proving she has “a damn good reason” for wanting her name first?

I’m not saying this woman isn’t a nutcase. There’s plenty of them out there and she sounds like one. But you don’t win in this situation by trying to beat her on her level. The best you will win by doing that is a reputation for being as much of a nutcase as she is. You’ve got to remain the sane and rational one in this partnership so that when it’s all over, people will sympathize with you for what you went through rather than saying behind your back that the two of you deserved each other.

It’s not really just symbolic. I’m worried about what it says to other people in the field when both of our articles have her name first. This is not a field where everything is done alphabetically, so if her name is first on both it says, to me, that she’s the one who put in the most work, and that’s not true. If it’s an even split, then I think that shows an even partnership. Maybe that’s nitpicky of me, but academic politics is damn nitpicky. And, why shouldn’t she have a reason to have her name first?

Believe me, I don’t think I can sink down to her level, and I’ve done a lot of work not letting other people know about our problem. It’s between her and me (and some strangers on the internet), and no one else really needs to know about it. I’m not going to kick and scream to get my way. I’m just going to stand up for myself.

You don’t know what you’re talking about. “Insulate themselves from the real world?” I have a mortgage, a marriage, a kid in school; I worry about money, etc. I live in the real world, buddy. “Not ever having a real job?” I busted my ass to get a PhD, then busted my ass to get a tenure-track job; then busted my ass to get promoted. Academics bust their asses to get tenure, to get promoted, to publish in journals with <5% acceptance rates so that they don’t get shitcanned and can qualify for competitive promotions and merit increases. I Pit people who think academics don’t work for a living.

I’m with you - fight for it. Significant papers are usually referenced by their authors names (or first author et al.) so it isn’t trivial.

I consider myself lucky that my PhD adviser always put his name after his students. A fellow grad student and I wrote two fairly significant papers, but we got along well and had no trouble swapping first authorships. The one I was first author on was in a more prestigious journal and actually got reprinted - the one he was first author on got read more and was better, I think.

The nice thing about being in industry is that it doesn’t matter nearly as much.

While I agree with every word of your post, I do have to say that you have a rather unfortunate username to cast yourself as the defender of academia. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m a little biased, being a PhD student myself, but the academics I’m working with are making much greater contributions to society than they would if they were working in corporate America. They’re exploring new ways to utilize geothermal energy reserves, inventing innovative wastewater treatment processes, experimenting with less water-intensive agricultural management methods, and modeling solute transport in groundwater to try to keep you from getting cancer.

I suppose they could be designing drainage plans. That’s a hell of a lot more lucrative, but I’m having a hard time seeing how it does anything for society at large.

It keeps our socks dry. Can’t complain too much about that.

True enough.

Academia 1, Industry 1.

To be fair, Freejooky doesn’t seem to be arguing that academics don’t bust their ass doing work for a living; the question is whether that work is useful to the world at large. (Which is addressed to some extent by Enginerd)

I am a co-author with my first wife, who was an academic and recently retired as an associate dean and other good stuff. And I agree with you 100%: I watched her bust her ass as well to cover her class work, publish, make assistant professor and then full professor, and keep abreast of the current research in her field, while mentoring a variety of promising students. We had that mortgage and all the other “benefits” of living in the real world. Long days, long nights. My current wife is the former president of a chemical packaging company and member of various boards. I cannot say that either can lay more claim to the “real world” than the other.

Having experience with the high tech world and government agencies, I :rolleyes: at characterizations of academia as somehow weird and priviledged.