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

If that was the only point **Freejooky **wanted to make, then he shouldn’t have written:

Oh, it wasn’t the only point he wanted to make. He wanted to toss in some other denigration as well (e.g., an accusation of social insularity). But he doesn’t seem to be saying that academics don’t engage in exertion, not even in the part you quoted; the criterion they fail for having real jobs, presumably, according to him, is that of the exertion being useful to the outside (real) world.

To draw an analogy to similar things others sometimes say, it’s as though he’s saying “Bah, athletes, humbug! I know it’s hard work and everything, but, seriously… Do something useful! Get a real job!”. No denial of the effort and stress involved; the attack is along another axis.

Seems like a charitable interpretation, but I’ll drop it, since it’s a hijack anyhow.

My own academic rant: I write a book manuscript. I contact the editor of an academic press, to whom I am introduced by my dissertation director, who has published with said press and said editor. The editor says he is willing to look at my ms. I send it to him. He acknowledges receipt. After 6 months, I run into him at a conference and ask him what the status is; he replies, “I should have an answer for you in a month or two.” Fast forward 6 months; I run into him at another conference (this time in December). He says, “Sorry; I should have an answer for you after the first of the year.” Fast forward 6 more months. I call his office in the UK and leave a forceful message with his secretary. He then sends me an e-mail, which I quote in its entirety:

18 months and he didn’t even get around to sending it out to a referee. I’ve got a publisher now (I just sent off the final typescript last week–hooray!) but this guy is a serious douchebag.

Voyager is right, you can’t let yourself be pushed around on credit for a paper. Certainly not by a fellow grad student. So you need to have a frank exchange of views with your co-author, and to be honest, if you can’t convince her that you deserve to be lead author, maybe you shouldn’t be.

If she’s as difficult as you make out, then it may not be worth going to war over. But you’ll really regret it if you don’t make your case clearly and sensibly to her.

A second option may be asking the Boss to settle the matter- worth considering if the authorship issue is extremely important to you. The Boss will be somewhat vexed having to deal with a pair of whining tits, but these ego-management tasks should be part and parcel of their job.

Holy shit, what an asshole. He’s a publisher! He shouldn’t even get into the business without learning how to say no.

I have to admit I didn’t read Freejooky’s post particularly thoroughly. The whole “it’s not a real job” thing really, really bothers me. I work, on average, ten hour days, seven days a week. Between my classes, teaching, my research, research I’m doing with other people, my qualifying papers, conference presentations… I really shouldn’t be on here! I don’t get to leave my work in the office, or else I’d never leave the office… which happens sometimes.

Add on to that familial obligations, particularly my husband and parents… add on to that the fact that my husband, also in academia, lives in another state during the week for his job… it would be so much easier to leave school and get a job in the industry. But I love my research, and only a university will pay me to do it. Though, as of right now, the pay is pretty damn shitty.

As for taking my gripes to the boss, I’ve been avoiding bringing anyone else into this thing. I will be going to the boss (we share an advisor) about the acknowledgment thing, though. I’m hoping her problem was that I didn’t ask her first and that she’s not going to insist on her name being first. I can deal with an apology.

I assuming that both of you have the same reasons for wanting your name first. Her reason is no better than yours. And your reason is no better than hers. You don’t seem to be disputing that both of you contributed to the work. When she had a chance to put her name first, she did so. When you had a chance to put your name first, you did so. Maybe you two need to flip a coin.

** liberty3701**, my discipline is education, and I don’t know if this would work for you, but when I was editing a book two authors asked for a footnote on the title page of their chapter. It read to the effect “Both authors contributed equally to the research and writing of this chapter; X is listed first because his name is closer to the letter A.”

It was nicely done, and I don’t know if his tenure committee took note, but I imagine it might have soothed over issues about who’s first.

With my research team, at the very first meeting I made it clear what the authoring order would be. So we don’t have that issue, thank goodness. I’ve been fortunate to co-author quite a bit so I’m used to the issues, but in every circumstance I felt the work distribution was fair.

People tend to act as if workplace issues in academe are some weird thing, but it’s the same old shit that people in sales, construction, and retail deal with. Prima donnas. Egos out of control. “Eccentrics.” The one issue that’s different is that raw brainpower can take you very far in the field - so you can be socially retarded and rise to the top of the heap. Most fields require some social networking skills to succeed, but there are plenty of savants in other lines of work as well.

No, my reasons are better than hers, most likely. It’s not about this one paper. I want to show that we have had an equal partnership across two papers. She, as far as I can tell, wants the glory of having both of the papers have her name first. I had no problem with the first paper being her name, then my name. It’s the fact that she apparently wants her name first on both papers; that shows an unfair balance. We’re not squabbling children; this does have lasting consequences. Seriously, I don’t know how I can better explain this to you.

Then you should present it in those terms. You both contributed to two papers. Her name was first on one. Your name should be first on the other.

Looking back at your previous posts, I can now see how you were sort of making this point but it didn’t seem clear to me at the time.

Speaking as one who works in the editorial office of a medical journal, I realize that the order of names is very important. That’s why I want to put in my rant about “professionals” who submit papers, get reviews, make revisions, get second reviews, make second revisions, get proofs, approve proofs, and then have a fight amongst themselves about the order of their names and claim that the journal staff “mistakenly” put the names in the wrong order.

We have your original manuscript. We see what you did there.

Can you at least have the journal put “these authors contributed equally to this work” on a postscript? I’ve done that before. I know it doesn’t help anyone who’s not looking closely, but a co-first author paper is something you can at least list among your first author publications.
My rant: To the person who approached us about a possible collaboration- We understand that you have access to a bunch of people who can get cells we couldn’t otherwise get. We also understand that the cells you propose we begin studying could be interesting. However, we have no evidence yet that they ARE interesting, you don’t seem to want to gather any data that would show that they’re interesting, and the way you’re handling them is probably going to prevent us from ever knowing. You can’t grow cells in culture conditions that don’t support proliferation, then tell us the cells probably aren’t useful because they don’t proliferate! You also can’t take phase pictures and convince us that they’re an interesting cell type when they don’t actually look like that cell type! You’re asking us to spend a lot of money and time to investigate something that you don’t really seem interested in yourself, then seeming surprised when no one is enthusiastic! Get a grip!

/hijack: Freejooky, you’re ridiculous. Without academics, we wouldn’t have most of our current technology in medications, energy, or agriculture- all incredibly useful. Personally, I spend my days studying ways to improve cell replacement therapies in spinal cord injury. There’s no way you’re going to convince me (or most other people) that what I’m doing is not useful to society at large or that it’s not a real job.

In all fairness , I think he/she was responding to the media cartoon of an academic whose interests lie in the liberal arts - i.e. philosophy or some such. For what ever reason, there doesn’t appear to be a link between academicians and scientists. Odd considering that’s where a lot of science is done in this country.

My rant is against my faculty member peers who are constantly whining about how crappy their life is. Yes, there is a lot of pressure and one must work hard to succeed in a tenure track position. But is one’s chosen profession - nobody puts a gun to your head and forces you to become an assistant professor. Also faculty who decide for themselves what they want to do (one of the great things about an academic career), but then crab if it isn’t recognized as God’s gift. One of my co-workers has put together video discs of various medical conditions in large animals (something which, if he had started today would be a series of youtube postings). It’s nice, but it’s more about hooking together what was new (in 1990) imaging capture technology than breaking new ground. To this day he complains that he hasn’t been recognized for this ground breaking work.

Ah, that makes sense. I understand where that’s coming from, though I don’t entirely agree with it. And, it reminds me of another problem with academics that rankles: irresponsible stewardship of graduate students. Now, this wasn’t a problem in my PhD program, because the biomedical graduate studies department was very careful about how many students they accepted, because they had guidelines from the NIH about how many would be funded and how many they were supposed to be churning out.

The humanities programs did not do this, so I pit the administrators that are responsible for the surfeit of humanities PhDs.


Instead, these kids end up with giant teaching loads alongside student loans or nearly-nonexistent stipends, they don’t have time to do proper research, there aren’t enough jobs for them, and people wonder why the humanities are regarded with such disdain? It’s insane.

From your post I would say most likely she wants first author because in her eyes she did most of the work (whether true or not). Do your best to convince her how much you have contributed, but try to stay cool and don’t become overly hostile. If that doesn’t work I agree with an above poster that it is time to involve your adviser (although make it clear you have absolutely tried your best to resolve this between yourselves). Unfortunately, first authorship does mean a lot in academic environment and assuming it is deserved, it is absolutely something worth fighting for. Good Luck!

Could be that she thinks she did the most work; could be because she thinks she was the first to be asked to work on the projects. Could be that she’s an entitled toxic maniac who shouldn’t be paired with a co-author on anything.

liberty3701, do you not have a mentor in your program? And is not a mentor properly asked for advice on matters pertaining to academic life in general, even apart from specific projects? Why can’t you have a talk with such a person and bring up the issue of how he (or she) learned to cope with politics and such?

Well, the whole thing went better than I thought it would, though I always feel really dirty after we have one of our meetings. We ended up deciding on a combination name switch and footnote (thanks to those who suggested it!). I never want to think about it again.

I know this became about the name change, but what was really bothering me was the whole atmosphere she was creating and the fact that she hijacked the draft. I’ve gotten the feeling that people in the department forgot that I also did the work on the previous paper; because of her media whoring, everyone assumes she did all the work. And it bothers me that it bothers me. Does that make sense? I don’t want to be petty, but the whole atmosphere makes me petty. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with anyone in the department; it’s not the most welcoming place, and a lot of people love the drama and the politics.

Oy, but thanks for listening to me whine. I really do love what I do. I just wish I could do it by myself… in a cave somewhere.

Freejooky - Since this is the pit, fuck you and any intelligence you think you possess. Without academics, and universities, there would be no “safe” place to study and advance science. And apart from science, knowledge for knowledge sake is not a bad thing, so again, fuck you.

I discovered that the work I did in grad school was made use of in a top secret lab in the Soviet Union, so I know it was useful to the world at large. :smiley:

liberty3701, I’m glad you got the credit you deserve. Footnotes are fine, but they don’t show up in the references of other papers.

I am glad to hear that liberty3701 is feeling better. I can now admit that I misread the thread title as a rant against someone with the strange barbarian name of “Coauthor” (“Kwa-Thor?”).

“Screw you, Coauthor! Damn you to the Nine Iron Hells of the Serpent Goddess! A blight on thy seed even unto the seventh generation, Coauthor! May your enemies drive you before them, and hear the lamentations of the women!”