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I am an undergraduate student who has developed a novel new model which according to my PI (principal investigator) will have a high impact.

My PI assigned a grad student to supervise me. Supervision consisted of meeting once a week to update him on my progress so far. Sometimes he would provide certain helpful suggestions(none that are actual innovations just slight fixes/alterations that would improve the model).

During the course of the year he (the grad student) has become more and more annoying. Unhelpful suggestions/requests, etc.

During our last meeting the grad student made some bold claims on the model developed by me claiming to be an equal author/developer. He made it clear he wanted to get a large amount of credit for the model (co-authorship).

I do not think that he has done enough meaningful work to deserve credit for the model (although he would be listed in acknowledgements). Knowing his intentions I wish to distance myself from him(including not having him review the paper), as to lower his chance of becoming a co-author.

I would like to achieve this in such a way that does not negatively impact my relationship with my PI, as grad schools require reference letters.

EDIT: I don't think I have been very clear and for that I apologize. I acknowledge that he has contributed to the work. I also understand that having more authors doesn't reflect badly on me(I didn't even know about the score system). I just have problems with his claims of equal authorship. As we are nearing final results/submissions of paper and he has better relation with the professor he may try to take the first authorship position.

Additional: By my university guideline policies about co-authorship he has not done enough to deserve even a co-author position.

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You are currently being advised by a grad student, not by your advisor. So, will you list your advisor (PI) as a co-author? –  Mad Jack Jul 2 at 16:17
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I read that question before posting this but I thought mine differed in a few ways. (i) I was assigned this "supervisor", did not choose him. (ii) I did not promise co-authorship (iii) I am put in the position of still having to please my PI. It is this last point how do I go about doing such an action without upsetting the PI that I need help on. –  anon Jul 2 at 17:10
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It is your observation that the "annoying" grad student does not deserve co-authorship (I know of many cases of others getting the nod for co-authorship who have done much less than the grad student in your example). In this case, it is best to meet with your advisor (and possibly the grad student) to discuss an authorship plan. Pro tip: it is best to do this well in advance so that the situation you are experiencing now can be avoided. –  Mad Jack Jul 2 at 17:29
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Cheap behaviour on part of the grad student. Intellectual robbery. Please try to sustain these intellectual injuries and move ahead. –  Kalidas Jul 3 at 5:27
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It also depends on where you are publishing your work. Some journals expect all authors to contribute or understand all aspects of the work. If you had a 2nd author that contributed a piece of work and it was fake work then you and any other coauthors would also be blamed for falsifying data to get a publication. –  Kevin Jul 4 at 16:06

7 Answers 7

I am an undergraduate student who has developed a novel new model which according to my PI (principal investigator) will have a high impact.

Great!

My PI assigned a grad student to supervise me. Supervision consisted of meeting once a week to update him on my progress so far. Sometimes he would provide certain helpful suggestions(none that are actual innovations just slight fixes/alterations that would improve the model). (...) Knowing his intentions I wish to distance myself from him(including not having him review the paper), as to lower his chance of becoming a co-author.

Less great. Much less great. Let me make something clear here: this is not your project alone, this is the project of you, your advisor, and the PhD student. The guy has invested a serious amount of time into this project (not as much as you, clearly, but still a significant amount), and now you have unilaterally decided that he is to be cut out when the time comes to publish your results? Likely, this is not to be going over well either with him or the advisor, and for good reasons.

Deteriorating professional relationships are never fun, but it is simply not feasible to decide midway through a project that you now would rather not have another researcher on board. If he has already made contributions to the project, and it certainly sounds like he has, it would be unethical to publish without him now.

EDIT: to make it clear, I am not saying that he should get equal credit to you. But it certainly sounds like he should get some credit.

The very least you need to do is follow user11192's recommendation:

it is best to meet with your advisor (and possibly the grad student) to discuss an authorship plan.

Finding a "sneaky" way to get rid of the grad student before publication time is not particularly ethical, and has a pretty high possibility of backfiring on you.

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This is truly true answer. One important thing is that how can the OP measure significance of small hints given by PG student? Can he/she measure that the PG did MINOR contribution or major? It might be the case that one small hint in early stage of research can save huge amount of time for implementation and evaluation which is simply dismissed by OP because the hint was small. In academia/research things are not based on weight/size, but significance. If small comment/hint is significantly valuable, what else do you expect from someone's comment? –  Espanta Jul 3 at 7:26
    
Great answer, but the OP never said that the grad student is a PhD student. Your answer sounds as if you are adding a 4th person to the mix. –  Byron Schmuland Jul 3 at 20:07
    
Perfect answer. The rules should never be changed when the match has started. There will be more papers in the future. –  Trylks Jul 4 at 10:10

It looks to me like the coauthorship decision is being clouded by the graduate student supervisor's annoying behavior, including his claims of being "an equal author/developer". Whether this graduate student should be a coauthor is not a part of the question -- rather the question is how "to get rid of" him. But based on what you've said I think this is wrong: you do need to consider the case for his coauthorship. To my mind it rests on two things:

1) He was assigned at the beginning by your PI, whom you say absolutely did supervise you and was crucial in the creation/implementation of the model, and whom you will be including as a coauthor. Well, part of your PI's supervision was to assign this graduate student to you, whom you met with much more frequently than the PI. Thus the three of you entered into a collaboration.

2) There seems to be no doubt that the graduate student followed through with the process of supervising you. You write:

Supervision consisted of meeting once a week to update him on my progress so far. Sometimes he would provide certain helpful suggestions (none that are actual innovations just slight fixes/alterations that would improve the model).

So he met with you regularly -- more regularly than your busy PI. Regular weekly meetings are amazingly helpful in keeping people on track (especially at the junior level...but also at the senior level, honestly). He didn't just listen to you but provided helpful suggestions. And not just suggestions that sounded helpful but some which actually improved the model. Thus he made an intellectual contribution to the work.

The confluence of 1) and 2) makes your desire to have the graduate student supervisor not be a coauthor look unreasonable to me. Coauthorship is a convenant that people enter into: it is an agreement that they will do certain work and as a result be part of the final product. There is a certain base level of involvement that various professions and journals require for coauthorship: that seems to be safely met here. Collaborators are also free to impose higher standards, but these standards should be made clear in advance. It is very uncollegial for you to turn around after work has been done of the form that was specified and try to shut someone out of coauthorship.

In general, I would say that if someone does what they were asked to do procedurally for coauthorship but comes up a bit short intellectually -- i.e., it turns out in retrospect that their contributions are not so valuable or essential to the final paper -- then the decision on whether to withdraw from authorship rests with them and not the other collaborators. If you feel that someone else didn't pull their intellectual weight, then the time to bring this up is in a discussion of whether the collaboration should continue. (I should say that most people I know have a very acute sense of "not pulling their intellectual weight", and it is rather rare to see a math paper with a coauthor who could not point to a theorem or proof in a paper and say "I did this part". But other fields may differ.) This is still a delicate conversation, of course.

I think what you are really trying to say is that you want to be first author. Based on your description of the work, it sounds reasonable that you would be either first author or co-first author with the PI. That is a discussion for the three of you to have.

I would like to achieve this in such a way that does not negatively impact my relationship with my PI, as grad schools require reference letters.

Yes, be careful about this. I am going to guess that the PI will not be pleased at an attempt to cut out his own student from the paper: that is going against the plan for the work that he set up. Finally: "...as grad schools require reference letters". Hmm. True gratitude is golden, but knowing which side of your bread is buttered has got to be worth something.

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I'm confused on why you wouldn't want to have him as a coauthor ? Does it some how diminish the work you did? On the contrary, publishing work with coauthors is not only expected, but essential to survive in academia.

My suggestion? Relax. If you publish as an undergraduate you are already golden. You can get letters from both the PhD student and the PI, glowing letters as you published. It certainly seems like both the PI and the graduate student deserve credit, making them 3rd and 2nd authors respectively seems very reasonable.

Before you go on destroying professional relationships, at least build them up first.

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You mean getting a recommendation letter from a Phd student? –  bingung Jul 3 at 10:27
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There are different metrics that are applied in several different contexts (e.g. applying for tenured position). In some of those metrics, authors are awarded a number of points for each paper depending on the number of authors. For example the one I know is 4 points sole author, 3, 2 and 1 points up to 4 authors and then I don't remember but for sure the score is below 1 (maybe 0.5). –  Trylks Jul 3 at 11:52
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I think an undergraduate who is worried about their 'score' is totally missing the more important point. –  Neo Jul 3 at 14:34
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In the world we live, I feel it's all about the "score"... How will his publications be judged if he applies to study a PhD in a different university? Sure, he is "golden", but he could be "more golden" and he could lose the position against someone that is (or looks like) "more golden". –  Trylks Jul 4 at 10:08

During the course of the year he (the grad student) has become more and more annoying. Unhelpful suggestions/requests, etc.

Since I don't know you personally, I hope you won't mind a candid question. Is it possible that the graduate student is pointing out correct suggestions based on greater experience that you are stubbornly ignoring? I've seen this happen several times, especially with bright undergraduates.

I do not think that he has done enough meaningful work to deserve credit for the model (although he would be listed in acknowledgements). Knowing his intentions I wish to distance myself from him(including not having him review the paper), as to lower his chance of becoming a co-author.

As far as I can read from the tone of your question, you appear to trust the PI ... why not go directly to him/her with your concern? Let the PI decide how to handle it, or, if you're not comfortable with that, why not approach a neutral third-party professor who could understand the work and give you a candid assessment?

I would like to achieve this in such a way that does not negatively impact my relationship with my PI, as grad schools require reference letters.

Ultimately, it does not hurt you to have co-authors on a paper, as long as they have actually contributed to the intellectual merit of the work. However, if, even after impartial third-party assessment, you feel that the work is rightfully yours, fight for it wholeheartedly and directly. Tell the graduate student and the PI what you think, and insist that you should be the sole author.

Academia is a place where you have to fight for your ideas, or be trampled by the herd.

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I don't see how one could discuss a project weekly over a long period of time with somebody and then claim that they didn't contribute to it and therefore don't deserve to be a co-author. It's one thing to have a couple of chats with somebody about something and then go do the rest of the project on your own, but weekly meetings is a definite research collaboration. –  David Richerby Jul 3 at 9:47
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It depends on the field. I have taken myself off co-authorship on papers where I felt I did not contribute sufficiently (although I did get an ack). Not all discussions are intellectually meaningful to a paper. –  Ari Trachtenberg Jul 3 at 20:15

Something to keep in mind, Academia involves politics and some things cost you little.

Your PI wants his grad students to do well too. That means getting their names on research papers.

Even if he's annoying, you said yourself: he's contributed.

If there's 2 other names following yours then that's fine. 3 or less names on your paper doesn't hurt you in any way.

Getting published as an undergrad is already great.

Your only concern as the person who did the majority of the work is that your name come first. That's it. First name in the list is what you want. That is your one and only goal.

If it makes your PI happy to give a little boost to the career of one of his grad students that is perfectly reasonable (also, other people you'll want him to recommend you to will want to know you're easy to work with and willing to play the game of politics because they're all doing the same).

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You make it sound like the grad student is simply being added to help his career. Whatever the reasons were for him assuming the adviser/collaborator role, the fact is he contributed and so deserves co-authorship. Politics has nothing to do with it at this point. –  Chris White Jul 5 at 8:27
    
sure, but even if the phd student was a numpty who was quite totally useless and contributed little that was worthwhile it would still be in OP's best interest to go with what his PI wants. –  Murphy Jul 7 at 13:27

Start writing the paper now, make a preliminary draft and send it out to all of them. In the draft, put yourself as first author, add the phd guy as second and the PI as senior author. If at one point the phd guy thinks he should be first author, you can ask why he thinks he deserves it (do that in front of the pi). Then tell him that you respectfully disagree.

These kinds of things happen but as long as your, rightfully so, first author, everything is ok. I heard of people being removed from author lists even when they had done the majority of the work.

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If this is copyright infringement, or intellectual theft then get a lawyer. At least call one, consultation is generally free. In fact, the lawyer will know more than the school as to how to proceed here anyway... Good luck.

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, if the OP gets a lawyer involved, s/he can kiss letters of recommendation from their advisor goodbye. –  Mad Jack Jul 3 at 19:11
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Where did you see accusations of copyright infringement or intellectual theft in this scenario? Nobody is saying the OP doesn't deserve authorship, or otherwise plotting to steal his/her work –  ff524 Jul 3 at 19:16

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