We are preparing a new paper and my supervisor tells me that we have to put the name of a person on our paper because he was involved in getting us the grant. He says it is because of future grants and that we want to show that he was involved in the research -- and obviously he was not. I think we are supposed to work with him on the last year of my PhD, but not now. My supervisor already knows that I am against it and tells me that this is an “order” and it is because of some sort of “politics”. I can reject but I am not sure what are the consequences. What a PhD student should do in such a situation?
Have you written a grant proposal? My SO at the time was a prof and geochem research scientist. She has generated millions in grants for her collaborators, students and herself to push their research forward. The latest grant I saw her work took many months gathering data and papers, hashing out schedules and compensation for collaborators, students and contractors. She had to prospectively estimate everything from travel costs for the people gathering samples, to costs for reactor and instrument time.
Would her time have been spent better doing science or assisting her students? Absolutely, but grant writing can be difficult as it requires intimate knowledge of the discipline and particular work being done on the project. This is a difficult role to fill that is usually done by researchers themselves, if they want to stay in the "biz".
If she wasn't already one of the lead authors on this research, I would say she undoubtedly deserved to be named on the project. Just because you are writing a paper does not mean the paper is your final product. The paper is a description of your final product, the process of creating the product, and credits those who assisted.
The person that procured your grant absolutely assisted in your research, consider how your project would have gone without it.
You should put them on the paper.
You are a PhD student. Your role is to produce original research and set yourself up for a potential careers as an independent researcher. Spending your energy and political capital fighting battles as a guardian of your take on the meaning of authorship is simply a waste of your time and energy. Souring your relationship with your advisor over something that ultimately has almost no negative effect on you is a bad choice for you to make.
The definition of whose role justifies authorship exactly is grey enough that you should not feel that you are doing something markedly unethical, even if you would prefer not to. Pick your battles, and let this one slide.
If you really hate the idea putting someone on your paper because of funding and not contributing to the research directly, you could write in the text "thanks to XY for funding". With this, it might be obvious that this person is on the paper because of funding purposes. But you should also keep in mind that this person might not have been involved intelectually, but did indeed help you researching if he funded you.
In my department I see this quite often and the people don't actually care too much. Personally I would also not care too much, since you are the 1st author (I assume) it should be known that you did the the most work of this paper.
The wise thing to do is to simply give in. The ethical thing to do is to report this.
If you choose the wise path, your adviser will simply shrug off your insubordination. But, expect him to make you offers you can't refuse from time to time. In exchange, you keep publishing with the group, and if you do your job well, you may have a better chance to stay in the academia. It is worth doing this if your presence in the group ensures you would publish in high impact journals.
If you choose the ethical path, you have to report these people. But, it depends on how ethical is the university you study at. Do they ever enforce these rules when it comes to authorship, plagiarism, etc.? Would your word count in any way against your adviser's? Can your adviser retaliate? Are you ready to leave the research group/university over this? If you can answer yes to all these questions, be ethical.
If you choose to be wise, at least try not to do the same unethical things to your own students/postdocs when you get to be a PI.
I personally advise wisdom, because wisdom means you choose your health over the health of the academia. Doing so you save yourself years of pain, but you also help salesmen/politicians take over academia. When salesmen take over academia, odd things happen. For example, there is a guy at my institution who gets free authorship from a big collaborative project. He does not do research on it, he has no PhD, and he simply uses these papers to boost his CV to stay group leader and get lots research money that go into his salary. Now this guy is in grant committees and gives money to other guys just like him and cannot understand how is it possible for a normal person to take one year to finish a paper. I mean, he publishes at least 40.
My first reaction upon reading the question was no.
However, @johnperry provided a useful perspective. Writing a grant can actually be part of the experiment planning and design. Thus, the person in question might comply with the first criterion of the Vancouver convention.
Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
Final approval of the version to be published; AND
Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Given these criteria, these are some good questions that you can ask your supervisor:
Has the person in question made any intellectual contributions to the project that I'm unaware of?
If the person drafted a grant proposal for the project you worked on, you should be able to check this grant proposal.
Has the person jn question made intellectual contributions that qualify under criterion 1 of the Vancouver convention?
Should I send a draft of my paper to this person for editing, revisions and approval?
Frank answers from your supervisor may make the matter clearer. Maybe the person really did a good job with drafting the grant proposal and put his scientific expertise into that.
A refuse to answer will be a red flag, but than it's your call to comply or to leave.
Probably the answer is to put them on the paper. (I would tell them to pack sand if they want to insert irrelevant edits though...some things are too much.) There is a lot of hypocrisy in academia.
I had same experience, but was headed to McKinsey and had a national award (so nobody could touch me). It was still a big kerfuffle when I told the buddy of my advisor to pack sand (and the advisor himself had no real contribution, so it was like second order BS). Two papers: one I just punted on...eventually we published without him a couple years later as my advisor wanted to get it out. And another where I would have crashed the cars too...but I had a colleague who had done a lot of supporting experiments...so got her out...but even there, I too my name off first author at the end (despite being prime mover).
To determine whether somebody is an author to a paper a simple rule is to ask yourself the following: "Would this research have been performed the way it is, was that person not somehow involved?"
If the answer is yes, then that person likely deserves authorship. It's then up to them to give it up.
This is analogous to having somebody "lending" you class time to perform an experiment during their course (e.g. with their students): even if they do not collect the data or run any analysis,, you wouldn't have performed any of that without their collaboration/interest/resources.
edit: I probably should have said "To determine whether somebody may expect to be an author to a paper a simple rule is..", and "If the answer is yes, then that person may claim authorship."
I agree that this is a poisonous setting, but is not up to OP, who is a PhD student, to change it. If he/she is told add an author to the list, in my opinion that's entirely to be expected if it falls within the loose rule above. Is this how it should work? Most likely no. When OP will be a full professor who can set some of the rules of the game, I'll tell him to follow the COPE guidelines that @Roland suggests below.