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I am doing my PhD at a research institute, where we have just finished the draft of a 8-hands long paper to be published as a short book with a major editor. I have done the bulk of the work, i.e. at least 80% of the total. However, my coordinator sent me the draft back with the authors reordered by seniority, and I now figure as the last author although my contribution was the largest. I should mention this would be my first publication. Shall I react?

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    What are the conventions in your field regarding order of authors? These differ widely, and in some fields the last author is the most prestigious, as it implies that you led the work. – user2390246 Aug 3 '18 at 8:22
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    Is your coordinator one of the authors? – Geoffrey Brent Aug 3 '18 at 8:42
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    Some read the author list as those with the most qualifications did the least work... – Solar Mike Aug 3 '18 at 9:02
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    I do not know the conventions of the field, which is Energy Modelling and Policy. Yes, the coordinator is formally one of the authors, although he did not contribute to the writing of the paper, he just provided some inputs. – Jackk Aug 3 '18 at 9:19
  • That does sound weird to me... Normally it is either ordered by work or alphabetically. Sometimes this is disrupted if people are grouped by institution. But I haven't heard of an ordering based on seniority. – DetlevCM Aug 3 '18 at 9:19
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The order of authors is often problematic and thus I guess this question will be closed as duplicate soon.

Anyway, you should discuss this with your coordinator and ask him why he prefers this order. My colleague is working in a similar area than yours and he is usually the first author, but there might be other reasons in your situation.

Even if you are not able (or not willing to) insist on your preferred order, there are other options to emphasize your contribution. For example you could add an "Authors Contribution" section where you can explain in detail who did which part of the work. Footnotes at the author names are a common alternative (e.g. "* These authors contributed equally as main authors" or "¹ AB developed the model ² CD wrote the manuscript").

This is not only a question of fairness, but there might also be a formal requirement for your PhD or later research positions like "You have to publish two papers as main author." If that is the case, you should ask your supervisor how to address this issue.

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As a junior partner who is yet to earn a PhD, the ethics of it are of less concern to you than that you successfully complete your degree and find suitable employment. Yes, you are probably being abused here, but getting powerful people mad at you will have negative consequences - all on you.

I hate to see these situations develop and would (as a more senior person) have harsh words to say to your supervisor, but I can only do that as they have no power over me.

Hopefully this is only your first, not your only, publication. Hopefully you won't have people like this in your future. But you have to take a somewhat cautious route to that future.

It may even be, depending on the reputations of the others, that you will benefit from a visible association with them.


In other answers on this site I've suggested that ethical violations be reported to authorities, but anonymously. That doesn't seem to be one of your options here, I think.

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    Comments on the reasons for down voting are much appreciated. By others as well. – Buffy Aug 3 '18 at 16:47
  • I'm not sure why I lost 1 rep for downvoting this comment but to be fair to @Buffy I will state reason. Generally I agree with everything from Buffy. Here, I agree with literally everything said except that Buffy doesn't provide a recommendation to at least attempt to raise this issue. For that reason alone I voted it down. In hindsight, I would like to undo the vote down as a comment is truly more appropriate. However, the site won't let me. Sorry Buffy. – SecretAgentMan Aug 7 '18 at 14:47
  • @SecretAgentMan, actually I don't mind some down voting. It is just good in general to know why. My opinion about my own posts is that if I never get any down votes I'm being too conservative. Some posts are uncomfortable for people, but that uncomfort can be a good thing. This one surprised me, however, as I was trying to keep the OP safe. Some other answers leave the OP at risk and not the one giving the answer. That wasn't the situation for the other answer here, however. Anyway, thanks for the note. – Buffy Aug 7 '18 at 14:55
  • @SecretAgentMan, the rules here, by the way, is that downvotes cost you 1 rep. That is just to avoid rampant abuse. There are other abuse filters built in of course. I seldom down vote, though not because of lost rep. If a post seems dangerous or evil to me I'll downvote (and vote to close such questions), but I'm pretty accepting of things until they cross an ethical line or one that puts another in danger potentially. – Buffy Aug 7 '18 at 15:02
  • thanks for the clarification. I'm pretty new here and didn't know. I should have left comments anyway. Thanks! – SecretAgentMan Aug 7 '18 at 15:04

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