I am a PhD student in chemistry and my funding is specific for a certain project. This funding also funds another PhD student, a biochemist, with a different advisor (both our advisors are very well-respected). We're both in the 3rd year of our PhDs.
The project is now in its sixth year. The distribution of work is as follows:
- Some post-docs had done the first 4 years of this work
- The other student provides the animal samples and some biochemical test
- I do the "novel test". This test is labour-intensive and time consuming. I very often work on holidays, while the other student doesn't even answer mail after hours, despite having a technician to help her.
The problem is the papers. We are now going to start our third sub-project on this work:
- Paper #1 [last year] was primarily the post-docs work, with authoring PostDoc*, OtherStudent* (where * denotes equal contribution)
- Paper #2 [last year] was mostly my work, with authoring me*, OtherStudent*. I was extremely heart-broken and wanted to quit, but my advisor assured me that this would not happen again
- Paper #3 [this year] is the problem. The other student sent a new batch of samples in for a new paper. My advisor said that it is very likely that the other group will ask a paper co-first authored as: OtherStudent*, Me*, since the other student had not been in the first position of the co-first-authorship yet.
I believe it is unfair that I have fewer papers than this other student despite doing much more work. Indeed, this other student has time to work on other things and get still more papers published, where I am working flat-out on this effort.
My advisor and I argued and I told him that I want to switch to a different project, but he said I can't because my funding is specific to this project. I'm thinking to quit and apply for a new PhD somewhere else but I have spent 2 years and 2 months in my PhD and I believe I will also have problems in the new place (hopefully not as bad).
Am I right to be angry? How should I approach this situation? How do people in academia actually look at co-first authorship? Is the order important?