I was recruited as a PhD student but the work turned out to be only observational on field data collection including a very tiring and time consuming recruitment, design of the protocols as well as typing and processing of the data.
After the work was done, 2 years, part of the for my future articles crucially important data were handed over a postdoc. I was told to find further funding for myself since there was no more left in the project. However, as I later found out the postdoc was offered a payment for writing an article as the lead author.
Postdoc worked on raw data because I was never consulted. However, already before and parallel to her writing, I had shown my plans and article descriptions to my supervisors and they were accepted. In addition, I had the possibility to stress the fact that I need these data for my PhD to the postdoc and project PI. Somehow that was ignored. I was and my PhD.
Nevertheless, she analysed the data and drafted a manuscript. I was shocked. I got the possibility to comment, though. I hadn't been appreciated before as the only one knowing these data, the limitations and strengths. I was puzzled about the approach and analyses but did not have the power/energy/courage to question anything in the amazingly large group of co-authors: 4 profs, 2 adjunct profs and the postdoc. I had to stay silent and appreciate the chance of being a co-author in a paper which should have been entire mine.
The manuscript came back completely rejected. Referees shared my views, which was great to hear, but did not really get me any further. Analyses were judged completely inappropriate, the conversion of variables, results, discussion, conclusions - each had their share of the criticism. In addition, the manuscript was way too long, confusing, had too many tables etc. Nobody in the group had ideas how to proceed other than submitting to another journal without doing anything and just hoping the referees in another journal would only have substance knowledge, no statistical requirements. I could not accept that since it was all so wrong.
I worked very hard as I sort of got my data back. I processed the raw data and finally came up with an approach&focus and research question to which these data could answer. I analysed them, plotted figures and drafted tables. Wrote materials and methods and results. Understood that this completely new study would need both new introduction and discussion sections, too. I wrote a complete manuscript. The one from the postdoc and mine have 1-2% in common based on plagiarism check.
Who is the lead author, and why - in the latter paper? In my opinion, the first manuscript can and should be revised and analysed in a correct way.
One reason that I have been given is that the postdoc deserves to be at least at a shared position because she was paid to write a paper based on these data and that she invested some time to analyze them. I do think thank hurry shows in her manuscript and definitely the fact that she did not know where the data were coming from. The journal I would like to submit the paper to wants to have a special author contribution section. What should I write: postdoc once analysed the data and failed badly? That is her share in mine.