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Say, A and B are two PhD students working on the same project, and C is their supervisor. D and E are two students working on a similar project to A and B's, and F is D and E's supervisor. The other day C and F met and decided to collaborate. And now the project is about to end, so it's time to write a paper. A, B, D, and E all insist they should be the first author, and no one wants to be the fourth place. In this situation, how should the supervisors decide who's first? And imagine this scenario: B writes the paper without letting anyone know, and then they show this paper to the two groups and ask for the other three people's data. Then does this automatically make B the first author?

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    You give no basis for a way to make a decision other than to have a big and unsatisfying fight. Work with people less ego driven, I guess. No, B is automatically a leech, or trying to be. Some fields just list people alphabetically, which always put me near the front, of course. – Buffy Jan 30 at 11:48
  • This has nothing to do with 'ego driven'. – OhLook Jan 30 at 11:55
  • Certainly it does. Make C the lead author since s/he has a bit of scientific humility. – Buffy Jan 30 at 12:05
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    Sounds like there weren't enough discussions about the form of the collaboration before the project started... Some things to consider: Who did the most work, or the most important part of the work? Is this a field where joint first-authorship is recognized? – Anyon Jan 30 at 12:08
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    @Buffy It is what it is. I certainly agree that these fights aren't good for anyone, and that contribution sections are a good thing. Yet I do think that "most work" measures are more realistic than you give them credit for. They're not perfect, of course, but in the vast majority of papers I've been involved with, we've had a clear consensus about it. It gets murkier for say second and third authorships, but fights for those are much rarer. As for "initiator", in many fields that'd be understood as the PI, who by convention is often last author... Perhaps "driving force" could work. – Anyon Jan 30 at 13:29

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