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In my chemistry undergraduate I did a project with my supervisor, I worked on it for around 8 months. Around a year later they published a paper on this same topic, after my project was handed in they asked for more details about certain elements that weren't clear in my final draft and I helped the best I could.

To be clear, none of my data was published in the paper and the research that was published was leaps and bounds more advanced anything I did. But I feel so they perhaps used my research to rule out certain things that didn't work or need repeating. Do you think my name should be mentioned anywhere in the paper as just an acknowledgement?

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What deserves acknowledgment and what does not is vague. It completely depends on the author(s). In my view, what you did definitely deserves at least acknowledgment. Maybe they decided that because they did not use your data, then there is no reason to mention you. Maybe they did not really care about you and what you think, given that this was some time ago.

  • 1
    Yes, and maybe just a stupid oversight. – Buffy Feb 2 at 13:30
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Yes, I do think that you likely deserve to be acknowledged. But that won't help you if you weren't. I think it would be a mistake to raise the issue with the professor since the past is past and it might compromise your relationship going forward.

But, take pride in the work you did and know that others would have done differently, provided that they thought of it. It may have been an inadvertent oversight, of course. I would think that it would be a forehead-slapping-moment if the prof was reminded that s/he should have provided an acknowledgement.

However, for future work, mention early on that you would like to be acknowledged in any work you contribute to as it will help you in the long run if you decide to pursue graduate work or an academic career.

Note that I'm assuming that the paper has been published already and is not just in the final stages. In case it is not completely finalized, you could ask the prof if s/he thinks you could get an ack for the same reasons mentioned above.

  • Thanks for the comment and I'll take it all on board. I just know that I want to do a PhD and it could be an important part of my application and not really for bragging rights! – J.Bloggs Feb 2 at 13:34
  • Make sure the prof understands your goals as well as your need for any support s/he can give. – Buffy Feb 2 at 13:39
  • For the PhD, what the prof says in a letter of recommendation will be much more important that the formal paper acknowledgement – Dawn Feb 2 at 15:12
  • @Dawn, yes, agreed. But being mentioned in a paper is a life-long indicator. – Buffy Feb 2 at 15:44
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Probably you should have been. Of course we don't have the details, but your account rings true.

Realistically, an acknowledgment is not worth fighting for (too small beans). A co-authorship starts to matter. Of course it is something to keep in mind in any future collaborations with this research group. Just make sure you are upfront and follow instructions below, when dealing with these people in the future (since you know you had a slight previously).

One lesson to take forward is to try to be on top of these issues upfront and ahead of time. Have seen a lot of questions here (and situations in real life) where contributors got snubbed, etc. It may be a little abrupt but I think it is better to be upfront ahead of time:

  1. Try to be the first author. The one driving the bus, primary part of any collaboration. It is a lot easier to shape things when this is the situation. And then you can show how you are fastidious about taking care of contributors as co-authors, acknowledgments, citations to previous work (to include dissertations, unpublished manuscripts, etc.)

  2. Write things up (to include projects you have to put on the shelf, that aren't perfect, etc.). It can be very frustrating to have something part way done and then others invariably move things forward. Rarely is it the case that interim publications get you scooped--you have a time and effort advantage over the rest of the field. Also it is more efficient for science. If you end up getting a job at Goldman or the like, people can build on your work, likely produced at taxpayer expense.

  3. When working with collaborators, ask "Are we going to get a publication out of this?" "Will I be a co-author?" "Depends on how it comes out" is an incorrect answer. You want to work with people who have a plan. This is particularly important if you will be the secondary author. You have limited time and effort...you need to decide who you work with and that your time is not wasted. The same applies in reverse if you are co-author...you should take care of contributors and make sure they know you will do so.

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