I am a US postdoc at a lab in Japan doing niche research in computational biology. I recently found out my advisor will not allow me to be first author on papers. He says the datasets (which were my primary reason for joining this lab) were funded by the Japanese Government (although the data collection was international) and so a foreigner cannot be first author (though I would be doing most of the work).
There is a half-Japanese/half-American professor who teaches a short course for foreigners about how to survive/excel at the university. He told me this is common and that most foreigner postdocs leave the university with zero first-author publications - because first-author credits are typically reserved for Japanese researchers. He said I will need to creatively navigate these issues while not stepping on toes.
I want to figure out a way to obtain first-author publications during my postdoc without stepping on anyone's toes.
Question: Is this typical for foreigners in Japanese Academia? How can I navigate it? I know it is difficult to switch labs in this niche field, but if I do not take action, I will finish my postdoc with 0 first-author publications.
Possible solution: I have connections with a scientist at a government lab in the US. I have a negative impression of him from our past interactions, but he does have datasets in this niche research area. I could ask if he would be willing for me to remotely analyze one of his datasets. Does this seem like a reasonable solution? Any caveats I should be aware of?