Dear Academia Community,
I am a young PhD candidate biostatistician and the lead data analyzer for a particular medical group's project. For context, the project is led by two medical students, who are under the guidance of MD physician professors. The two students came to me directly to statistically analyze all of their data. Happy to help, I eagerly dove straight in and churned out all of the data analysis, key figures, and graphs for these students. Normally, this project would take at least a month of analyses and work, but I was excited to help them finish in only 2 weeks because of their time request. Throughout their project, I helped consult with them on data interpretation as well.
After giving all my data analysis and interpretation, the two medical students never consulted for my help again and felt no need for me to contribute to the writing of the paper, even though I explicitly said that I want to help write the statistics portion of their paper. There was a period of silence after the last email, in which the two students said they were busy with their clinical work, and said they will reach back to me soon. As the naive trustworthy lad I am, I waited for them patiently. Later down the beeline, they get back to me to tell me their research paper was published. I was very shocked by this sudden announcement. They never even told me about this. Going into the paper, I find that 100% of their data graphs and figures were made by me. I am simply acknowledged in the Acknowledgments section, and I am very disappointed that I was not even added as an Author. I understand that 1st and 2nd author would be unreasonable, but still feel that my contributions should at least be rewarded with some authorship. I feel very misled by these two medical students, as they didn't even communicate with me that they were already writing the research paper. I am feeling a mix of emotions right now - mostly, frustration and sadness that all this work went into nothing. I also feel disrespected as a statistician - statistics consultation and data analysis are not easy - these students and many whom I've worked with believe that these data/figures/charts can be churned out quickly, with just a plug and chug after writing some 'code' or analyzing data. Little do they know, there is a lot of work going behind the scenes with creating the code, data management and cleaning, and analytics.
I would like to ask for your guys' advice. I know that I was not able to contribute to the writing of the paper because of the nature of the situation, but I still feel that my many data analysis contributions (and ALL OF THEIR GRAPHS/FIGURES) should at least be acknowledged with authorship, rather than an acknowledgment. How should I approach this situation? Also, in the future, how should I go about asking that I be included for "authorship" before accepting a project? I've become very jaded from this experience. I thank you for your time everyone.
New Update: Thank you everyone, for your answers, advice, and feedback. I decided to contact my supervisor and the med students' physician supervisor for a group meeting. We're still in the midst of the talks of possibly retracting the paper to include my name and resubmit. It also turns out that the physician supervisor did not know the extent of my work when the med students submitted the paper. Only that they "acknolwedged SW's contributions of statistical analysis." Apparently, the students had only told him that someone was helping the statistics and that was all; perhaps, the supervising professor was just very busy and did not think of this very much (of the absence of my authorship) before submission. During prior interactions with the 2 students, I also realize how stupid of me to just take the 2 students' verbal word that the physician knew about my contributions - they also never copied in the supervisor's name during our email exchanges. Nevertheless, I would like to remain positive that they were not doing this out of any malice, but rather the students do not know very much of the etiquette and norms of academic research. This was also their first research project, and the group has apologized to me.
Anyhow, the possibility of my authorship is still up in the air in terms of talking to the journal, etc. But I have certainly learned several lessons, including discussing authorship before I contribute anything. I would like to thank everyone again for their thoughts, advice, and words of comfort as well.