The background is that my wife and I are in the same lab.

Recently our group did a paper together, and I am an author. However, my wife had contributed to draw a figure to a publication level. Although I am not sure if this contribution is enough to be included as an author, she is not even acknowledged, which I think is not fair.

My wife is not brave enough to speak up and also I have a better relationship with the group leader. Should I speak up for her, by saying something like "she contributed to draw a figure, and should at least be acknowledged"? What will be the best approach and wording? In person or message/email?

I am asking this question as I am not sure if this type of thing is appropriate. For example, I may not really know someone else that draw some figures but not being acknowledged. I happen to know just because she is my wife.

Update: I just talked. It turns out my group leader just forgot to acknowledge her.

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    I removed a few attempts at answering in comments which essentially said the same thing of the accepted answer. Given that the issue is now resolved, please refrain from posting other answers in comments. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 6 '20 at 20:21

I think you should talk to the group leader about the appropriateness of an acknowledgment for the drawing (not coauthorship).

This is the right course of action for any contributor. The fact that she's your wife is not relevant, and should not be a part of this professional conversation.

How to approach the group leader depends on how you usually interact. I think a short conversation is probably appropriate. You could follow up with an email for the record if that seems appropriate.

Of course the group leader probably knows about your relationship, but that should not affect the decision.

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    You could also consider making it explicitly clear that these is a "sticking up for a colleague" thing, not a "sticking up for your wife" thing, and that you'd do the same for anyone in your group whose contributions had been overlooked. – nick012000 Nov 5 '20 at 13:14
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    Phrasing worth considering for @nick012000's idea is "we should acknowledge Julia for the drawing" rather than "we should acknowledge my wife for the drawing" as that subtle difference plays down the fact that you could be biased by her being your wife (not that you must be, but that's ammo that could be used against your position). – Dave Nov 5 '20 at 14:11
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    The fact that she’s OP’s wife isn’t relevant to the abstract question “do her contributions merit acknowledgement?”, but is relevant to the professional discussion of this issue, since it gives OP a conflict of interest. As with any conflict of interest, OP needs to acknowledge it at least to themself, and bear it in mind so it doesn’t affect their judgement, and (possibly) should acknowledge it explicitly in the conversation as well. – PLL Nov 5 '20 at 17:19
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    If you want to take a further step back, you can acknowledge the conflict of interest up front, and simply raise the issue as worthy of consideration. "I recognize that I have bias in this thing, and thus that it shouldn't be my judgement, but Julia did this thing with that figure for us, and I would like you to consider whether that would merit an acknowledgement." – Ben Barden Nov 5 '20 at 22:10

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