I am collaborating on project where I originally agreed to be 3rd author, because I did not care about it all that much. My interests have changed a bit and I kind of want to lean on it a bit more as part of my personal narrative. Further, my effort level for the project has increased due to scope creep. The person who is currently in 2nd is no longer around and I have had to help troubleshoot some initial assumptions on the experimental system. So I can make a strong case for the switch.

I am debating how much of a fuss should I make of this... My CV is short since I am just getting started. I am definitely secondary to the 1st author, but I am wondering how much people care about 2nd vs 3rd. When people have an extensive track record this is sort of moot, but just starting out I am wondering if this could be a difference maker.

Should I bring this up? I do not think I would get much push back but you never know. I am still undecided on career path, looking to do something more non-traditional as opposed to pure academic or industry person. I am in the engineering/life sciences field.

  • Are you still a student? Postdoc? Permanent position?
    – Buffy
    Sep 15, 2022 at 14:46
  • academia.stackexchange.com/questions/147264/… related
    – Sursula
    Sep 16, 2022 at 7:01
  • @Sursula-they- My gripe is I believe I have done more than the current 2nd author but thanks for the link. Sep 16, 2022 at 13:38
  • @Buffy I am a last year grad student. I am going to be applying for fellowships and what not and I was wondering if slight tweaks would strengthen my app at this stage. Sep 16, 2022 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


I certainly hope that people don't take detailed measure of these things and use them in any decision making. I'm, sadly, possibly wrong, I realize. But people are (and should be) more interested in the scholarship in the paper, science or whatever, than in author position. Any authorship position indicates engagement with and contribution to ideas, which, we hope, are important.

And, what happens in one paper shouldn't be determinative of a career in any case.

But, I recommend against author-position fights with colleagues. Over your career you will benefit a lot from friendly collaborative relationships. I hope more than from author position. There are a number of questions on this site that indicate ruined relationships over author position and perceived slights. Try not to get into such situations.

If possible, a paragraph or two about author contributions might be appropriate in or near the paper's introduction.

  • I hear what you are saying... but how do people on hiring and application review panels view this issue. Maybe for some it matters.... hence the question. Most people do not have time to dissect a contributions statement and are just going to look at order of authors IMHO. Sep 16, 2022 at 13:37

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