I was in a manuscript which was not accepted in the first journal. They resubmitted it to an other journal and left me out without telling me a word. They reproduced my data with the protocol I gave them (what I developed actually) and now they are telling that my data were not used and I was not contributed enough to be a coauthor. They told it after I saw that the paper was published without me… The previous boss (who is in the manuscript but not working any more) promised me a few years ago that I will be a coauthor. What shall I do?
There are two avenues. The first is to complain to the journal's editors that you were improperly excluded. This might help or not.
The second is to complain to the administration (department or dean level) that academic misconduct has occurred in leaving you out. This might help or not.
But either of the above will make the problem more public, which will raise hackles among some, possibly helpful (or not). Be prepared for some blowback.
Also, enlist the help of the "previous boss" even if they aren't working anymore. In some situations such people will be listened to. I probably have some influence with my former employer even ten years after retirement, for example.
Your name here sounds female. I certainly hope this isn't another case of all too frequent sexism and the negation of the contributions of women.
As someone who has been through this situation myself, the way you respond will depend on how many bridges you are willing to burn.
If the author's university has a Research Integrity office (or similar), the best way of having it resolved is to contact them with a complete description of your claim, including any evidence or communications you have had with the authors. Most institutions will carry out an investigation (or at least, a preliminary investigation) for research misconduct and advise you of their findings. This process may take a long time.
However, this approach will almost certainly have the effect of ending any working relationships you have with the authorship team, so going down this pathway is one you should consider thoroughly.
The editor of the first journal that rejected could help: Fortunately for you if you wish to escalate, there is a clear paper trail here of your contribution that can be confirmed by the editor of the first journal. Having the editor of a similar journal in the same field confirming your allegations should go a long way into pressing the editors of the second journal to investigate and resolve the situation.
In practice, if I wished to escalate this, I would
- Write to the editor of the first journal to ask if they would be willing to confirm your authorship in the submission they handled; and if they would agree that you forward your correspondence with them on this matter to the editors.
- Once you have this, forward your email correspondence with the editor of the first journal to the editors of the second journal, with the senior authors of manuscript and the editor of the first journal in the CC field:
- Pointing our that my research contribution on the protocol used in the published version of the manuscript;
- Asking whether my name was had been somehow mistakenly forgotten from the author list of the published version, and how that could be fixed.
The paper trail is on your side here. As others haved said, you should be prepared that escalating this will annoy and possibly burn bridges with your senior coauthors: They will be caught red-handed by the editors of the two journals for misconduct. The idea of the phrasing of the second bullet is to give some space for your coauthors to save face by working towards adding your "forgotten" name to the published version.
The fact that they reproduced your data is irrelevant.
Please contact research integrity officers, or the equivalent, at the institutions where the authors in question work. Present your documented evidence.
If the work was funded by some funding agency contact them too. They care about good scientific practice.
Writing to the journal editor can also be useful. This adds publicity to the case and helps to make it known in your research community.
I would avoid any direct contact with the authors, dean, head of a department, etc (in this point I disagree with Buffy's answer). This will put you in the begging position with a frustrating outcome.
You said "I do not want any bad for them, no retraction, etc. I just want to be in the paper somewhere in the middle." Not very likely to happen, but do you really want to be surrounded by people who steal your results? A much more realistic goal would be to exert some pressure on them so that this does not repeat in the future.