I am a postdoc in the statistics department of a mid-to-low tier EU university.

I have been hired by PI and my salary comes from his grant.

Immediately after I got the job last year, I was asked to work on a project started a year ago by PI with a collaborator of him in a different university. As of that day, the write-up I was handed in contained just a suggestion on how to extend a certain standard technique to high dimensional set up. The PI, upon asking a question about the project, immediately said he didn't want me to ask him anything. I started working all by myself, and PI never actively engaged in any technical discussion (except saying 'ok', 'I see', 'really!', 'yah yah', he never contributed anything else when I presented any technical contribution of mine). Anyway, I finished the project in six months, and since then the PI 'took over', upon which all he and his collaborator did to a 30+ page write-up is adding punctuation mark and precisely two paragraphs of introduction.

Anyway, since I finished the project I was not given another project. I suggested 2-3 questions that I wanted to explore, he straightway said he had no knowledge. After six months of basically doing nothing I took up a problem with another senior Prof of the department. This project is based on senior Prof's earlier work, but it is getting extended in a direction that is a bit far-fetched for statistician. As a result, again I am making all the contribution, but the senior Prof is very much actively participating when I present my work, asking questions et cetera. Now, the PI of the previous project --- whose grant still funds me --- pressing me for co-authorship, although he has absolutely no idea/knowledge/ability to contribute in any other way to this project. It is a project of the senior Prof, and I personally requested him to include PI which he agreed to, although he expressed concern that PI guy would not contribute. Funny that the PI is now claiming that it is his joint project with the senior Prof.

My questions: a) is there a set minimum criteria on co-authorship? b) what is possibly meant by 'a joint project' when '50% stake-holder' of the 'joint project' have absolutely no idea about the project? c) is it standard for PIs in CS/Stat/ML to get free co-authorship in papers written by postdocs --- just by being the grant holder (and without contributing in any other way)?

1 Answer 1


a) is there a set minimum criteria on co-authorship?

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guideline is often referred to.

Ponomariov and Boardman (2016) in investigating the discourse on authorship ascription pointed out that often than not "authorship is a reward and that it is not per se caused by the intellectual contribution the author makes" and authorship might be "a reward for a contribution of capital of some sort"!

The ethics of Coauthorship will surely linger on. It is as subjective as it can be: right so, wrongly so. It is fluid across fields and from nation to nations!

The following might be of assistance

A SO worth checking on navigating the authorship debate - Is it ethical to deny someone co-authorship who had not had the chance to contribute to the text itself?

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