I am a newly graduated PhD who started my postdoctoral position a month ago. To help me adapt to the environment, my Principal Investigator (PI) asked me to write a brief paper for an invited submission to a journal in the first month. The data for this paper were not difficult to analyze, and the writing was straightforward. However, the submission deadline is urgent, requiring completion within one month.

Since I am a new employee and am not familiar with the data currently used by the group, my colleagues (two senior scientists who have been with the group for many years) selected the sample and shared the analytical data with me, with both of them being the second and third author. I conducted the analyses and endeavored to complete the paper within a month. I then sent it to my PI, who thought it was excellent, and subsequently, the paper went out for co-author review.

However, during the review stage, one co-author contacted me, noting that the results were not consistent with some of their preliminary work from a couple of years ago (which was not published). Upon re-examination, I realized that the coding of the outcome variable in the dataset shared by my colleague was incorrect. After obtaining the correct data and re-analyzing it, our results changed substantially, indicating that the entire paper needs to be rewritten and all analyses need to be redone. It was particularly challenging for me to identify the coding issue until this week because the raw data was only shared with me recently.

To my colleagues, this does not seem to be a significant issue. They commented, "The data file has undergone numerous edits, and sometimes things get mixed up along the way." However, as this is my first project with my new PI, I am particularly anxious not to make a poor impression.

My PI is currently away at a conference and is unaware of these issues. However, I have a meeting scheduled with him next Monday. How should I communicate this situation to him? I feel very stressed, and completing a new paper before the deadline, which is this week, seems daunting.

1 Answer 1


Actually, I suggest an "all hands" meeting in which to discuss things if that is at all possible. Get everyone in the same room.

And, as for the "how to", just lay out the issue as you see it and come to some joint decision about how to proceed.

Straight forward is the best way. Mistakes happen. Most can be recovered from if directly addressed.

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