I am an undergraduate research assistant in a physics lab.

At the start of my research term, my supervisor suggested a project to me. The project is to design, test and implement a piece of apparatus in our experimental setup. With the new component I have built, we will be able to take very precise measurements that were not possible with the old setup. The component I am building will effectively open up some new areas of research for the group.

Note that the apparatus I am building isn't new in our field; others have implemented it previously so I can't publish a paper on what I designed and built. I will have to leave the group soon because I attend another institution, my research term is up and I must physically move back to my home institution after that. I will not be able to collect any data or help write any paper in the future.

However, since taking this data would not be possible without my component, do I have any claim in co-authorship for (at least one) future paper? Or is an acknowledgement more appropriate for this scenario? I have no idea as to what level of contribution merits co-authorship on a paper. I think this is a good learning experience.

If I do have some claim, should I approach my supervisor about this?

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    To the user who raised the close flag: I don't understand the reason this question needs to be closed. It's an undergraduate research related question which is allowed on this site. It's not a shopping question. It's general enough to be a legit question. It's about Academia. I don't know any duplicate exists. If you would like to see it closed, please specify the reason. Thanks. – scaaahu Jan 2 '16 at 5:19

In my opinion, it does not deserve authorship credit. Some university have specific requirements about authorship. For example, one university where I was previously studying had this requirement: an author should at least have done two of the following three things : (1) participate in finding the main idea of the paper, (2) participate in designing and carrying the experiments, and (3) participate in writting the paper. According to what you said, you would only qualify for (2), and it would be indirectly, since you just implemented something that was already published. Thus, in my opinion, they could put your name in the "acknowledgements" section instead of as a co-author but if they don't it may also be ok depending on the context. Moreover, if you got paid to do what you did, then perhaps that they don't even need to put your name at all.

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  • Your previous university’s authorship requirements are somewhat in contrast to most journal’s requirements, according to which everybody meeting criterion 1 or 2 must be offered authorship. – Wrzlprmft Jul 18 '15 at 6:42

Authorship guidelines usually require all authors to approve of the final version of the manuscript, so you cannot become an author until that point has been reached. If you have created a substantially novel design, you have a good chance of reaching that point. If your design is mostly like those previously implemented, then your chances are not so good. Your question does not provide that level of detail.

It is very important to consider your supervisor's viewpoint. Assuming your supervisor is a university professor, including an undergraduate researcher as a coauthor will likely make that professor look good because including undergraduates in research is part of a faculty member's responsibilities. Adding a coauthor costs the supervisor nothing, so long as the supervisor adheres to ethical guidelines. I recommend asking your supervisor what you need to do to meet the requirements for coauthorship.

Confining your work to a fixed research term is not a realistic way to publish papers, though it may work sometimes. It is unclear why you "have to leave."

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    Authorship guidelines usually require all authors to approve of the final version of the manuscript, so you cannot become an author until that point has been reached. – I am not sure how this is intended, but it sounds a bit like that approving the final manuscript is something you have to do to become an author (and it’s okay to make you not an author, if you do not do this), while actually it’s the other way round: If you intelectually contributed to the research, you must be offered authorship, and if you are an author, you have to approve the manuscript. – Wrzlprmft Jul 18 '15 at 6:42

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