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Two years back, was working as an research associate then have to leave the lab due to some family issues. My work was significant enough to be included in the manuscript and I was told that my experimental results will be a part of the manuscript and I will be coauthor in the paper.

Time has passed, the paper was rejected, revised and submitted. Now, the paper is again in communication, and I am being told, that as I am not in science anymore, my name is being dropped from the paper. I am trying to contact them but they are not responding. I am very much in science, but have taken a break. What should I do, if my name is removed from the paper?

  • 7
    I added a close flag because I don't think any of us can give generalizable advice in this particular case. My only suggestion would be that you contact the journal editor cc: the lead author and try to work this out. In the worst case, you would bring this up with the Office of Research Ethics at the lead author's institution. But both are drastic measures and apt to lead you to burn bridges. – RoboKaren Aug 10 '15 at 20:57
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    "not in science anymore" is no reason not to be included as an author. The only question to ask is whether you made a meaningful intellectual contribution. – long Aug 11 '15 at 1:36
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    @RoboKaren Indeed drastic measures, but for a young researcher's CV even a single publication can be very important (i.e. high payoff if it works). Also, one can argue that an collaborators that do not respond mails in important issues is an already burned bridge. – Greg Aug 11 '15 at 3:22
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    A bit less drastic than contacting the journal editor would be to contact the head of the department in which you were working. You could explain that you need to discuss authorship on the paper but are having trouble contacting the other authors. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 11 '15 at 16:00
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    I would go so far as to say there's no such thing as "being in science". If my postman suddenly solves P vs. NP tomorrow, nobody is going to care what his day job is. The value of the contribution counts. Science is not some club you're only allowed in if you work for a university. Your lack of an affiliation is an administrative glitch. You made a contribution, and if they publish without acknowledging it, that's a serious breach of ethics. – Peter Aug 11 '15 at 19:31
3

This smacks of gender discrimination. Women more often take a break from academic work and studies for family reasons than men.

It might be helpful to contact your university's Office of Equal Opportunity.

You might be able to file a complaint with your state's Division of Human Rights if appropriate in the specific case (which wouldn't cost you anything, by the way).

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    The colleagues' behaviour is scandalous, but the OP makes not the slightest hint in their post to indicate it's about gender. The whole argument would be equally valid if it was a man taking a break or paternity leave. Let's keep the issue focused on what it is: misappropriation of scientific credit. – Captain Emacs Feb 9 '16 at 14:12
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    @CaptainEmacs - to notice possible gender discrimination, one has to look a little more carefully. Those who perpetrate it rarely make a fanfare announcing "I am practicing gender discrimination!" Reassurance for Captain E: you may rest assured, formal complaints are investigated extremely carefully. – aparente001 Feb 11 '16 at 14:35
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    I am not saying it isn't. Having had a female friend being victim of gender discrimination, as well as mentored a student who had a history of being gender-discriminated against in the most blatant fashion (at a time when it was still fashionable for people to do that and shrug off any complaint), I have a deep revulsion against any form of discrimination, for whatever reason. However, I do believe that pulling in the accusation of gender (or other) discrimination without very strong evidence (not just a "smacking" of it) or using it as a tool does the (just) cause a disservice. – Captain Emacs Feb 11 '16 at 14:49
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    @CaptainEmacs - You and I aren't in a position to investigate or judge -- firstly, because we don't know the whole situation. But I can suggest the OP consider a possible course of action, if it is appropriate in the specific case. Often, the experience of discrimination, through its pervasiveness and subtlety, dulls the person's awareness of it. – aparente001 Feb 11 '16 at 14:53
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    It seems awfully sexist to assume the gender of a person without asking first (kidding). But I agree with @CaptainEmacs here. Claiming gender discrimination in every situation involving a female does nothing to bring about gender equality. Having said that, you could be right, aparente001. This very well could be a situation of gender discrimination, but I agree that your question needs editing. Or it might be more appropriate to ask the OP if this is possibly a factor, and if so, it could be included in the question. This would certainly be relevant information. – haff May 9 '16 at 16:51
-12

You should write up your own paper on the subject where you cite the paper in question but also mention in a footnote that they failed to properly acknowledge the source of some of their results. If the results are of sufficient interest, the paper will likely be accepted for publication. A paper with your results authored by you is what ultimately matters.

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    Any sane editor would not allow an author to make an accusation like this in a footnote to a paper. – ff524 Aug 11 '15 at 2:05
  • It depends, if the paper is of sufficient interest and the dispute it mentions is within that context relevant, then the paper may well be published. – Count Iblis Aug 11 '15 at 2:21
  • The paper you link to is not the same thing at all. The authors of that paper complain about another group ignoring their work, which is a far cry from an accusation of academic theft (which is what you are proposing). Can you find an instance of an author making an accusation of academic theft in a footnote of a paper? – ff524 Aug 11 '15 at 2:44
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    If it is indeed academic theft, there are much better forums to prove it than the editorial room. Also, exposing this argument to the public this way most probably hurts much more the weaker side, i.e. OP. – Greg Aug 11 '15 at 3:25
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    @Count Ibis: As a referee, I delayed publication of a paper for around a year until I got the authors to remove a sentence with a similar accusation (the year was the time it took for the authors to send in a manuscript without the accusation; they first tried to tone it down). Such accusations have no place in a scientific paper, especially if there is no proof available one way or the other. This is not a good idea. – Peter Shor May 9 '16 at 18:49
3

If you can't resolve this issue with the editor of the journal (or you don't know the journal), the PI isn't responding you could also go the university/agency/company/organization and discuss violation of an ethical code.

17

Authorship wars are common and they suck. I suggest you discuss your plans to reach out to the journal editor with the primary PI, maybe they can change their mind. I don't know what being in science or not has anything to do with your contribution being ignored but I would understand an argument that suggests a ton of work has been done since you left to bring the paper to publication.

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