I performed a small set of experiments for a few published papers. The authors of these papers decided that my work was not significant enough to warrant my name on the papers. I am not mentioned in the acknowledgement section either, so my name isn't anywhere on the papers. (I left the group due to a lack of funding before they published the papers.)

I'm currently updating my CV and I'm wondering what category I should include these papers under. It should probably be separate from the "Publications" section where I am authors of those papers.

The field is in Biology and Biochemistry. Everything is done in the U.S., in a nationally-recognized lab.

Update: Thanks for all the answers and discussion. I am planning to just describe the experiments I did under "Work Experience" and add an author of the papers as a reference, in case there is a need for verification.

  • 1
    Did they at least acknowledge your work? Oct 25, 2015 at 21:42
  • 17
    Hmm... questionable ethics on their part. Anyway, my opinion is that you can't really put these papers in your CV. What you can do is probably to list your participation to that project in a list of past research activities. How much these "undocumented" participations count in an application strongly depends on the country and on the application committee (in my country they count next to nothing). Oct 25, 2015 at 21:56
  • 14
    @DanRomik There are plenty of time where acknowledgments are optional, such as the vague "helpful conversations" one often sees mentioned. However, this doesn't extend to reporting the results of experiments someone else carried out without giving any credit. That sounds clearly unethical to me, on the same level as plagiarism (say, copying part of a progress report by a student without mentioning the student). The contribution might legitimately be too small to deserve authorship, but any experiments worth mentioning in the paper deserve some credit, at least a mention in the acknowledgments. Oct 26, 2015 at 2:19
  • 3
    (Of course if these experiments never made it into the final paper and didn't play any significant role in shaping the paper behind the scenes, then omitting the acknowledgment would be unkind but ethical.) Oct 26, 2015 at 2:20
  • 2
    About the (non)ethics of failing to acknowledge someone who deserves to be acknowledged: Such a failure is rude, but whether it's unethical depends, in my opinion, on the status of the "victim". If I'm the victim, then I haven't really lost anything of value, so, though I might feel badly treated, I wouldn't claim it's unethical. But if the victim is a student or postdoc, with few or no publications yet, then an acknowledgement is of some value, and denying them a deserved acknowledgement is, in my opinion, unethical. Oct 26, 2015 at 10:25

3 Answers 3


I don't think there's any good way to include these papers on your CV.

It's not conventional to list anyone else's papers on your CV, so by default everyone will assume you are one of the authors of each paper you list. If you aren't exceptionally clear, so clear that nobody could possibly misunderstand even if they are just skimming and not reading carefully, then you could easily upset people and give the impression that you are misleadingly inflating your publication record.

I think you could probably write it clearly enough (e.g., a section called "Papers in which I am acknowledged but not an author" or something equally explicit, in a substantially different location in the CV from your own papers). However, drawing too much attention to this unconventional choice would itself be a problem. You want the most attention-getting part of your CV to be your own accomplishments. If readers get distracted by something strange, then it will work against the primary purpose of the CV.

These papers would count for almost nothing on your CV anyway, so I see no purpose to including them. In fact, including something like this could look bad, by suggested a desperation to list as much as possible, regardless of how meaningful or important it was. The one case I can think of in which it might be a good idea is a student applying to grad school, with no publications yet but with acknowledgments in a paper or two. Then highlighting these contributions would at least be better than saying nothing. (But it's not worth it if you are an author on other papers.)

As I was finishing this answer, I noticed the comment that no mention is made of this contribution in the acknowledgments. In this case, the CV is absolutely the wrong place to deal with this issue, since it doesn't give an opportunity to clarify. Intentionally omitting someone who carried out experiments from the acknowledgments is unethical, and doing is accidentally is a serious oversight, but your CV is not a good place to accuse someone of poor ethics or sloppiness. (Without an explanation, nobody would have any idea what to make of this section of your CV.)

  • 1
    Thanks for your insight. "Intentionally omitting someone who carried out experiments from the acknowledgments is unethical, and doing is accidentally is a serious oversight". These are papers from 2012-2014. What can I do about them now, if anything?
    – Melissa
    Oct 25, 2015 at 22:19
  • @Melissa I am not aware of any formal guidelines that suggest who should be listed in the acknolwedgements. Many funders make it a condition of the funding, and you could have discussed this prior to doing the work/pubication, but to label it unethical seems harsh.
    – StrongBad
    Oct 25, 2015 at 23:38
  • 3
    @Melissa sorry to sound dismissive of your concerns, but I think it'd be a waste of your time to try to do anything about this. Getting credit in the acknowledgements of a paper is not really worth anything except your own good feeling of being thanked for helping out. At most, it is like gaining a few reputation points on StackExchange. My advice is to be grateful for the experience you gained working on those experiments, and focus your energies on future projects where you can use that experience in productive ways.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 26, 2015 at 1:22
  • 3
    @Melissa That would make a good question. If you want some more advice about what to do, can you please make another thread so we can discuss this sepearate issue there?
    – Kevin
    Oct 26, 2015 at 4:43
  • It reads rather strangely to have a whole paragraph suggesting that you could have a "Papers I'm acknowledged in" section, and then another paragraph saying that, actually, that'd be a pretty bad idea. Oct 26, 2015 at 8:02

Crediting yourself for a published work for which your name appears nowhere creates a verifiability problem: how can the interested reader of your CV confirm that you did what you wrote you did? I also think that putting this work on your CV could create an awkward dissonance between your claim that the work that you did was significant and the lack of external acknowledgement of it.

I would suggest leaving this material off of your CV entirely -- except of course to mention the lab you worked in -- and then get a letter of recommendation from your lab supervisor. If this letter talks about your contributions to the lab, it will be much more convincing than if you mention it yourself. If you cannot persuade the appropriate party to acknowledge your work in a letter then you have a problem, for which the only easy solution is to drop the matter and not try to get "credit" in this way.

When you stop working on an academic project but still want to get credit for it, you should have a discussion there and then. For people who have continued to work on a project for months or years after you have dropped out of it, it is psychologically natural for them to regard you as "no longer interested". This does not mean that it is the right thing to do for them to forget about all your past contributions, but there is a risk of that happening unless you work to counteract it.

You should also understand it from their perspective: there is a world of difference between contributing something to a project and seeing a project through to its successful completion. To do a little bit of work on something, leave without showing any interest in the project's completion, and then insist on being credited with what you did no matter how much long, hard work the others have done in the meantime: that's not being a great team player. Even if you leave a lab and move away halfway across the world, it would be more professional to continue to signal interest in the successful completion of the project, including volunteering to contribute to routine writing and editing tasks. Doing this will probably result in much warmer endorsements from your former supervisors.


Another point of view: I'm a tripartite faculty and part of my duties involve consulting in statistics (I also do a small amount of chemistry research, but I'm primarily a statistician). I help with about 100 projects a year, sometimes as little as a half hour for help with a statistical analysis to very substantial work with researchers. In the latter case, I often get co-authorship, but not for the vast majority of these projects (I don't think I could ethically claim authorship when my contribution is relatively small). Where does this all go? Under consulting. It devolves from my research expertise and is part of my job. It would be silly to say that I can't put consulting on my CV because my contribution didn't rise to coauthorship.

How would it be verified? The same as any technical or consulting work... it they want, they can talk to the people I assisted, or else talk with the people who paid me.

  • This is "I have the same problem" comment, not an answer.
    – Nobody
    Oct 27, 2015 at 3:04
  • 4
    To repeat myself: I put this in my CV under Consulting. Which can go either under teaching or research, your pick. I DON'T have the same problem, because for me, it isn't a problem.
    – user11599
    Oct 27, 2015 at 3:17
  • Okay. I mis-read your answer. My bad. But, very substantial work with researchers.aside, how would people verify "100 projects a year, sometimes as little as a half hour for help"?
    – Nobody
    Oct 27, 2015 at 3:33
  • 1
    @scaaahu, naive question: is there a principle that anything one lists on one's CV must be 100% verifiable? I'm not expressing an opinion by asking this, but I have a feeling even very respectable people put all sorts of things on their CVs that would be very difficult to verify, to say the least.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 27, 2015 at 5:02
  • 2
    @scaaahu the point is there is a big difference between false, and true but unverifiable. I don't see what negative consequence could come from claiming something that was true but unverifiable. At worst, the claim would be discounted or ignored, but I think I would feel comfortable making such a claim, certainly from an ethical point of view.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 27, 2015 at 5:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .