I helped another graduate student with her work. We were testing how long certain drugs lasted in mouse organs. We dosed three drugs and sent them to some collaborators for analysis.

Time passes. My PI and I have a falling out, and I leave to finish my PhD in another lab. Before I leave I have to fight to prove I deserved at least a co-authorship on the drug paper (I did a ton of work for it, the lab manager did nothing and was automatically put on). Get the authorship and am relieved, but cannot figure out why the paper only includes two drugs when we tested three, all at the same time. Oh well, I’m moving on with life and way happier in my new lab.

Cut to two years later. My old lab is publishing the third drug! And guess whose name is the only one missing from the authors list. I met with the university’s research-integrity officer, and she tells me there’s nothing anyone can do. The university considers it a publisher issue, and the publisher considers it a university issue.

What would you do?

  • 2
    My sympathies to you!
    – Rama
    Aug 16, 2016 at 8:04
  • Presumably you first talked to the authors of the second paper. What did they say?
    – Kimball
    Aug 16, 2016 at 8:27
  • This sucks :( I'd talk to an attorney about sending a nasty letter with empty threats to the university, the publisher, and the lab. That may scare someone enough to get your name on the paper. But it might cause you more damage than it's worth.
    – user60356
    Aug 16, 2016 at 14:10
  • Did the research-integrity officer tell you why there's nothing anyone can do? Is there no documentation that you played a role in this third drug?
    – Jeff
    Aug 16, 2016 at 17:59
  • 1
    This is not an uncommon occurrence for my former PI. I helped a TON with a couple review papers (had to, or else I would be fired). Made figures, compiled massive tables of relevant research, and even wrote an entire section. When it came time to turn it in he said "I'm not putting you as an author, because that would look like you did most of the writing, but I'll put you in the acknowledgements." I was devastated, but what can you do when your boss literally says you can do what he wants or quit and lose years of your life. Moral of the story: don't work for a jerk, even if he has money.
    – J LeC
    Aug 17, 2016 at 4:32

1 Answer 1


You probably inclined to think that "there’s nothing anyone can do" is equivalent to "I do not want to do anything". I want to provide an alternative way of thinking. Think about it as "There’s nothing anyone can do constructively, i.e. to your benefit". One can do many things here, but will they be useful to you in some way? Punishing someone gives only a temporary satisfaction. A possible course of action along this line would be that an erratum is written to this article stating:

We acknowledge J LecC for insightful comments to this paper.

But does it bring anything? Your publication list nor your h-index will not grow because of this... Therefore, cynically speaking, just be happy in your new lab.

  • It sounds like they still have time to add him as an author on the paper before publication.
    – user60356
    Aug 16, 2016 at 14:22

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