I am working in an experimental-physics group. They are going to publish a paper soon. So far, I see five authors on first draft (PhD student, postdoc, collaborator, collaborator, PI).

I am not sure whether I should ask my PI to consider putting my name on the paper or not. I was working on the project for only a month and then the PI gave me another project right after I finished it. I was not involved in any analysis of the paper, but I was working on finding a good parameter for the experiment.

Initially, when I was working on the project, I thought I would be one the authors, however, one year and half later, the first and second author of this project did too much work, so it seems like that I did nothing on this experiment compared to them.

Is it worth it to ask my PI to consider me in the paper?

  • I was working on finding a good parameter for the experiment. – Did this succeed? Is the result of your work used in the paper?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:35
  • Yes, they used my optimized value to generate the initial setup
    – bagmk
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:44
  • The only way to ask for such a thing is informally. Or you can chock it up to a learning exercise to mention it first whenever anyone asks for your help.
    – Marxos
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:38

2 Answers 2


Whether or not you should be an author on the paper is not about whether you did something, but whether you contributed intellectually. For example, a lab technician who washed the petri dishes and while everyone was working on the experiment in the background turned the dial of the radio to the station that everyone wanted to listened to (i.e., determined one parameter that was crucial to the experiment), did contribute to the experiment. But it was not an intellectual contribution, and so authorship is probably not warranted.

Without more details in your question, it is hard to tell whether you should or should not be an author on the paper. But, this is worth a conversation with your adviser. It's likely going to be a slightly awkward conversation, but it is one in which you can talk about the norms in your field, what qualifies as an "intellectual contribution" and why or why not everyone on the paper should or should not be an author.

  • I suggest adding an example for the other case, e.g., that determining an important parameter for the LHC may be worth its own paper.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 26, 2016 at 7:54
  • Yes, that is correct as well. Nov 26, 2016 at 14:56

Don't ask. If they think, your name will be mentioned in acknowledgement section. They must have thought about it. But, your work might not be substantial to incorporate you as an author.

Unnecessarily, if you ask, your own image in view of your professor would go slightly down.

However, you may politely ask about progress of that work like: sir, how is that work-x is going?

  • 7
    how do you know all of this? How do you know whether the authors have thought about including/excluding bagmk from the author list? How do you know what the professor would think of the request? How do you know that the tangential question at the end would be understood by anyone who doesn't know the context? Your answer is without any factual basis in the question. Nov 25, 2016 at 23:30

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