Thursday, February 12, 2009

Authorship woes...

I have thrown down some seriously hot science today, and one of my undergrad minions freaked out about my tattoos and how I don't seem like a nerd since I have several large tatts, a nose ring and listen to social distortion, theory of a deadman, guns and roses and all that other rock stuff-- talk about your atypical science nerd... The pneumonia is gone and I have gone-balls-to-the-wall on writing these manuscripts (two or three-haven't decided yet). Finished as it is in my PI's hands.

Which brings me to my current rant. Authorship woes. I previously (in grad reasearch lab)have gone through the frustration of doing all the research, writing the manuscript, making the figures yadda-yadda-yadda only to be put as second author on the paper. Wha-what? You might say? Well my graduate advisor was under the impression that his name should be first author, followed by mine. Not only was it a point of contention with me, but I also got nailed to the wall a bit in a recent fellowship proposal for not having any first author papers.

So, arriving in new post-doc lab I learned that my new, highly established highly respective PI actually allows his lowly minions to *gasp* be first authors! I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. Ecstatic!

Until I realized the little game of "politics" between us and the "collaborators" in the land far away. Let's give a little background, shall we? Coming into new post-doc lab, I was put on a project that no one in our lab was working on. Its mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Let's just say that the project is determining how apples grow (for the sake of anonymity). We (the PI and I, so really I) were working with another post-doc in another lab (in our department) who would take pictures of the apples. I would be responsible for figuring out how the apples grew, what affected the growth, and so on. The post-doc trained me in apple-growing techniques (since when I started in the new lab I didn't know my apples from a hole-in-the-wall) and gently prodded me in gaining a "voice" in the lab.

I am sorely indebted to said post-doc, who ironically accepted a faculty position at the university I did my graduate work at (isn't it ironic- dontcha think?). He took the apple picture project with him (since we needed someone who could take apple pictures) and he and I have been working closely on discussion and data-interpretation.

So, post-doc turned faculty member is awesome. Freakin awesome. But there is another darker side to the story. When I came into the lab, the apple project was funded by my PI's large NIH grant which needed to be written for renewal. This grant also names two other co-PI's (both in land far away). One is a friend, one is a former post-doc.

They have done much work on the other parts of teh apple project, but the post-doc/faculty member's ground-breaking apple pictures (which was published last summer in a one-word journal) have and will really drive the project forward for this next grant period. From these apple pictures, my part of the project really took off/will take off/is taking off.

Last summer, collaborator's from land-far away came to visit myself, my PI, and post-doc/faculty member to discuss the plans for the next grant period, who will do what, and essentially outline the next grant proposal (again, my PI is the "named" PI, the others-including new faculty member former post-doc were named as a co PI). I get to do everything that I wanted to do in the next grant period and even was able to proposed a new way to look at apples, something my PI has never done before.

I am not going to lie, the new faculty member and I wrote/rewrote the grant, formatted the "outlines" from everyone else, put things together...OK, so we did everything for this grant (and I AM NOT complaining- it was a great experience, it was funded, and I am now guaranteed a job for a little bit).

So, let's fast forward a bit. It was agreed upon that I would be responsible for looking at different colored apples and figure out how they grew. The collaborators in land far way would look at how the leaves grew on the apple trees (something related, but not overlapping). I have been working on it non-stop and have enough data for two or three papers. I have spent hours growing and harvesting the apples, purifying them, figuring out the crazy intricacies, coming up with new experiments, etc. My PI is happy, the new faculty member is happy, I am thrilled. The data looks awesome and the story is HOT!

Now, here comes the problem. Our "collaborator's" sent us an apple seed a long time ago. Put it in an envelope, stamped it, and sent it over seas (and in all honesty, this is exactly what they did). we have been propagating that seed, changing it, growing more seeds, etc. The original seed has long been trashed. The new data that I have generated has been sent to them, not for approval but to say "Hey, this is cool- since we are all working on different parts of the same project- take a look." Collaborator's from the land far-away generally look at the data, make a few comments, and then remind me that I should be referencing papers A, B, and C (funny, they are authors on papers A, B, and C) . Generally they don't contribute much to the conversation.

So, here is the kicker. A month ago, PI asked me who I wanted on the paper. We both agreed at the time that collaborator's from overseas could be left off the paper and put in the acknowledgements. I decided (my manuscript, my decision, right??hahaha) that I was first author, the post-doc new faculty member would be second (two fold- he trained me, helped me grow the apples and really has been a fantastic source for my first few years- a gift, maybe? but on this first paper I don't mind) and my PI last.

Well, PI looked at the first page today and said "At some point we need to decide authorship" and politically we may have to put collaborator's from land far away and his post-doc (who is not even there anymore) that first harvested the apple seed on there (so- # of authors goes from 3 to 7--no, i shit you not. 3 to 7...). Essentially, we left the conversation with me biting my tongue (literally it still hurts) when he says yup, because of the politics they all need to be on there. ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?????

I called new faculty member who flipped. Couldn't believe it, had something along the same thing happen when writing the paper for the one-name journal, ad in general wants to know when this craziness will stop. He is refusing to put far-away collaborator's on his upcoming papers and thinks putting them on because of politics is absolutely ridiculous.

So here it is. I am pissed. My boss is the big huge name on the grant. The others are co-PIs. There is no way in hell that my name will ever be on their papers. (my PI's, maybe, but not mine). These other guys, with the exception of new faculty member, are established (and have even kicked around the idea about retiring in the next few years), so why in the FUCK do I need to put them on my paper. They have not contributed anything (except for making me feel like a "print/copy girl" or coffee girl when hey were here on their last trip) to this manuscript. I AM LIVID. Politics? Bullshit....seriously, bullshit.

EDIT: I need to check into the policies for the journal to see what type of "author contribution" letter/paragraph I can write. It is not commonly done (as in I have never ever seen it in an article in this journal before) but maybe that will be a way around all the bullshit....

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