Is A Parasitic Postdoc Trying to Steal Your Project?
By Dora Farkas
It has been a few months since I started my first postdoc after finishing my PhD in a different field. Initially I used to discuss my experiments with a senior postdoc on the project (who works part time) to help with the interpretation of the results. However, now after a few months of catching up with the literature I seem to have a handle of the project and my experiments are working very well. I openly share my experiments and thoughts for future experiments. But during meetings and in private discussions with our PI this postdoc has labelled my work as “our work” and has been passing off my ideas as his own.
To top it all off I found out that he has started writing the manuscript for the paper whose majority of data has come from my work. I now do not know how the authorship will work especially because this project has had a high staff turnover but my PI has said that whoever contributes more gets first author. Do I confront this postdoc about the authorship or should I head straight to the PI? Other lab members have warned me that this postdoc has taken credit for work in the past. I will need to work closely with this postdoc in the future and would like to settle this is the most painless way and would rather do science than manage office politics. Please help!
Dear Newbie Postdoc,
If you think you deserve to be first author, you need to make a case to your PI that you were the lead scientist on this project. For example, did you do most (or all) of the lab work? Second, did you make the most significant intellectual contributions? There are publications where the first author did very little (or none) of the lab work, but he or she came up with the ideas, directed the project and maybe generated the funding too. If you believe that your intellectual and lab work-related contributions exceed those of the other postdoc, you have a good chance of convincing your PI that you deserve to be the first author.
Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!
Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks! In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:
- Is the NIH Minimum Binding for All?
- Backing Out of a Postdoc Offer for a Better One
- Managing Publication Jealousy in the Lab
- Debriefing the Lab After a Scientific Conference
- Music in the Lab: MyTunes, iTunes, or No Tunes?
- Cell Culture Derailing Your Vacation Plans?
- Is a Publication Gap on Our CV a Job Killer?
- How to Leave a Postdoc Quickly with Your Reputation Intact
- How to Establish and Enforce the Chain of Command in Lab
- Walking the Thin Line Between a Great Result and a Lie
- Dear Boss: I Want to Graduate. Let’s Talk.
- My Boss’ Spouse: A Spy or Civilian in Lab?
- Bullying in the Lab: Are PIs Guilty
- What Came First: The Grad Student or the PI?
- Problems Communicating Science to Family? It’s Not Them, It’s You
Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!