Managing Publication Jealousy in the Lab

Dear Dora: Managing Publication Jealousy in LabDear Dora,

I took over a nearly-completed project left behind by a grad student and my PI listed me as first author on the paper since I completed the project and wrote the manuscript. It is clear that several people in the lab resent the fact that I was given what they call an “easy paper” in my second year and now things are tense in lab. Is there anything I can do to ease the tension?

-Anonymous, grad student


Dear Anonymous,

Congratulations on publishing a paper during your second year in graduate school. Since you finished the project, wrote the manuscript and revised it you are rightfully the first author. I suggest not taking the resentment felt by others personally. Their publication jealousy is probably due to frustration with their own research, and it is not your job to make them feel better.

I recommend that you focus on developing a professional working relationship with your lab mates, such as making sure there is clear communication about shared workspace, instruments and reagents. Once a professional relation is developed, your lab mates will view you more positively and it will probably ease their resentment.


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 [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


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1 comment so far. Join The Discussion

  1. JN1

    wrote on July 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    If it makes you feel better, we were angry when the same situation happened in our lab, but the new grad student DIDN'T get first author.

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