Authorship issue


Hi. I am a third year PhD student and I have been working in computational biology. I wrote a code to do some analysis and it took me almost one year to get everything working. Now there is a post doc in our lab who is using my code to do her stuff. I even helped her to set everything up (although this did not take long). She presented a poster and did not put my name on it. I felt bad as I thought it would be obvious to have my name there. And now I am worried that she would not include my name in her paper either. I talked to my supervisor about it but his response was even worse. He said did not know what was the rule for authorship. I know without my help this project had not been completed so soon so I feel cheated and not acknowledged. I am angry with my supervisor. Any suggestions?


I think we need more specifics here!

Your current argument is a little unclear, and seems to suggest that author of SPSS should be an author on every single paper that uses the software.


I'm in social science so I don't know how it works with coding software etc. Did you write a paper that outlines your new code (is that something that's done? I have no idea). Is coding intellectual property or is it more like a methodology (so up for grabs?)

In terms of authorship:

Generally, to be an author you would need:

1) Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
2) Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
3) Final approval of the version to be published; AND
4) Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.


Thanks Thesisfun and awsoci for the reply.
I know that author of a software (like SPSS) is not supposed to be an author on every paper that uses it. But the author of SPSS does not go and sit with the people using it to help them use it. The software is published and people just cite it. My code is not published and I helped this girl go through every step from analyzing the data to setting up the code.
And code is like an optimized protocol. If there is someone trying to optimize a protocol and then another person comes and uses the protocol. Will the person who optimized the protocol wont get his/her name on the paper?
Maybe I am over reacting on this and it is okay to not have a name on that paper. I just want to know what would be the right thing to do. Should I fight for it or am I acting stupid here?


To be honest I can't be of much help as I'm not in your field, and coding in the social sciences is often a qualitative or quantitative measure.

My understanding is that developing the code may/may not grant you authorship if it's understood as a methodology, but nothing more. If you had published your code in a paper, then she would need to cite your paper accordingly. But I don't know if you can claim authorship for developing a code that is then subsequently used. You might want to ask this on academia stack exchange, there will be academics there that can answer your question more fully.

When asking, also think about the below as they are criteria for authorship:

Did you:

1) Assist with the design of the study (i.e. the aims, the objectives, the purpose, the hypotheses etc?)
2) Did you assist in analysis and interpretation of the data, not just 'helped' but actually sat down and did data analysis work-shopping with her? Or did you just wander by once in a while and assisted her periodically?
3) Did you assist and provide substantial revision in the drafting of her paper(s)?

Authorship is taken quite seriously, meaning that you need to have had a substantial part with the work to be considered an author.


Requirements for publication credit varies among the fields of research. In general, if your work contributed to the creation of one of the main figures of the publication then you need to be included in the authorship list.

If you feel cheated, then you should bring it up with the postdoc first and try to resolve it between you two. If that does not work and your supervisor seems apathetic, then you can plead your case to the department or the university ethics board. While doing so would likely result in your name being included in the publication, the potential drawbacks can be devastating (no reference letter, bad reputation, etc.). So please have a think before acting on this.


The other thing to think about is what some people term 'good academic citizenship' and 'academic service'

One of the things involved is the willingness to help others with their research, without expecting any particular tangible returns that boost your own career. This is good academic citizenship, such as reviewing someone's paper before they submit to publication (not as an official reviewer) but as someone to point out any flaws, errors etc. A friend and I do this all the time for each other. We don't become coauthors, we just list each other in the acknowledgements as a thank you. That's good academic citizenship.

Academic service, is more formal. So for example, book reviews, sitting on committees, and reviewing for journals, while don't add anything to your publication output, do add to your academic service and does support your career, though not as much as research and teaching do.

I don't know what the circumstances are specifically, but from what you've described, I would suspect that what you did falls under perhaps good academic citizenship, potentially, or academic service even, but I'm not sure that your situation warrants you a right to authorship. The postdoc then, if completing good academic citizenship, would list you in the acknowledgements, or, if authorship IS warranted, invite you to be a coauthor, though the latter isn't so much 'good academic citizenship' as it is following the Vancouver protocol for authorship guidelines.

In either case, maybe have a chat with someone like your supervisor who would have a better idea.


Ya at least she has to put your name in the poster presentation. But most of the researchers not willing to put others name in their research. Don't' think too much and don't feel sad. By helping, you got some knowledge.