Have you seen anyone who got a postdoc job without a first-authored paper?

posted
14-Jan-20, 01:10
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
I know that many years ago, PhD graduates without first-authored papers could be accepted to postdoc positions. But now the academic job market has become tighter. Have you seen anyone who finished their PhD in recent years (2017-2020) that became a postdoc without publishing any first-authored papers? Especially in science?
My concern is, currently I don't have any first-authored papers, and my supervisor isn't planning on making me write one. I'm in my third year, and I'm very worried about this. I hope I will become a postdoc right after I finish all my PhD work and three years later become a PI in a prestigious uni (Russell group level).
posted
14-Jan-20, 09:19
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
I haven't, but then I haven't seen every successful application ever made by a postdoc. I am sure it has happened before, but chances are lower. In my field at least. If you don't mind me asking, why is that you don't have a publication yet? Do you have any interesting results that you could publish? Even if you have one or some submitted manuscripts on your CV, this will look better than nothing at all. I'd say have a think about what you could publish from your thesis and ask your supervisor for their feedback and co-authorship.
posted
15-Jan-20, 00:15
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
I haven't, but then I haven't seen every successful application ever made by a postdoc. I am sure it has happened before, but chances are lower. In my field at least. If you don't mind me asking, why is that you don't have a publication yet? Do you have any interesting results that you could publish? Even if you have one or some submitted manuscripts on your CV, this will look better than nothing at all. I'd say have a think about what you could publish from your thesis and ask your supervisor for their feedback and co-authorship.

Hi Tudor_Queen,
I expect to have four publications by the end of my PhD. But all four will be second- or third-authored papers. I'm not sure if not having a first-authored paper will be in the way.
posted
15-Jan-20, 10:33
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
But will the publications be based on your own work? I am just wondering why you won't be the first author. I think that it is important to have at least one first authored one.
posted
15-Jan-20, 11:00
edited about 23 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 months ago
Can you explain your part in each publication? I agree having no first name papers doesn't look good but you can still get a post-doc with zero publications. I know a few post-docs in Science & Engineering who had no publications from their PhD due to some reason or another, so don't worry too much. There was also a lecturer at my uni in microbiology who had no first name publications when he originally got his lecturer job but had several second name papers in Cell and other high profile journals. So working as part of a large isn't frowned upon. Though I would still ask your supervisor about getting a first name paper.
posted
15-Jan-20, 16:26
edited about 19 seconds later
Avatar for sciencegirl3456
posted about 2 months ago
I am in a similar situation due to an issue of an author on my paper that should be first name. I am applying for postdocs and have had 4 interviews, my lack of publishing has never openly been said as a reason I did not get a postdoc. I can think of quite a few people I know who got postdocs without a first author publication in science.
posted
15-Jan-20, 19:10
edited about 11 minutes later
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
But will the publications be based on your own work? I am just wondering why you won't be the first author. I think that it is important to have at least one first authored one.

The papers are based on my work and other people's work. But they wrote the papers, so they are the first-authors. My supervisor combined my work with others' work to make papers. I've got lots of experimental results, and I expected to write a complete story of all my results. But my supervisor prefers not to do so. He wants to use my data to complement other people's work so that the papers they wrote look like a more complete story. Now my data has been broken into pieces and inserted into other people's work, and the rest of my data can no longer form a complete paper itself. I hope I will work harder and do more experiment so that there'll be enough data for me to write my own paper. But my supervisor suggests me not to do so - I'm already in my third year and running out of time.
posted
15-Jan-20, 19:22
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From rewt:
Can you explain your part in each publication? I agree having no first name papers doesn't look good but you can still get a post-doc with zero publications. I know a few post-docs in Science & Engineering who had no publications from their PhD due to some reason or another, so don't worry too much. There was also a lecturer at my uni in microbiology who had no first name publications when he originally got his lecturer job but had several second name papers in Cell and other high profile journals. So working as part of a large isn't frowned upon. Though I would still ask your supervisor about getting a first name paper.

Hi rewt,
So far the journals they chose don't require the authors to specify contributions....But thanks for telling me there are some science postdocs who don't have first-authored papers from their PhD! That makes me less worried.
You could see up there (in my reply to Tudor_Queen) I said my supervisor's decision to use my work to complement other people's work has led to the situation that I can't write my own paper. I hope I can get more experiments done, but there's only less than 10 months left. I'm not sure what I should do.
posted
15-Jan-20, 19:32
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From sciencegirl3456:
I am in a similar situation due to an issue of an author on my paper that should be first name. I am applying for postdocs and have had 4 interviews, my lack of publishing has never openly been said as a reason I did not get a postdoc. I can think of quite a few people I know who got postdocs without a first author publication in science.

Hi sciencegirl3456
Thank you for letting me know there are postdocs who didn't have first authored papers. You said 'my lack of publishing has never openly been said as a reason I did not get a postdoc', but what did they openly tell you? What's the reason for their refusing to give you the job? I'm wondering what I need to show them to convince them to hire me if I lack good papers. Do you know how those postdocs who didn't have first-authored papers got their postdoc job? What do the PIs seek from applicants?
posted
17-Jan-20, 10:59
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Could you have a conversation with your supervisor and tell them that you would like to have a first authored publication and you would like to plan the steps to achieve that?
posted
17-Jan-20, 14:39
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 2 months ago
Hi there,

It's good that you're ambitious but I think you need to align your attitude with your goals, because when you say "currently I don't have any first-authored papers, and my supervisor isn't planning on making me write one.", it appears as if you think it's your supervisors PhD and career, especially when you use the phrase "making me write one".

I read your later reply about your supervisor using parts of your data for other peoples papers. A good supervisor should be able to balance their own research goals with keeping plan to guide the PhD student to develop and have enough peer-reviewed material for their PhD and viva. When this doesn't happen, the PhD student/candidate should ensure the supervisor is reminded of this and is not jeopardising their PhD. I think your supervisor has let you down in this regard, but then I also think you have let yourself down for not challenging this and standing up for your PhD -- believe me, unless you have very easy-going examiners, you'll need to stand up for your PhD in the viva!

After the first year(s) up until the upgrade to PhD-proper (usually 1-2 years) and when one becomes a PhD candidate, really it doesn't make sense to not take full responsibility for your own development and publishing, even if that appears daunting. Ideally, PhD candidates would have gotten a feel and developed a bit of confidence in their first 1-2 years submitting to and presenting at conferences, and submitting papers (even if they are reject or have significant amendments) - it's part of the learning and development process.

By the sounds of it, you've been fortunate with your experiments and results - as you know, in the sciences experiments can go wrong - your supervisor is making use of those results to compliment others work. I think you need to be more proactive, especially now that you're approaching the end.
posted
17-Jan-20, 14:39
Avatar for Jamie_Wizard
posted about 2 months ago
As for aiming for a prestigious institution (Russell group or others) for post-doc, you'll usually need to demonstrate that you're at the top of your game, and more importantly, have something significant to contribute to that research group. One doesn't necessarily need to go to such a prestigious institution to do good quality, impactful research. That said, it is usually the most impactful research that is carried out at these institutions.

All the best,
Jamie
posted
18-Jan-20, 07:03
Avatar for sciencephd
posted about 2 months ago
Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement, Jamie!
My supervisor cares only about his own career but not my development. His indifference to my needs has made me lose my confidence. I've already reminded him that I need more advice on my development, but he couldn't care less and just told me to follow his instruction. Well, at this moment, his instruction is that I have to tailor my data to other people's papers. I'm struggling to find enough rationale to convince him to give me a chance to write my own paper.
posted
21-Jan-20, 19:49
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From sciencephd:
Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement, Jamie!
My supervisor cares only about his own career but not my development. His indifference to my needs has made me lose my confidence. I've already reminded him that I need more advice on my development, but he couldn't care less and just told me to follow his instruction. Well, at this moment, his instruction is that I have to tailor my data to other people's papers. I'm struggling to find enough rationale to convince him to give me a chance to write my own paper.


You don't need his permission to write a paper. Your rationale can be that you have already written it and you want his feedback before you publish. As you have taken the initiative he will have to give some reason for not wanting you to publish from which you can work with. He might tear your work to shreds and further dent your self confidence but he might decide to include other people's work in your first name paper.
posted
21-Jan-20, 21:33
edited about 35 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From rewt:
Quote From sciencephd:
Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement, Jamie!
My supervisor cares only about his own career but not my development. His indifference to my needs has made me lose my confidence. I've already reminded him that I need more advice on my development, but he couldn't care less and just told me to follow his instruction. Well, at this moment, his instruction is that I have to tailor my data to other people's papers. I'm struggling to find enough rationale to convince him to give me a chance to write my own paper.


You don't need his permission to write a paper. Your rationale can be that you have already written it and you want his feedback before you publish. As you have taken the initiative he will have to give some reason for not wanting you to publish from which you can work with. He might tear your work to shreds and further dent your self confidence but he might decide to include other people's work in your first name paper.


Yes, absolutely. And if he does tear it to shreds and throw it in the bin, be sure to get a second and third opinion and feedback from others in the field (though not necessarily in your lab as they might just follow his lead). I don't think there is an easy road to this, but asserting yourself in this way could help.

If you don't manage to get first author pubs from your PhD, all hope is not lost. It will just be harder to get a postdoc. But you can also go for RA positions. You can seek to get first author publications within either of those roles. Those are typical next steps anyway before becoming a PI. Most people do multiple postdocs.

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