Author Topic: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due - small update p24  (Read 4795 times)

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Shopaholic

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I've written about my annoying coworker before, and have been working very hard to have a polite, proper working rel@tionship with her.
That doesn't mean she doesn't drive me crazy with her incessent chatter and high-pitched yelling, but I shut up and treat her in a polite manner, and help her out whenever she needs it.
Coworker and I are both PhD students.

Anyway, Coworker decided to show her work in the form of a poster at a conference. Her work is the brain-child of our boss, and she is doing it because it happened that way. It is something that eventually is supposed to serve the entire team, she just set it up. Just as I set up something that serves the entire team as well.
For this work she relies greatly on the routine work that I set up in the lab, along with Tina and which Maddie also does routinely. If we did not do this routine work, as well as the months-long, frustrating, Sisyphian setup that I needed to do she would have nothing to show.

I helped her out with an illustration for the poster, and so I happened to look at a draft today.
At the top were written the authors: Coworker, Lab Manager, Tina and Boss.
The following conversation ensued:

Me: Who produced the *things* that you are showing there?
CW: You, Tina and Maddie.
Me: So don't you think the people who did the work should be included among the authors?
CW: <long winded unclear babble to make clear that no, she doesn't think so>. We didn't want too many people on it. I mean, Steve (who has nothing at all to do with her project) taught me everything I  know, and I don't include him in the authors.
Me: Yes, but you're showing things that people worked very hard on and it's proper to give them credit for it.
CW (getting huffy): Well, fine, if you feel so strongly about it I'm willing to consider it.
Me: It has nothing to do with what I feel about it, it's proper to give people credit for their work.
CW then says my name in a condescending, exasperated manner clearly meaning that I am annoying her and to go away.
Me: Don't talk to me like that (said very gently, not scolding or anything).
CW: You started it!
Me: No I didn't, I am telling you very nicely that when people put their blood, sweat and tears into something they should get credit for their work. And it's better to have some more people on the author list than to antagonize your coworkers.

--end conversation---

Just to clarify: for the work Maddie and I do we deserve credit, by any standards of our discipline. It is not a question at all. Lab Manager heard the entire conversation and said that she agrees with me.

My questions are this:
1. I want to bring this up with the boss.  I think in order to do so I need to be non-confrontational so as not to seem petty, so I was thinking of starting the conversation with "I have a question, something that's not very clear to me, and I would like to know what our team's policy on authorship is going to be like." If he asks why, I will bring up Coworker's poster and Maddie and I not being part of it.
If anyone has any advice I would be glad to hear it!

2. How do I deal with Coworker now? I think she has a severe ethics problem regarding publication, but it's not my job to teach her that. I don't think that she should have spoken to me that way. I have been ignoring her all day today (as she has me), but that won't last too long. In general, she treats me as if I work for her and I have been slowly and politely trying to communicate to her that the way I treat her is the way I expect to be treated by her (meaning, I am nice, polite and check things with her in advance.)

Thank you!
 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2012, 07:26:18 AM by Shopaholic »

redcat

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2011, 02:28:08 PM »
Could you be more specific on what it is you're setting up for your co-worker, as this would have quite a bearing on my answer?

WhiteTigerCub

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2011, 02:43:29 PM »
Perhaps it is simply the tone of which I am reading it, but the conversation comes off as a bit condesending from one peer to another. There seems to be a lot 'you' statements that may have put her on the defensive from the get go.

It's not up to you to teach her the ethics of giving credit. That is up to her mentors.

I would simply have stated something along the lines of

"Well Maddie and my work is being represented strongly in this poster so I think it's important to be sure our names are included in the credits."

1) What do you hope to accomplish by talking to your boss about it?
2) I'd let it go entirely. What good would come out of rehashing it?



« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 02:47:05 PM by WhiteTigerCub »

Arizona

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2011, 04:13:14 PM »


1) What do you hope to accomplish by talking to your boss about it?
2) I'd let it go entirely. What good would come out of rehashing it?

For 2), in an academic context, authorship is critically important.  If you have contributed to the work intellectually in a significant way, then you need authorship.

However, I think this needs to be managed carefully.  I'm not sure what you mean when you claim that her work is based on stuff you guys set up.  I suspect this might be disciplinary, but if you weren't involved in the data analysis then you might not be eligible for authorship.  However, you need to clarify this first.  If you are within the standards of your discipline eligible to be included as an author, you need to point this out to your supervisor and to the lab supervisor, but I'd do it in terms of 'seeking clarification':  "I thought that X was what usually happened here but I  notice Y is what has happened.  Can you clarify?"

The other thing I'd say is that you are both in a vulnerable position, so you need to proceed carefully, and not alienate the person who's lab you are working in.  You also need to consider if this person's work is something you want to be associated with in the long run.

TurtleDove

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2011, 04:46:47 PM »
I think it very much matters what specifically each person contributed to the project.  For example, a lawyers who authors an article that is typed up and formatted by her secretary would not credit the secretary as an author even though the secretary contributed to the end product.  The lawyer might choose to give credit to the associate who did the legal research used in the article, but this would be discretionary, not expected.  Which is my way of saying, I don't think this is a straight etiquette question but more of a "what is typical in your industry" question.  I know in my job, it is not typical to credit everyone who contributes in any way, shape, or form, just actual authors.

TurtleDove

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2011, 04:50:04 PM »
If I read the OP correctly, the OP produced something invented by the four credited authors.  If that is the case, no, I do not think the OP should be listed as an author.

missknowledge

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2011, 05:10:02 PM »
Seems to me like not citing others' work in your project would be considered theft of ideas or plagiarism.   

TurtleDove

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2011, 05:14:16 PM »
Seems to me like not citing others' work in your project would be considered theft of ideas or plagiarism.

From what I can gather, the OP's job is supportive to the ideas generated by the credited authors.  To me, that is not being an author anymore than my secretary typing something I dictate makes her an author.  I think we need clarification from the OP about what specifically each person did. 

Dubhslaine

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2011, 06:35:32 PM »
It depends on the situation. If your lab mate is using your results (as well results from others) then you most certainly should be an author (as well as the others). If she is using your materials and methods then you and the other lab workers should be mentioned in the acknowledgement and the papers where M&M are published should be cited (if they have been published).

I have had some problems publishing papers with others and if left unaddressed it can cause severe strife in the lab. If your results are indeed being used and you are not an author, then this should be brought up to your PI.

yokozbornak

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2011, 06:48:46 PM »
I've written about my annoying coworker before, and have been working very hard to have a polite, proper working rel@tionship with her.
That doesn't mean she doesn't drive me crazy with her incessent chatter and high-pitched yelling, but I shut up and treat her in a polite manner, and help her out whenever she needs it.
Coworker and I are both PhD students.

Anyway, Coworker decided to show her work in the form of a poster at a conference. Her work is the brain-child of our boss, and she is doing it because it happened that way. It is something that eventually is supposed to serve the entire team, she just set it up. Just as I set up something that serves the entire team as well.
For this work she relies greatly on the routine work that I set up in the lab, along with Tina and which Maddie also does routinely. If we did not do this routine work, as well as the months-long, frustrating, Sisyphian setup that I needed to do she would have nothing to show.

I helped her out with an illustration for the poster, and so I happened to look at a draft today.
At the top were written the authors: Coworker, Lab Manager, Tina and Boss.
The following conversation ensued:

Me: Who produced the *things* that you are showing there?
CW: You, Tina and Maddie.
Me: So don't you think the people who did the work should be included among the authors?
CW: <long winded unclear babble to make clear that no, she doesn't think so>. We didn't want too many people on it. I mean, Steve (who has nothing at all to do with her project) taught me everything I  know, and I don't include him in the authors.
Me: Yes, but you're showing things that people worked very hard on and it's proper to give them credit for it.
CW (getting huffy): Well, fine, if you feel so strongly about it I'm willing to consider it.
Me: It has nothing to do with what I feel about it, it's proper to give people credit for their work.
CW then says my name in a condescending, exasperated manner clearly meaning that I am annoying her and to go away.
Me: Don't talk to me like that (said very gently, not scolding or anything).
CW: You started it!
Me: No I didn't, I am telling you very nicely that when people put their blood, sweat and tears into something they should get credit for their work. And it's better to have some more people on the author list than to antagonize your coworkers.

--end conversation---

Just to clarify: for the work Maddie and I do we deserve credit, by any standards of our discipline. It is not a question at all. Lab Manager heard the entire conversation and said that she agrees with me.

My questions are this:
1. I want to bring this up with the boss.  I think in order to do so I need to be non-confrontational so as not to seem petty, so I was thinking of starting the conversation with "I have a question, something that's not very clear to me, and I would like to know what our team's policy on authorship is going to be like." If he asks why, I will bring up Coworker's poster and Maddie and I not being part of it.
If anyone has any advice I would be glad to hear it!

2. How do I deal with Coworker now? I think she has a severe ethics problem regarding publication, but it's not my job to teach her that. I don't think that she should have spoken to me that way. I have been ignoring her all day today (as she has me), but that won't last too long. In general, she treats me as if I work for her and I have been slowly and politely trying to communicate to her that the way I treat her is the way I expect to be treated by her (meaning, I am nice, polite and check things with her in advance.)

Thank you!

I just wanted to point out the bolded.  I think we need to take her words at face value when she says it's standard protocol on her industry for her contribution to be recognized.

I would probably send her an email saying that you wanted to clarify that you feel that you and Maddie should be given author credit for x, y, and z reasons and then give her a chance to respond and correct the issue.  I would then escalate to your boss depending on her response.  I think your boss would appreciate you making a good faith effort to correct the situation before getting him/her involved.

Also, it may help if you and Maddie gave a united front since neither of you are receiving credit for your work

Dubhslaine

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2011, 07:17:02 PM »
yokozbornak- Thank you I didn't catch that before and that changes my answer.

Echoing yokozbornak, I think that you, Tina, and Maddie should get together and discuss this and then talk to your PI about this together. It seems your lab mate doesn't quite understand authorship, but unless your PI learns of the situation then he can't do anything about it. With all three of you there it won't seem petty and you can mention that the lab manager overheard the exchange for corroboration (after letting her know that the PI may ask her about it). OP, is your lab mate a newer PhD student? That may explain a lot. In any case, I wouldn't talk to the lab mate again about this because it will just lead to further bickering and may make the situation worse (I've learned this from experience).

artk2002

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2011, 07:26:28 PM »
For those of you unfamiliar with academia and research, this really is a very serious topic. Authorship is "coin of the realm" there -- who you are depends almost entirely on what you publish. Although a poster session at a conference doesn't have the impact of a paper in a major journal, it's still important to have as many credits as possible. Sadly, some people take that to mean that they should deny authorship to any "competition."

From the description, it sounds like OP has done work that would qualify her as one of the authors of this poster. The boss should be the first (lead) author and the CW should probably be the last (corresponding) author. Shopaholic, Tina and Maddie go in the middle.

OP, I would talk to the lab manager first to get his/her ideas on how to proceed. This is someone who should know the boss and the lab culture (ha ha) as well as anybody. But I wouldn't let this one go at all. I agree, too that a united front will work best on this.

As an aside: Sometimes people do demand, and get credit, that they don't really deserve. I've put bosses on two patent applications, when they contributed nothing more to the invention than a roof over our heads and a paycheck. But it's not worth getting in a, um, argument over, so I added them on.

Second anecdote: I was sent a review copy of an article that was scheduled to go up on the public corporate technical web site. Sent to me because I know the topic very well. What did I find? A presentation that I had given to a bunch of colleagues with some slight modifications. And no credit to me. That got changed, very quickly.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

yokozbornak

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2011, 08:04:45 PM »
For those of you unfamiliar with academia and research, this really is a very serious topic. Authorship is "coin of the realm" there -- who you are depends almost entirely on what you publish. Although a poster session at a conference doesn't have the impact of a paper in a major journal, it's still important to have as many credits as possible. Sadly, some people take that to mean that they should deny authorship to any "competition."From the description, it sounds like OP has done work that would qualify her as one of the authors of this poster. The boss should be the first (lead) author and the CW should probably be the last (corresponding) author. Shopaholic, Tina and Maddie go in the middle.

OP, I would talk to the lab manager first to get his/her ideas on how to proceed. This is someone who should know the boss and the lab culture (ha ha) as well as anybody. But I wouldn't let this one go at all. I agree, too that a united front will work best on this.

As an aside: Sometimes people do demand, and get credit, that they don't really deserve. I've put bosses on two patent applications, when they contributed nothing more to the invention than a roof over our heads and a paycheck. But it's not worth getting in a, um, argument over, so I added them on.

Second anecdote: I was sent a review copy of an article that was scheduled to go up on the public corporate technical web site. Sent to me because I know the topic very well. What did I find? A presentation that I had given to a bunch of colleagues with some slight modifications. And no credit to me. That got changed, very quickly.

Thanks for that information!  It sounds like the OP definitely needs to pursue this.


Dr. F.

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2011, 08:32:49 PM »
What kind of a relation-ship do you have with your advisor/PI?

If you have a pretty friendly or casual interaction, you might want to just approach him/her in a relaxed way, just sort of, "Hey, I was wondering about something. Could you clarify what's expected? etc. etc." Personally, I'd prefer my students to approach me like this, so that I can nip things in the bud before too much interpersonal strife builds up.

Has he/she seen the poster? Again, if it were me, I don't pay *that* much attention to posters, particularly if the abstract isn't published - it becomes ephemera. Your advisor may not have noticed the omission.

I'm picturing biochem/cell bio/physiology and you've developed and debugged a protocol. It doesn't matter, but am I close?

Mental Magpie

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Re: Coworker and giving credit where credit is due
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2011, 10:13:00 PM »
I definitely think you should follow up with your advisor.  I also think that the way you phrased your question to your advisor is pretty good.  Ask for clarification, don't make any accusations unless asked for them (as in, "Why do you ask?" "Well, because CW didn't include me and I was confused on the protocol"). 
The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil.