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I am a co-author on a research paper published in a scientific venue. The coworker who is lead author had the original idea and did most of the implementation work. I've only been of accessory help and my bigger contributions to that idea came later, as improvements, and were not published.

Since I am applying to research or research-adjacent jobs (without a PhD), I want to add this paper to my CV. But I don't want interviewers to believe I have more research experience than I have and feel misled when I correct them.

How should I present this paper? Just as an academic citation with title, authors, and venue, or add a note saying which role I had in that project?

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    Since you are a second author, I don't envision a problem, so just go with it. It's good you want to be honest, but you also need to accentuate your strong points. Dec 5, 2023 at 20:27
  • I think you also need to make it clear that your work was follow-up that was not published. If I see someone listing a paper as (co) author, I expect that it was reviewed and published.
    – cdkMoose
    Dec 5, 2023 at 21:20
  • Many cvs are filled with flat out lies and fabrication. You are actually the co-author of the paper, so as long as you address that in any way, no reasonable person will mind.
    – yeerk
    Dec 8, 2023 at 22:35

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As long as you are clear about identifying yourself as "co-author" instead of "author", you are fine. People that are familiar how academia works know that "co-author" can mean all kind of different things and your involvement is clearly in the "acceptable" range. If the interviewer wants more details, they'll ask.

Given that you had a only side role in a single paper, I would keep the mentioning as short as possible. Real Estate on your CV is a valuable commodity and you should use it mindfully.

If you do mention it, you should be prepared to talk about it in depth: Someone may take interest and ask you about it: it really looks bad if you don't actually know the ins and outs of the paper. If you are not prepared to do this well, leave it off.

Personal experience: For jobs with a significant research components I typically take one or two items from the CV for a technical deep dive. A paper is a good candidate for this. More than once, that has sunk a candidate. Putting a skill or knowledge area that you don't really have on your CV is a gross misrepresentation. In one particular case, I put the candidate on the "do not hire" list for the entire company. The skill he fubbed about wasn't even important to the role, but I can't stand liars and I don't work with people that I can't trust to be truthful and factual.

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Summarise the idea, as you call it, and your input to it. Cite the paper as being published in its early stages. There is no need to explain the paper in detail.

The fact that you aren't the first named author will be noted by any interviewer. The paper still makes you a published author.

If an interviewer really wants more detail, you have set them up with a question to ask you.

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  • Whether the first named author has significance depends on the field. In fields like Mathematics and Computer Science, being first authors is more likely caused by your name being sorted first alphabetically than being the lead researcher, unlike Physics or Chemistry. (OP doesn't mention the field, so we have no way of knowing whether it's a field where being first author implies being lead researcher).
    – Abigail
    Jan 13 at 18:27

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