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I worked as the lead for a project (that involves other sites) for 3+ years. I got the project up and running. The project is now completed, but I was unwell towards the end of it and writing got delayed by 2 months. I had a collaborator who served more like a co-ordinator at another center. This collaborator took over during the time when I was unwell (summarized the final set of results). Now wants to share first authorship with me, and has started writing up the work. I do not think this is a fair call. How can I diplomatically tell this collaborator 'no' without damaging relations with this collaborator as well as higher ups?

  • this post is rather hard to read (wall of text). Would you mind editing it into a better shape? – gnat Mar 4 '14 at 10:53
  • You mention "first authorship", which sounds like it has specific meaning in your field. Could you elaborate? Also, is the final output of this project the paper or was it something else (like a software system) and the paper is only documentation? – Wayne Mar 4 '14 at 23:53
  • It is a scientific project, and I have spent 3+ years as the project lead. The other person did not contribute scientifically but served mainly as a coordinator (has a PhD in another field). we had an agreement about 3 years back with my higher ups that I will be first author and the 'collaborator' will be the second author on the list. This collaborator now wants to claim equal authorship (claiming equal contribution for the entire work). The final output I was referring to is a research article that will be published in a peer reviewed journal. – R_L Mar 5 '14 at 4:00
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    I think this question is better suited on Academia SE. There are bunch of authorship/co-authorship related questions there. – scaaahu Mar 5 '14 at 6:00
  • First author is first author, how can you have 'equal billing'? – geometrikal May 5 '14 at 6:32
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This is a decision which needs to be made by the project manager and perhaps by a senior person in the management chain, if you are unwilling to make it yourself. They are the ones who approved the project, who provided the budget for it and who will benefit from its success or it will suffer from its failure it that does occur.

You should consider not making too great a deal about this whatever decision that they ultimately make. Unless this is the largest project that you will ever work on in your career, then sharing credit shouldn’t be that important to you. There will be other projects and if you demonstrate that you are a “team player” you’ll be able to helm those and receive as much praise and acknowledgment as you may need.

If you do make too much of a furor about this relatively minor issue, you may be labeled a troublemaker,petty or not a team player. These labels will be difficult to rid yourself of and most people choose not to work with people who have a reputation of being difficult, WHile that may not be “fair”, the world as they say is round,not fair.

Allow this person to accept some credit for the project and look to be the gracious professional that you certainly wish to be seen as being,

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    "Unless this is the largest project that you will ever work on in your career, then sharing credit shouldn’t be that important to you." - In fairness to the OP, they appear to be in academica (or if in business, in a research department), and issues like this can be of incredible importance in that area. – Rob Moir May 4 '14 at 6:53
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It sounds like the other person has done a fair amount of work and is also contributing in the writing efforts. Is there another way to acknowledge this person's contribution to the project? What kind of acknowledgement would you expect if you were the other person? It's too bad you became unwell and needed assistance - is it not good that this other person was available to help?

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    The projects were completed, and the writing could have certainly waited for 2 months. This collaborator I feel was waiting for the right opportunity. – R_L Mar 5 '14 at 4:06

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