The Sassy Scientist – The Burning Question

The Sassy Scientist – The Burning Question

In the climb on the academic pyramid, Antonia wonders:

How do you tell someone “you have not done enough to be included in the co-author list”?

Dear Antonia,

*arranges Yoda robe*: Big questions you have! Right place you came!

I am sure you are not the first or the only scientist with that question. Since I feel generous today, I will leave here a template e-mail you can all copy and paste. I know, the world does not deserve my generosity…

In these cases, irrespective of the actual language of choice, we have two big options for the tone of such e-mail:

OPTION 1: British English

‘Dear [title] X,

I am writing to inform you on the progress of project [insert grant number] to which you contributed as [insert contribution/skill here]. First, allow me to restate my uttermost appreciation of your contribution, which ultimately enabled us to write a manuscript for submission in [insert journal here]. However, upon consultation with the team of scientists who collectively wrote the grant and the manuscript, with my sincere regret, I hereby inform you that on this occasion your contribution does not fit within the journal’s guidelines for co-authorship [insert link to stuffy journal guidelines that no one reads anyway].

Please be assured that your contribution will be fully and wholeheartedly acknowledged in the ‘Acknowledgements’ section in full accordance with the journal’s guidelines. I understand that this e-mail might be received as a disappointment. In my position as first author, I am happy to address your queries and I hope we will be able to design future collaborative projects in which you contribute dynamically.

Yours faithfully,
[insert your title, first name, last name, institutional affiliation]’

OPTION 2: American English

‘Hey X,

So, me and the PI on those experiments we did last spring with a bud of mine at Uni of [insert name here] wrote a paper. Here’s the link to the final draft [insert link]. I think we’re ready to submit to [insert journal name]. We’re really super grateful you helped us with [insert contribution/skill here] which allowed us to make that awesome figure [insert figure number]. Right now, we don’t really feel like your involvement in these experiments and project has been enough for co-authorship.

Yeah, sorry if this is a bummer. Maybe we can brainstorm soon and write a proposal for [insert grant scheme here]? It’d be so cool to chat more on [insert topic here] and work more closely together in the future!

[insert shorthand of first name]’

Of course the world isn’t binary, and often there are multiple options. OPTION 3 can always be to just not include this person, submit and publish, and watch your inbox catch fire. OPTION 4 can be to just well… be too awkward or afraid to say something and carry on the academic ladder average scientists.

You can combine any of the options above and create something unique to suit your situation. No judgement from me! [surprising, right?! I think I am becoming a nice person… please send help].

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: You are welcome!

Avatar photo
I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>