Note from Meg: This guest post (which starts below the break) is a follow up to my post on life as an anxious scientist, where I talked about having an anxiety disorder and some of my strategies for managing it. The post below was written by a graduate student who wishes to remain anonymous. It summarizes that student’s experience with an anxiety disorder, and includes information that I think will be useful to students and advisors. My plan is to have a follow up post in the future with more thoughts on the topic.
As promised, here are the results of our recent reader poll on author contribution statements. See part 1 of the results for respondent demographics and their views on authorship.
Part 1 revealed widespread disagreement about what contributions merit authorship. Authorship standards also are changing. And science is becoming increasingly collaborative. All of which would seem to be arguments against the traditional practice of trying to summarize credit and responsibility for a paper solely with an ordered list of authors, and in favor of author contribution statements. That’s been my thinking for a few years: I like author contribution statements and routinely include them on all my papers, even if the journal doesn’t require one.
But it turns out there are widespread mixed feelings about author contribution statements. Which I now share…
A while back we invited you to ask us anything. Here’s our first of these answers, to a question from Kevin Chase. (The question has been paraphrased for brevity, click through for the original.) What is the best way that I, as a white male scientist, can help women and non-white scientists? Most of the AUA replies will be joint posts, but I’m writing this reply on my own.
Disclaimer: I’ve read about this topic a fair amount, but am not an expert in this. So, I present this as my take on the topic, based on my experiences and readings to date, but with the acknowledgment up front that I certainly have more to learn about this area.
As summarized in my post giving the major results of our authorship survey, there seems to have been a rapid shift in views on last authorship in ecology. When I started grad school, the predominant view was that the last author was the person who had done the least work. (Indeed, I am last author on a paper from when I was a grad student because I did the least work on the project.) But the survey found that 43% answered a solid “Yes” to the question “For ecology papers, do you consider the last author to be the senior author?” An additional 43% answered either “It depends, but probably yes” or “Not sure, but probably yes”. Thus, 86% of respondents view the last author as the senior author.
As far as I know, we don’t have great data across time regarding views on this. The best comparison I know of is to a smaller survey done in 2010 by Ethan White. (I based the first draft of my survey on Ethan’s.) In that, only 19% of respondents answered “Yes” to the same question, with an additional 33% answering “Not sure, but probably yes”. (That earlier survey didn’t have the “It depends, but probably yes” option. That was added in based on feedback on the initial survey I drafted.) So, while it would be nice to have more data on this, it seems that views on last authorship in ecology have probably shifted pretty rapidly.
The goal of this post is to explore whether there are factors that are associated with views on last authorship.
Who is the last author on a paper? Is it the person who did the least work? Or is it the PI of the lab where the work was done? When I started grad school in 2000, the norm in ecology was still that the last author on a paper was the person who did the least work. But, more recently, it has seemed to me that the norm is that the last author on a paper is the “senior” author (usually the PI). However, if you talk with other ecologists about the topic, it’s clear that there’s variation in views, and that not everyone is on the same page.
Similarly, my impression is that there’s been a shift in how corresponding authorship is viewed. When I was a grad student, the corresponding author was usually the first author, and mostly just indicated who had submitted the manuscript. But there’s been a shift to having the last author be the corresponding author. I am not alone in noticing this shift and in thinking that now corresponding authorship is used to claim leadership for the work.
Recently, I had a series of tweets related to authorship order and corresponding authorship practices in ecology. There was a ton of follow up discussion on twitter, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of interest in and confusion about this topic. The goal of this post is to do a poll to collect data on current views on authorship practices in ecology. I’ll follow up with a post summarizing the results and giving my thoughts on the topic.
Note from Meg: This is a guest post by Gina Baucom, a colleague of mine and my partner in creating DiversifyEEB. Here, Gina has written a guest post describing the initiative. We’re hoping to follow up with more posts in the future!
Today in Things the Science Twitterverse is Predictably Upset About: paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor’s interview in Current Biology in which she says that
Those who can, publish. Those who can’t, blog.
I was going to comment on this in the Friday linkfest, but I decided I had enough to say that wasn’t already being said on Twitter that I’d turn it into a post. It’s an experiment–this is the first time I’ve ever tried to use the blog to intervene in a social media firestorm in real time.
tl;dr: Chill out, everybody. Yes, she’s wrong, but it’s not a big deal. She’s probably just overgeneralizing from her own experiences, and you’re being unfair if you’re ripping her, rather than merely disagreeing with her.
(UPDATE 2: Definitely looks like she’s speaking from personal experience in that interview; see the comments. I think this is useful context, but delving further into the personal context here would get us away from a discussion of broader issues. So in the interests of a productive comment thread, I ask that future commenters stick to general issues rather than focusing on O’Connor’s personal experiences.)
Right now, I’m 9 months pregnant and waiting on my baby to decide it’s time to make his entrance. During the semester break, there wasn’t much expectation that I’d do work, so it wasn’t a problem that I mostly didn’t feel like working. But, the semester is starting up again, and I’m feeling more pressure to work. Admittedly, much of that is self-imposed, but I think it’s also driven by a general sense (in the US, at least), that women should generally work right up until having a baby. I suspect that general sense in the US is a combined effect of our culture of overwork, plus our poor parental leave policies. If you take a couple of weeks off prior to having the baby, and you only have a total of 6 weeks to take off for maternity leave (and not everyone gets even that much), then you’ve only left yourself 4 weeks home after having the baby for recovery and bonding. That’s not much time.
In thinking about this, one thing I’ve been thinking about is how I thought about this before having kids. Back then, I think I had the standard US mentality – that, unless there was some health problem, mom would work right up until giving birth. I had heard stories from women who talked about finishing up a committee meeting while in labor, then heading straight to the hospital, or of being in the field collecting soil cores the day before giving birth. Prior to having kids, that seemed like a normal thing to do to me, not something that required being Superwoman.
An exchange with a commenter on whether a recent Science paper only got published, and subsequently widely hyped in the science media, because it was oversold, got me thinking about the notion of “salesmanship” in science more generally.