A question of publication ethics

Toby Bradshaw toby at stein.u.washington.edu
Mon Jan 4 16:36:49 EST 1993

In article <Jan. at net.bio.net> kristoff at net.bio.net (David Kristofferson) writes:
>>    My advice to the student was that as senior author she has
>> the final say on the paper.
>Traditionally the head of the laboratory has always had the final say
>on the contents of papers, regardless of the order of the authors,
>unless they specifically give this privilege up to another author.

Said "heads" often have not provided even the germ of an idea, nor the
experimental design, in contrast to the case presented by S. Scheiner.  My
view is that "heads", if they have provided nothing but space, money, and
moral support, deserve a nice acknowledgement and not authorship.  Science
needs a place to work, money to work with, and sometimes a pat on the
back.  It doesn't need coauthors who have provided _only_ the above, or
we might as well put the university president's name on the paper, too. 
Any person contributing significant (subjective) intellectual resources
deserves the option of authorship, and anyone who has provided key, novel
(both subjective) ideas or _any_ data has veto power over its/their
publication.  The physical data are easier to protect from unwanted
publication than the ideas, as a rule. 

Data gathered by technician(s) working under the specific direction of the
PI belong to the PI, and the technician's contribution need not
necessitate coauthor status.  Should the technician pursue an original
idea (luckily, all the good ones do), the data, its use, and coauthorship
(including veto power over publication) belong to the technician. 

All the above IMHO, of course.  My (admittedly narrow) world view
is that "heads" receive too much credit, and technicians not
enough.  Your mileage no doubt varies substantially.  And, no,
I have never been a lab tech.  I _have_ spent grant money on
work that never had my name on it, returning the ethical
favor shown (not just told) to me when I was a student.

Toby Bradshaw                       |
Department of Biochemistry          |  Will make genetic linkage maps
and College of Forest Resources     |            for food.
University of Washington, Seattle   |
toby at u.washington.edu               |

More information about the Bioforum mailing list