thesis supervisor as co-author?

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Tue Oct 14 12:53:40 EST 1997

In article <3440E4DA.1861 at>, "Brian W. Tague" <taguebw at> wrote:

> In fields like molecular, cellular, biochemistry (maybe "bench" sciences
> in general) the trend seems to be that the PI of the lab is included on
> the paper in all cases. Even if the PI had little input into the
> experiments, if nothing else he/she funded the research. (And certainly
> they should read the paper before it goes out...)
> In more field oriented research (ecology, evolutionary studies,
> systematics), I does not seem to be the practice that PI's are listed as
> authors unless they had a more direct input into the research.
     I think a good deal of the difference is that mol/cell/biochem etc. is
highly grant dependent. If the PI wants to hang on to his/her funding, they
must demonstrate "productivity", which means publications. Usually the more
the better. Thus, generally only well established PIs can "afford" to let
their students and post-docs publish their work independently. My
understanding is that in the other fields mentioned, grants are much harder
to come by, and it is not expected that these faculty will be externally
funded at all times. Someone please correct me if this is inaccurate.

     To get back to the original question, I agree that the PI should
contribute more than just lab space in order to receive co-authorship. But
intellectual contributions can be as valuable as data generation. Moreover,
most students will benefit from having an experienced co-author during the
writing process; I sure did. However, as Brian mentioned, traditions in
different fields vary; perhaps the original poster could offer more


Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Associate Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

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