Friday, November 4, 2011

Kerfuffle Unfuffled

Yesterday I learned an important lesson. Always make sure that your coauthors are actually your coauthors.

Regular readers of this blog may remember my coauthor kerfuffle several months ago, at which time I was frustrated with the lack of work a more senior colleague and coauthor was putting into a paper we were working on together. He was slow to turn around drafts, and would complain about parts without making much in the way of constructive suggestions. His emails were sounding increasingly frustrated, and I was getting frustrated with his lack of input.

In person he was much easier to work with, and much progress had been made on the times we got to work together in the same place. Unfortunately we are on different continents so flying to meet was not something either of us could do very regularly.

It recently dawned on me that we had never actually formally discussed the authorship, and the drafts I was sending had no names on them. After a few emails it turns out that he had never seen himself as a coauthor on the paper. I now go from frustrated to in awe of how much time he gave me and how much thought he put into a paper that is not his.

In the future, even the most rough drafts I share will have the authors listed, even if we don't have a title yet.


  1. I always initiate the "who's an author" and "in what order will they be listed" discussions early in any paper-writing effort. The downsides of not doing this are huge.

  2. Now you tell me! Somehow this piece of wisdom never got passed down from my advisor or other colleagues. Now I know.

  3. No. He says he's happy to advise, but has to many ongoing projects to devote serious time to this. This leaves me in a bit of a tight spot, as his field of expertise is different from mine, but most of the project has been completed with his help, so it's not a huge deal. I just need to make sure the acknowledgement section thanks him properly.