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spectastic

"if you put my name right after your name, I'll put your name right after mine" (wtf)

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this new guy in my lab just approached me in private, saying that if I put his name on my manuscript, he'll put my name on his eventual paper.. this is supposed to help us increase our paper count. I will admit, I've been here for 2 years, and don't have my name on a paper yet. I've done a lot of help work early on for other people, but those efforts went nowhere. But this putting other people's name on my paper and vice versa rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't seem like good practice of integrity, and I'm wondering if others have experienced similar things in their studies..

 

to clarify, we work on very similar projects. but we don't really collaborate. i showed him how do do a few things early on, but that's it. i'm not opposed to collaborating with him, given his experience in the field. however, i'm not a fan of his character.

Edited by spectastic

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Never heard of this happening, but I am not all that surprised that it does. Frankly, it sounds like a terrible idea to me. I absolutely would not want my name on work I didn't contribute to, especially not work written by someone I don't trust (which is anyone who would do this in a first place). Keep in mind that if your name is on a paper, it's fair game in any future application or interview. You might get asked to describe the work, or why you made choice X and not Y, or about alternative interpretations of the data, etc. Unless you're willing and able to defend the work and stand behind it, I really wouldn't want to get myself in that kind of situation. This, of course, not even mentioning the obvious dishonesty involved. 

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Your instincts are right. Putting someone as a coauthor just to increase citation/paper count is academic dishonesty. It has never happened to me but I have heard of it happening. I can understand why people would want to do this and why it might be tempting. I would personally not accept this "offer". Whether you act further (reporting it to various offices etc.) is up to you. 

That said, there are certainly many instances in my field where there are many coauthors on a paper and there is a huge range/difference in effort from each co-author. However, there is always some actual real honest contribution from each coauthor, even if it is very small. 

As I said above, what you do beyond declining is up to you and you are the best judge of the situation since none of us here have context. It's perfectly fine to say it's not your problem as you are also a student and fairly junior in the academic world and walk away after saying no. You could discuss this further with this lab mate to address the problem with their approach. If you think the lab mate is ignorant of what is / isn't ethical then maybe this could be a good approach. You could discuss this with your PI or report it more anonymously to a research ethics office. One thing that some schools have is a tip line / whistleblower policy where you could ask for someone from this office to come and give a presentation during group meeting about academic best practices. If it's a big enough group, people don't have to know it's you and the person you're targeting won't know they are being targeted. Also, when this office comes, they often try to emphasize that they regularly visit groups across campus from time to time, not necessarily because of something that happened. Just some thoughts/examples.

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We have a relatively small group. also, this guy has a history... he was basically forced out of his last group for reasons we don't know. I think that was a bad call by my adviser to take him in without knowing exactly why he was forced out in the first place. i have a friend from a different group who talks about this guy and some of the things he said. and based upon my interaction with him, it just seems like he's off somehow, like he wasn't socialized properly growing up or something. He's also got what carol dweck would call a "fixed mindset." All of this makes me think his value system is completely different, and furthermore, it's very hard to change it through intervention. So I'm leaving this one alone..

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I have been asked this before, but jokingly. It was jokingly because I wouldn't even have a say who goes on the paper and in what order, at the end of the day that is up to my PI. If I did put another lab member on a paper, my PI would immediately ask me why, and it would raise a lot of questions. I have also had people ask me if it's possible for me to do so (giving them the benefit of the doubt their question is simply for curiosity reasons), and I've just told them I have no say on who's name goes on the paper at the end of the day. So you could choose to take the responsibility of your shoulders that way if you wish (unless you do have a say). Personally, I would just tell them straight up no, and explain you did all the work, and they didn't. This way he understands you have a different value system than him, and he understands not to bother you about these sort of things again in the future (hopefully). 

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