Am I being precious and "if I had to do it so do they"?

(17 Posts)
worstofbothworlds Thu 23-Jul-20 09:30:58

I'm a co-I on a grant and the postdoc worked with me tangentially on their PhD too. PD used some of my data and collected a load more and it went into a chapter of their PhD.
I think that more work on the original data plus their data would make a good paper and I suggested this.
PD says "I don't know if I have the capacity to write something with you what with this grant etc."
When I was a PD TBF in my first postdoc I was in a very time consuming lab that was also way outside my PhD field and I didn't write anything. But in my second PD I just was a) expected to take time to write up my PhD work and b) took it for granted that I would and c) would have been grateful for such a suggestion as otherwise their paper will be adapted-thesis-chapter with no additional data.

Am I just doing the whole "well I wrote papers from my PhD at the same time as doing my postdoc so why shouldn't the postdocs of today, they don't know they're born" or is it normal to tell a senior academic you might not have capacity to collaborate (and I worked in a very unhealthy environment when I was a postdoc)?

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geekaMaxima Thu 23-Jul-20 14:43:59

I'm not sure if I have the right end of the stick, so to speak.

Is it that the postdoc is opting not to write up data from their PhD while employed as a postdoc? If so, it's a relatively common but foolish decision in my field when someone
Moves straight from thesis submission to postdoc, and most often happens if the postdoc does not have great time management skills and is struggling to adapt to the expectations of a paid job. It's one reason most PhDs are moving to alt format thesis, where the "chapters" are written up as standalone papers with some additional linking info for context.

Your involved in the PhD research and the current grant that employs the postdoc seems peripheral to the above... if I understand correctly!

worstofbothworlds Thu 23-Jul-20 18:22:25

Yes, that's more or less it. The chapter is theoretically a paper but needs more polishing before submission, but more data would help a lot. For me, my data would also be more publishable with their data.

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ghislaine Thu 23-Jul-20 19:25:22

Can you ask the post doc if you could polish up the chapter with someone else and s/he would still get authorial credit for it? If you don’t need the publication or you could use your data elsewhere (and there are no ownership issues) then I would let the post doc go whistle.

It’s nice that you want to help this person but horses to water, etc.

worstofbothworlds Thu 23-Jul-20 20:08:49

I do need the publication, or at least I need to publish this dataset and it would be better with the other data. Plus I thought the postdoc could do some of the writing.

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CatandtheFiddle Fri 24-Jul-20 16:28:32

I do think that the recent generation of PhD grads are less independent and more entitled than I was - my current postdoc is very dependent and lacks initiative.

But you can leave it and see where they get - if they don't have an array & variety of publications, they'll not get the next job ...

MedSchoolRat Sat 25-Jul-20 14:57:16

Can't U ask to use their data, you write up & analyse so you'll be 1st author? Asking them to prioritise your publishing needs & share your level of ambition is presumptious, imho.

SarahAndQuack Tue 04-Aug-20 21:46:14

Late to this, but as a postdoc I feel a bit of sympathy with this person and wonder if it's imposter syndrome rather than a lack of motivation/independence? It can be easy to feel as if you shouldn't waste a more senior academic's time, or as if they'd only offer to engage with you as a sort of charity case.

They might think, innocently, that you the established academic are in no great need of this paper/the results, and/or that it will look more independent and dedicated if they focus directly on the postdoc rather than writing this up.

Pota2 Wed 05-Aug-20 19:35:46

Unhealthy working environments will never change if people have the attitude that if they suffered, so should others. Lots of junior academics become seriously ill due to overwork and it’s not something we should encourage.
Is the post doc saying never or just not now? If it’s something you could work on in the future, maybe you could help them map out a timeline. But if it’s actually for your publication record then maybe you should write the paper yourself. I don’t work in STEM so I’m not clued up on how it works but I hear horrendous stories of over-work and exploitation that I think aren’t quite as bad in social sciences.

parietal Wed 05-Aug-20 21:49:26

In every academic job I've ever had, I've continued to write up papers from the previous job. And even now, i'm still working with an ex-postdoc of mine (now moved on twice) to write up papers from when she was in my lab 7 years ago. That is just part of the academic backlog. For both the PD and for you, getting a good paper on your CV is a major plus point and worth working for.

On the other hand, if this PD is not aiming for a long term career in academia, then an extra paper may not mean much to her. Also, it is possible that she is in a highly demanding lab where her new work really does take up all her time. So if she does not want to contribute to writing up this paper, then you have no leverage to force her to do so.

Sometimes for 'orphan datasets' like this, I give an MSc student the job of re-analysing the data and writing it up neatly to get it closer to being a paper. This has turned out to be especially useful this year when the MSc students couldn't get any lab time.

SarahAndQuack Thu 06-Aug-20 09:24:06

In every academic job I've ever had, I've continued to write up papers from the previous job. And even now, i'm still working with an ex-postdoc of mine (now moved on twice) to write up papers from when she was in my lab 7 years ago. That is just part of the academic backlog.

But sometimes people need to be explicitly told this.

When I had just graduated I had a college on a prestigious postdoc who thought she couldn't write up her PhD or dedicate any time to anything relate to it, because she was worried it would be seen as fraudulently taking time from the postdoc project she was paid to do. It's not such a silly line of thought that you should be seen to be completely dedicated to the thing you're explicitly paid to do. Postdoc is still the stage where you're learning about all sorts of conventions and expectations, and I think often people just need a bit more clarity.

SarahAndQuack Thu 06-Aug-20 09:24:26

Sorry, 'college' should read 'colleague'.

badg3r Thu 06-Aug-20 09:36:49

Hmm. I would raise eyebrows at that attitude. Tell them you will be correspondingly author and if they want to be first then they need to write it up, otherwise get someone else to fill in the gaps and write it up and PD goes as second/third/fourth author.

worstofbothworlds Thu 06-Aug-20 10:26:30

Is the post doc saying never or just not now?
I'm not entirely sure. Now is busy, but the next year will be massively busier. The postdoc isn't THAT long and they will be looking for other postdocs and/or lectureships and those will also be busy. Maybe they just don't realise they now have more time than they will do??

Tell them you will be correspondingly author and if they want to be first then they need to write it up, otherwise get someone else to fill in the gaps and write it up and PD goes as second/third/fourth author.
If I had the data I could do this (but it is the PD's PhD data that I want to add to mine). I could of course offer to take it and do this - but partly through fairness, and partly through time, I can't necessarily do it ALL myself. I think it would be frowned upon to put the PhD student third or fourth even if they didn't write it up, if it was their PhD data.

Remember the PD is in my group for this postdoc post (though I'm not the PI), and it's a small field, so me being seen as having "shafted" this PD by not giving them appropriate authorship won't go down well.

@parietal the MSc idea is a good one. I'm all for giving junior scientists an additional boost and that could work well. We will be putting forward project proposals for MSc before too long. The PD would then also get some MSc supervision experience as well as, hopefully, an additional paper.

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badg3r Thu 06-Aug-20 10:47:13

Yes of course they need to be given appropriate authorship but depending on the amount of work left, would it still be appropriate for them to be first author? I'm not sure exactly how it works in your field but as others have said perhaps they are also not aware that this is the norm in many fields, to work on papers after the funding has run out for that project. What does the PI on the grant say? It seems there is a bit of naivety on the PD's part as to how these processes normally work. Can you reassure them this is normal? Or is it more a case of not wanting to work on this specific project? Maybe a good starting point is seeing if they want to do the work.

worstofbothworlds Thu 06-Aug-20 11:10:37

I think the PD would be nervous about doing this without explicitly clearing it with the PI, too, so I will have a word with the PI (separately) and see what they suggest (I know they'll be happy with it) and give some authorship suggestions.
I do think it's a bit of lack of knowledge about the culture around carrying on old projects, and a bit of panic over workload (poor thing, it will never get better once they are a lecturer!)
The PhD supervisor is, separately, a colleague (I said it's a small field!) so I may copy them in as well...

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Igglepigglesgrubbyblanket Thu 03-Sep-20 22:21:46

If they don't come from an academic family they may well not know they are meant to do lots of stuff that isn't in the main contract for the job. I'm first gen and was a mature student (having done other jobs before) and often there are things that seem to be standard knowledge that I have absolutely no clue about. Just tell her it will be useful for progressing through academia and probably will be the sort of thing that she can put in her yearly review. Also that she can spend work time on it (if she can)

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