Publishing scientific results in a peer-reviewed journal is a primary goal of most researchers, regardless of career stage Publications are essential for anyone who wants a long career in science. There are strong conventions regarding the publication process – although these can vary by discipline.
Conversations regarding authorship should happen early For the majority of research projects, there will be decisions about who warrants authorship status, as well as to the order of co-authors on a manuscript. A discussion about authorship should take place at the onset of a project, recognizing that as the project evolves there may be a need to revisit the author list.
Authorship typically requires intellectual contribution Intellectual contributions can range from designing experiments or analyzing data to drafting the manuscript. Simply providing the funding for a project or helping to collect the data typically does not qualify someone for authorship.
As a rule, whoever does the bulk of the writing is the first author The first author will typically write the first draft and act as the coordinator to solicit required contributions from all co-authors. The first author will then submit the final manuscript and manage correspondence with any journals and reviewers.
Usually, the PI (in this lab, Holly Kindsvater) is the last author The last author spot on a list of co-authors is typically reserved for the person that conceived of the research project. In most instances this is the professor running the lab from which the research originated.
Publishing is a long road Sometimes years will transpire between the completion of a research project and actually seeing it in print. This means that often we are required to continue working on publications even after we have started a new position.
First author status can be relinquished If you start a new job and do not have time to work on unfinished manuscripts, one option is for another lab member may take the reins and submit the manuscript with you as a co-author.
First author status can be lost If work remains unpublished for several years after you have left the lab with no updates and/or signs of progress, first-authorship may be re-assigned to a current student so that the research can be published in a timely manner.
Not every project is publishable Even after years of hard work, a publication is not guaranteed, so you need to set your expectations accordingly. Every scientist has projects that are not published – this is not a sign of failure, it is a sign of being a scientist!