I had a conversation with my supervisor the other day, after I caught her riled up from an earlier meeting. A political fracas between our group at Fancypants School and the Hilly Lab Above Us had exploded this week, mainly because a Hilly researcher who is co-supervising one of our Fancypants grad students presented a poster covering work 100% by this grad student, without including her name on it anywhere. She didn’t even know the poster was being made until she walked into the presentation room and saw her pictures and diagrams on it. This person is one of her supervisors. The disrespect and self-serving choices he exhibited are mind-blowing to me.
The conversation culminated in three rather depressing upshots from my supervisor’s perspective. One, that women tend to both take these types of betrayals more closely to heart and that it more negatively affects their interest in remaining in science. Two, that women cannot stand up for themselves assertively without being labeled “a difficult woman”, and hence she was handling it in a relatively round-about (but still effective) manner rather than confronting the person in question more directly. Three, that her best advice to women facing this kind of disparagement was just to “put their heads down and keep working”.
Today I was sent a co-author paper to revise, prior to submission. I have been the second author on this project on every abstract for conferences the lead author has submitted in the year he has been working on it. On the final paper draft, I am suddenly third author, behind someone who is not in academia (his company developed a technique that we are leveraging/highlighting here). I think this decision is political. I hope this decision has nothing to do with my request for better authorship on the poster a few weeks ago (different project entirely). This paper is going to a high impact journal, and I expect it will be accepted. I didn’t do more than a third-author share of work, but I did do more than the current second author. However, the data came free from his company.
I am not mad, but a bit disappointed, both in my current status and that neither my boss nor this first author saw fit to discuss this with me, or at least warn me. I am going to just put my head down and work. This time.