I think I've mentioned this in an earlier blog, so maybe some of you will remember hearing a little bit about this before.
Sometime last year I picked up several collaborations. One worked out in a timely manner. One didn't work out at all. Another was somewhere in between, and this is where the story gets interesting.
They originally wanted me to do one experiment, and fast. I wanted more papers so I could apply for jobs, so I was more than eager to get something easy to contribute and let someone else do the hard part. They were going to submit the paper shortly thereafter.
But didn't. And didn't. And months went by. I talked to them once or twice and they said they had gotten some really exciting new results and wanted to follow up on those and make the paper higher-impact, etc.
Ok, fine, I've got time, I thought, job applications aren't until the fall, and higher-impact is always a good thing.
More months went by. I never did get a draft of the paper from them, and I was thinking about it this week because I was looking at my CV and how annoying that was.
So I contacted them and they said, oh yeah, we're going to send it next week.
I said, you know, technically I'm supposed to get a chance to read it before that happens.
The response: we'll send you a copy the day before it goes out.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but I was required to take ethics classes. And I know this is not the way it's supposed to work. I certainly don't treat my co-authors this way when I do collaborations. So I'm seriously wondering if I'm going to have to take my name off this thing. At this point it's not going to help me anyway, since I've already sent most of my applications, with this paper listed as 'in preparation' (= totally worthless).
But hey, at least they let me put it on my CV. One of my other collaborators is too terrified of getting scooped to even let me do that-!
My gut instinct is that if it's really bad, I wouldn't even want my data in there, but I'm not even sure I can ask them to take my data out of it, or if I should just ask for an acknowledgment, or what. I'm only going to have one day- maybe less- to decide. And I don't imagine they would put in any edits I might want to suggest, since they're not going to have time.
I want to be especially careful because someone we know (distantly) is having a really hard time getting her grants, after having to retract some collaborative papers she published with a coauthor who later got caught for fabricating results. To me, that's really a nightmare scenario, especially in this day and age where you can't possibly know for sure, since you're almost always collaborating across (sometimes way across) disciplines.
At some point you really have to wonder if it's fair to hold the whole list of authors responsible for the sins of one greedy person, whom you're depending on to be the resident expert in their field.
And when the review process fails to detect it, you really have to wonder if the other authors should be expected to know. Since everything thinks peer review is so great and all that.
Anyway I let them know that this is not cool and in the future they should be more careful, but I already had the impression that my voice, especially since it's of a female pitch, will get filtered out.
Maybe I'm wrong and the paper really is amazing and really carefully controlled and I should just be glad to have my name on it. But I have a really bad feeling that these people tend to err on whichever side comes down in their favor.