Authorship and Collaboration 3

Description of Problem

A collaboration is established between your institution and another one half way across the country, and so it will be a rare occasion that you will interact in person. Your group will be providing some much needed simulations to help understand their experimental results.

In working on the problem, you discover some important physics that has been overlooked by your collaborators, so fundamental that it really needs to be published immediately. You quickly write a paper (with you as first author) on the subject with the colleagues at your institution and use the results from the experiment from your collaborators, then circulate the submission draft to your collaborators.

The next morning you receive a rather terse phone call from their lead scientist telling you that if you submit the publication, the collaboration will terminate there and then, and you will lose the collaborative grant. The collaborators are outraged that you are publishing their results with you as first author.


You are faced with a dilemma: publish the important discovery and ruin the collaboration, or drop the matter. An alternative could be to offer the collaborators the opportunity to be first authors on the paper. What should you do? This is a matter of the breakdown of trust.

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