When does it become your work you can take credit for? — R Voice

When does it become your work you can take credit for?

Shruti Turner
Shruti Turner Member Posts: 242 ✭✭✭✭
edited July 9 in Venting Corner

I feel like we all go into the research world knowing the drawbacks, but for me I am still finding myself at odds with one aspect in particular...ownership of work. I understand that being a post-doc/phd student on the PI's grant means you're working for them, but to not be ascribed any credit for the work done just feels like a kick in the teeth, especially when the person spending the most time on the project...

I just wonder, how can those at the bottom of the hierarchy ever expect to make it higher if the "senior" researchers on a project don't help with pointing out the work of the "junior" ones? Have I missed the point? Have you experienced anything like this?

Comments

  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 110 admin

    In a very narrow sense of being transparent with allocation of credit, I think the CRedIT initiative is a great way to be clear about who does what in the work described in a certain manuscript - but extending that outside of publications is tougher.


  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 302 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 9

    @Shruti Turner - interesting but complicated question. It really depends.

    As @chris leonard points out, there is the CREDIT system in case of papers. However, when it comes to patents, royalties, or work done with the industry (with industrial funds or part-industrial funds), things become even more complicated. Because unlike papers, nothing is transparent - by default, and everything is shrouded in secrecy.

    That said - most industries (major ones) and industrial projects involve ethics/HR management components - this is becoming a culture recently at least in big industries. My two cents - One needs to be very careful when thinking about signing NDAs and IP rights/compensations when going onboard such projects.

    Ideally, PIs/project managers should be trained to allocate credit appropriately. However, as I have said many many times on RVoice, academia SUCKS with this. Especially, university-based researchers (PIs) are hardly trained about the various scenarios, and most of them throw the ones below in the hierarchies under the bus - consciously/sub-consciously - intentionally or unintentionally. Because they dont know better. And there is no accountability for bad decisions made by PIs. And there are no formal redressal systems for Ph.Ds/postdocs/junior researchers. Bad experiences/unfairness are EXTERMELY commonplace.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 242 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for the link @chris leonard - it totally makes sense to me on authorship matters because I feel it is clear. But, as you say expanding that out of the manuscript setting it becomes quite complicated...

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 242 ✭✭✭✭

    @Raj sundaram When am I one to ask a simple question, eh?!

    It's an interesting perspective on IP, actually I meant more metaphorical ownership than like this, but you raise some really valid points. I know my university claimed ownership over anything created whilst employed by them, though the rules are slightly different for students. Thinking about these aspects in advance is so important so one is not caught out!

    I feel like there are a lot of things on the list of what people "should be trained" in but are expected just to muddle through. I agree it does lead to unconscious/unintentionally propagation of bad habits. The lack of formal guidelines on this is tricky. I have seen PIs present and without fail ALWAYS credit specific students of theirs when they present student work that is part of the lab. Other times for others, the message is "I am doing this..." because they head up the lab.

    It's such a difficult one to get my head around in a way, but the way I have is to accept that each lab has a different environment/vibe. If we have the luxury of choice, it is part of the decision making process when choosing where to work...

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 302 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 12

    Yes, @Shruti Turner, this list of "what people ought to be trained but arent" is becoming quite long. The consequences of making bad decisions are also becoming bigger and bigger. This is because academia is no longer a small enterprise. The money involved is huge, many people are involved, the enmeshing between industries/start ups/government money/military/international collaborations/university research is complex, and there are massive stakes. But the entire system is still built for what academia was 200 years ago - a small monastery to train 100 monks, with students treated as apprentices, to share results with a small community with a Gutenberg press. There lies the problem. The system is outdated for what academia is today. 🙄

    About credit - say at conferences, there is also the in-between case ("I do it" vs. "These guys are the key") that I see sometimes. Supervisors behaving like angels - giving credit to students, but the politics behind this in individual labs can be toxic - somewhat like the horror stories of abusive families. All one has to do is go to the conference drinks or catch up with students at poster sessions, the facades quickly comes apart. 😂

    Coming back to the topic of discussion...

    I wish more academics at all hierarchies (especially those above) would also put "credit" in perspective. What we build today - the few bricks on the tower of knowledge we put as individuals or small groups of researchers - rests on the work many have carried out for decades! Also, what we do today will be the basis of the work of many others to come and contribute. This viewpoint might bring a sense of humility, meaning as well as responsibility. I feel once the egos and stakes involved become a bit subdued, when all parties understand the power differentials at play in academia....with the above viewpoint and by incorporating accountability as well as consequences into system...allocating credit might become a bit less problematic.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 242 ✭✭✭✭

    I feel like anytime we think too much about anything, we see the niceties of things start to unravel! Of course, that is not to tarnish everyone with the same brush - this platform, and various well-known Twitter accounts amongst other things, show that there is a swathe of people who want to change the norm. and bring academia up to date.

    "I wish more academics at all hierarchies (especially those above) would also put "credit" in perspective. What we build today - the few bricks on the tower of knowledge we put as individuals or small groups of researchers - rests on the work many have carried out for decades! Also, what we do today will be the basis of the work of many others to come and contribute. This viewpoint might bring a sense of humility, meaning as well as responsibility. I feel once the egos and stakes involved become a bit subdued, when all parties understand the power differentials at play in academia....with the above viewpoint and by incorporating accountability as well as consequences into system...allocating credit might become a bit less problematic."

    What you say in this paragraph gives me hope that there is a way out of the toxic environments of academia, that as new labs are set up with a new generation of researchers at the helm, there may well be a chance for progress. It's an uphill battle for sure, I know I have seriously considered whether an academic career is for me based on the set-up. In fact, I still do wonder. I want to be part of the change to make it better, but I've got to put my mental health in my priorities too! I hope to find myself a supportive lab to gain some experience, that fits my research interests so I can go and set up a lab myself, creating an environment that is safe and open. Maybe a pipe-dream at this point, but if we don't try we definitely don't get!

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 302 ✭✭✭✭

    @Shruti Turner - Yes, it is essential to consider your own mental health and whether you would really prefer a regular academic career in a university.

    There are many other options as well. To also be a part of the change...

    The nice thing is that the definition of academia is changing...and industrial research is not purely industrial research these days. Lots of cross-pollination and intermingling in the research field - between universities, startups, industry, national labs, policy making, publishing industry, etc. There are many opportunities brewing. This is the basis on which I hope universities/standard academic practices in academic workplaces will change. Then, there are initiatives like RVoice, lots of conversation about mental health, workplace abuse/harrassment, what consitutes professionalism, etc.

    That said, I am also on the wall about whether there is going to be a change. Because despite all the conversations/"awareness" - I see very little actual structural changes. Even if changes are "initiated", some of them tend to be facades. Also, there is also way too much incentive and too many reasons for things to not change. The younger generation that comes into academia tends to follow the Matthew effect (there is still the old school boy's club culture that operates in academic recruitment). This I feel is quite detrimental (similar CVs, similar experiences, similar ideas, similar workplace culture - and perpetuation of similar kinds of behaviours and incentives). Because recruitment still largely rests on specific narrow aspects of the CV and not on other facets of the researcher - such as interpersonal relationship-, leadership-, management-, collaboration skills. Assessing these things takes time...and looking beyond shining CVs (or even collaborative papers) or personal aura 🙄. This is mildly changing here and there - but not so much. 🤨

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 242 ✭✭✭✭

    I totally agree with you there on the "Matthew" effect. I also wonder if there have been these problems we see for years, which are known about why would they change now? I like to think that change will happen, but in reality, I'm not so sure. I see the diversity of academics, but most I feel are towards the lower ends of the hierarchies...and the diversity dwindles as we look further to the top. I hope that enough of us wanting the change do stick things through to make the changes we want happen. However, I do appreciate (first hand and from others) that it can be exhausting to feel like battling for so long.

    I hope the change will come, but I'm not sure if it is realistic change. I am, however, pleased to see the progress and cross-pollination (as you say) between industry and academia. The collaborations and openness I think will be an asset to progress in the different fields.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 302 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 14

    @Shruti Turner - Yep - there is a lack of people with diverse experiences in leadership positions in academia. That is a problem.

    Not sure if there will be a change. A part of me thinks that university-based academia will be forced to change because of the interpollination. Somewhat like how rogue states are forced to "behave" in some aspects in the paradigm of globalisation. Poor comparison... 😅

     I hope that enough of us wanting the change do stick things through to make the changes we want happen.

    I think...it can help if enough of us decide (as a kind of protest) to NOT stick through things. 🤣

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/23/people-quitting-jobs-record-numbers-companies-take-note-treat-them-better

    While enough of us who choose to stick through put a sizeable effort to actually changing things. 😊

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