Reader Poll2: Corresponding

Jul 17 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Is it common practice in your field to let grad students be corresponding author on papers? If so, under what circumstances?

28 responses so far

  • @TellDrtell says:

    My PI during my PhD had, basically, a "first author is corresponding author unless a different decision is explicitly made" policy.

  • Michelle B says:

    Yes (field = ecology). Not just common but expected if the work is part of the student's thesis or dissertation, and/or the student was lead in study design and writing the paper. I view it as a teachable moment. It would certainly be easier to be corresponding author in their place. Also in my field it is not unusual for students to author papers from their thesis/dissertation without including their major professor, either as sole author or with other collaborators.

  • bashir says:

    First author = corresponding author in my area. It's not really a separate thing. I was 1rst on a few papers as a grad student.

  • duffymeg says:

    Yes, in ecology it's pretty common for students to be corresponding author. I was as a student, and my students are on their papers where they are lead author.

    Related: in ecology, the tradition was that the last author is the person who did the least work on the project. But that seems to be changing (rapidly), with the PI as last author becoming much more common. Similarly, traditionally, being corresponding author wasn't viewed as a special thing -- it was just the person who had to deal with submissions and the reprint requests. It will be interesting to see if that shifts, too.

  • Klara says:

    My PI is always last & corresponding author. Unless it's a collaboration with other labs, in which case the PIs might share corresponding authorship... Grad students or postdocs who "own" the projects are first, but not corresponding. I'm in a biochemistry dept.
    Guess it's okay this way. For instance, I'll be moving to another lab soon and my institutional email account will be deleted. Would've been bad, if this had been the corresponding author email address.

  • MCA says:

    Biomechanics seems to correspond with what's been said - first author = corresponding author (usually the grad student whose thesis chapter this is).

  • LM says:

    Physics - first-author grad students are occasionally listed (I am a couple of times), but only as an additional email to the PI. I got caught by the "listing your institutional email" thing, so I don't do that anymore.

  • RGW says:

    Mixed, depends on lab. With me, 1st author = corresponding author & same with some colleagues, with others, lab head is last author & always corresponding author. If student or postdoc has moved on, usually not hard to get contact details of lab head or other author, & any correspondence is usually shortly after publication. For access to materials, e.g. transgenic lines, more logical to have lab head as the contact.

  • anon says:

    Neuro: senior author is always corresponding, whether first or last. A postdoc with their own ideas and who performed the work mostly independently can get co-corresponding (first) author. Grad students, never, except in old-school labs I've seen where they are sole author on thesis work.

  • Emilio Bruna says:

    +1 to what duffymeg and Michelle B said. The exception in my lab is if a student is not continuing in science, in which case I'll take over as corresponding to deal with future data requests, etc. It's not a status thing at all.

  • Lirael says:

    At least in the (computer science) lab where I'm a grad student, the first author, generally a student or postdoc, is the corresponding author.

  • Busy says:

    In my field corresponding author is irrelevant. It pretty much means whoever was tasked with uploading the PDF files for the journal in question at submission time. Are there fields in which one gets brownie points for that (being able to answer mail)?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Yes, in some fields the major credit goes to the corresponding author, and this is important for promotional things.

  • briony says:

    Yes, and my field is planetary science/geology. Grad students are almost always 1st authors and corresponding authors on papers they write. We also don't do the last author = PI business.

  • D. says:

    A subfield of biophysics - PIs are the corresponding authors, grad students are the first authors and never the corresponding ones, postdocs are sometimes the first authors and co-corresponding authors (with PIs). In my field being the corresponding author is important.

  • EarthSciProf says:

    The earth sciences are similar to ecology. Typically if a PhD student or postdoc is first author, then they're also the corresponding author.

  • TheGrinch says:

    Physical sciences field. Senior author/lab boss almost always the last and the corresponding author. Never a student. Postdoc corresponding is also very rare, in some cases though I have seen co-corresponding authorships.

  • doctor chick says:

    Dev bio checking in: The PI is always the senior & corresponding author. Grad students and post-docs can be first author but never corresponding author.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Interesting the developing split between whether you work inside or outside.

  • Chris says:

    It varies in entomology by sub-discipine. On my MSc. papers the lead PI was the corresponding author because I wasn't planning on a career as a PI (intended goal was a technician post). PhD papers I was corresponding author because I was after a PI career and it made sense

  • pyrope says:

    Ecology/Geography - I'm seeing more and more senior PIs as last authors in biogeography, so I've started doing that (vs. second author) on student papers. I think it stems from more of a European biogeographers thing. Like Emilio B., I've only been corresponding on papers where undergrads or MSc students not continuing in academia were first author. But, I do consider corresponding as a status thing. I wouldn't take corresponding from a PhD student or postdoc - in my field, it seems like that would undermine their expertise.

  • @DrRubidium says:

    In my chemistry grad lab, my PhD advisor was always last and corresponding author. Students were never the corresponding author. In my new postdoc lab, I was just named a corresponding author along with the PI for a paper in progress. My new PI always has posdocs "managing" grad or undergrad projects, thus that postdoc is always a corresponding author.

  • Lorax says:

    Molecular Biology/Genetics/Microbiology lab. I'm the PI and almost always the corresponding author. Since the corresponding author is the one who gets the requests for strains and other reagents, it is not appropriate (or at least more of a hassle) to have someone who will likely not have control over or access to the reagents be the the corresponding author. At least in my field, the corresponding author is the only author that has contact information associated with the paper.

  • chall says:

    I didn't understand why some people looked at me strangely (envious/funny) when I was corresponding author of my first first-author paper as a grad student. It was a "shared" corresponing since the last author automatically had their email in this particular journal. After that I've realised that many ppl do corresponding author for the PI since they are the person staying in the lab whereas post-docs and grad students leave. (I don't really buy it, but it's the main reason I've heard for telling a post-doc that they couldn't be corresponding author.)

    In reality though, I wasn't corresponding author of my latest article in the journal but my PI sends all questions my way and let me reply to the people asking .... maybe that means I'm getting all the work and none the glory? (partly joking)

  • FSGrad says:

    Yep, another field biologist here. I'll be publishing at least one of my dissertation chapters as a single-author paper, and have another couple in the works with only student co-authors. Beyond that, I expect to be corresponding on all of my chapters whether or not I am the sole author.

  • outoftune says:

    Engineer here; my institutional email address will cease to exist in a few years, so I either put my PI as corresponding author or, if possible, include email addresses for both of us.

    Anyways, both of us can be googled and our contact information found pretty easily, and no one in my field seems to care about corresponding authorship.

  • EarthSciProf says:

    Earth sciences again. Within my subfield (geochemistry), I think it's most common that the PI be the last author. But there are certainly exceptions: my postdoc advisor preferred being second author on my paper with several authors.

  • Casey says:

    Never, ever, ever. In fact, I handled all the actual correspondence on my last paper, and still had to list my PI as the corresponding author.

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