On being a published author

Well I can now add a shiny new section to my CV entitled ‘publications’. After one failed attempt at paper-writing a number of years ago (off topic: holy crap, I can’t believe I have been a professional chemist for long enough to have done something ‘a number of years ago’!), I have mixed feelings about my first experience as co-author of a published scientific article.

I’d heard murmurings around the office that my boss and colleagues were interested in publishing something in the nationwide magazine of a professional association. OK, so it’s no peer-reviewed, impact-factor-rated journal or anything but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. However, I was not aware that the article was to have my name in the author list, and was submitted while I was on holidays overseas.

Most chemists with the same amount of industry experience as me would not have been published at this stage of their career so on the one hand I should be feeling super duper happypants – I have an article to my name with virtually zero effort required! How very awesome, usually you have to wait until you’re a prof or PI until that happens… or an instrument scientist at a national facility. Indeed, the managing director seemed to think I should’ve been particularly ecstatic for this reason and appeared to be put off by my lack of enthusiasm.

But in reality I feel really uneasy about the whole thing, and feel that it is completely ethically wrong to publish an article without one of the authors having read it, or even been aware that they were a contributing author. Even though the article is scientifically sound and I have confidence in the validity of the data and interpretations I contributed I can’t help feeling like a fraud.

Inevitably I won’t say a word to my colleagues about any of this whilst hypocritically admiring the new section in my CV…

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