Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 17:

“Why do all that writing work when my coauthors are going to be listed before me in the author byline?”

A dean once said to me that 90 percent of his day was dealing with plagiarism charges and author order disputes.

Nothing could be more common than your feeling that you have done more than others on an article and deserve better credit. You may even be right!

But research suggests that you probably aren’t: most of us have something called “egocentric bias” (Ross and Sicoly 1979). That is, “Individuals working in groups often egocentrically believe they have contributed more of the total work than is logically possible” (Caruso, Epley, and Bazerman 2006). The problem is that people have an excellent sense of what they do, and a poor sense of what others do. 

If you know for certain that the author arrangement is dramatically unfair, you can protest. But a publication is still a publication, it’s always worth it. I don’t think you should labor to perfect such an article, but do what’s necessary, and then move on to articles where your contribution is better recognized.

So, that’s my brief answer. As you know, the issue is quite complicated. So I give much more information on working with coauthors in the writing workbook, in the Addressing Coauthorship section on pages 57-59, including knowing the conventions of your field, making agreements in advance, and wrangling senior faculty coauthors.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 17, one of the human obstacles listed on page 31 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).