This is been bothering me: Would a hiring committee prefer to see applicants who have a number of publications in big impact journals where the applicant's name is 3rd or 4th or lower, or would they rather see an applicant with a number of pubs in lower-tier journals where their name appears first or seconds in the author order? If the former, you will appear to have a higher h-index (which I hear is becoming an important factor for hiring committees), but your contributions on these nicely cited articles is probably minimal. If the latter, your contribution to each study/manuscript is likely much larger, but unfortunately the journals will also not be heavily cited and so h-index suffers. Thoughts?
Date: 10 Sep 2014 19:47
Number of posts: 17
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Having been on search committees, when I see an author with many publications as 3rd, 4th, or "lower" author - I think to myself "this is someone who's been part of someone else's excellent research program." When I see someone with 1st authorship, I think "this is someone who is taking charge of a research program." In all cases, the second sort of publication record will better attract me. I want colleagues who will demonstrate leadership and direction.
Ideally, if someone has the opportunity to be a lower author on top-notch publications, that same individual should be capable of landing 1st authorship on at least a couple of lower-tier journals.
I've never considered impact factor on searches much. An applicant's seniority plays a role here; it's not easy to discern where a young scholar's impact factor might end-up over the years, for example.
I second DocJ's comments. If I were on a search committee, I would want evidence that the candidate is capable of leading research projects, not just collaborating on them. Consequently, I would give more weight to first-authored articles than to third- or fourth-authored articles, with journal quality being an additional consideration.
Ideally, it would be great to see a mix of both! Like DocJ, I would question someone who had a number of high-profile articles but no (or minimal) first authored papers. But, I also wouldn't hire someone with lots of first author pubs in very low-tier journals.
I take your question as a nice statement of something that search committees need to pay more attention to — the h-index on its own may not be super reliable.
Yeah I much prefer someone with a mix, mostly first authors but some second author papers as well. I think it's comical that the H-index doesn't take authorship position into account at all. Do I really care if someone has an H-index of 1000 if they only have 2-3 fourth author papers?
This leads me to another question. I am already a faculty member, looking to make a move at some point, or at least keep my options open. I work at a SLAC and have a few potential papers in the pipeline, all co-authored with students from my college. I am the PI on these. They were my idea, part of my research program, started & designed by me, etc, but I figure why not let a student take first-author credit (if s/he can do the work) and I take last? But a colleague said maybe this is a bad idea and that I should be first if it is my research program—I could be hurting myself as last author. Is last as good as first (if all co-authors are undergrad students and you're obviously the PI/senior author), or is first still better? In case it helps, I'd like to move to another SLAC, not an R1, so I want to show I work well with students and promote them.
I've always been under the impression that if you are in the last author position and people ahead of you are students (especially undergrads but also graduate students you supervise) you get the same basic credit as a first author publication. For the most part, even if the graduate student did in fact come up with the idea, I think people generally assume that it is their PI's work. However, I suppose having students be first authors on every paper may make it a bit hard to see this from a quick glance at your CV (to get around this problem some people add * or ^ next to the names of students they supervised so that people can see this more easily).
It is tricky when a paper involves student coauthor. The rule of thumb that I typically follow is: whoever wrote the paper should be the first author. Many people thought that a student should be the first author if the manuscript is based on a thesis/dissertation. I argue that it may be always the brightest thing to do. First, you may spend a lot of time revising the thesis and make it into a manuscript. second, you may have hard time getting to the student to work on it especially he/she has moved on to something else (e.g., graduation). third, you are probably the one working on the R&R instead of the student. so, for these reason, I agree with asst prof's colleague that having a student as the first author may not always be a good idea.
Yes I think that in one of these cases if the student ends up being first author I will still be doing the vast majority of the work including writing (or at least re-writing to prepare for submission) most of the paper, and doing the R&R. But for the other one it was more the student's idea and I believe he would deserve first without a doubt. I hate how this stuff is not always so clear.
"The rule of thumb that I typically follow is: whoever wrote the paper should be the first author."
This is a good rule to go by though I disagree with anon's conclusions after that. A student's thesis/dissertation is by definition written by the student. Yes, there's a lot of editing before the defense and even more editing and revising to convert to publication length but revisions by a mentor don't merit the mentor taking first authorship *unless* the student has completely abandoned the effort.