A comment from a previous post:
For those who did stock up data as a postdoc, any advice on navigating authorship issues with previous advisor? Let's assume the data was collected in the postdoc lab. The newbie PI designed and led the work but the former advisor provided key resources.
Note: At my institution, papers co-authored with a former advisor are not counted in tenure considerations, even if the asst prof is the senior/corresponding author.
(also see reply from B. Kiddo, teh bride, who says good things)
Navigating authorship is tough. In general, those kind of hard conversations, where the power is unequal, need to happen with all the usual tough stuff: tact, respect, etc etc. My best advice is to start the conversation with neutral statements of fact like:
I'm getting ready to submit paper XYZ from when I worked with you (in your lab?). Can we discuss authorship?
If it was in their lab, usually they do get co-authorship. And, really, except for emotional things like "I hate that fucker", it costs nothing to add them as co-auth, especially if you get first. And (see below), one needs to get permission/approval from all the authors on the paper.
Most likely the paper means more to you than to them. A good mentor will know that, and a bad mentor can be led to do the right thing. Keep your cool (ha! am I telling this to someone else? me? of the nanosecond fuse?). A philosophy that has served me well, all these long years, is that adding co-authors seldom creates problems. Of course, there is the caveat about "appropriate", and then the determination of appropriate.
When I first got to previous MRU, the Chair from Hell had a policy. For me in particular. He was to be a co-author on all my papers, and I was to include him at 10-20% effort on all my grants. Because after all, we work on the same things, and (yes, this is a quote): " I (that's him) hired you (that's me) to collaborate with me (that's him)". Shortly after, through no effort of mine, MRU re-iterated their authorship policy which included an explicit prohibition about chairs including their names on faculty papers. The grant funding issue did not go away so easily, so I did instead. But I digress...
Here is the mistake from years gone by. I once upon a time had a grad student. Let's call her Amanda. She was older than the other students, but bright well beyond average. She was great at planning, and supervising (she had a horde on undergrads to help with extensive, but relatively simple data collection). What she sucked at was follow-through, follow-up and finishing stuff. My mistake? I did not realize this, and did not lay down rules to deal with the situation. I figured things would go ok, things were going ok, until they didn't. She collected masses and masses of raw data. Enough for several data rich papers. Enough to establish herself as independent of me. But she never got around to the extraction of quantitative data from the masses of raw data.
What destroyed her in the end, was not the lack of output, but that she bent the truth. She claimed a master's degree (which gave her status in the PhD program) but she had never defended, and it was never awarded. One of her committee members found out, and came to me. He wanted to toss her out of the program then and there. I went to her and said "what the fuck, you need to fix this". She got angry and defensive and blamed her old advisor. I said that was irrelevant and it needed to be fixed. She seemed to think I had a magic wand and could make the problem go away. I was willing, and persuaded he committee, to give her space to either go back and defend or to own up to it. No penalty, except that she'd have to lose the extra status and take another course. She said screw this and after 4 years, candidacy, and enough data to sink a ship, she walked away from the program to raise cats (or something like that). She had to take one class, and analyze data and write the thesis. The latter was not going to be hard, as she had a detailed 40-page outline of three papers that could be the thesis. She was capable of writing, well and easily. She just couldn't do it. I counted this as a failure on my part, particularly to the animals whose data did not get published (at the time).
Fast forward a couple of years. I get an ambitious new postdoc in my lab (from another field). Marge is intrigued by Amanda's data. Marge has an idea about the data- taking the raw from one part (not the main part) and looking at in the context of some of the other data collected. Something I hadn't seen. I don't think Amanda saw it (it wasn't in the outline). Marge goes to it, enters reams of hand collected/written data, analyzes it, and comes up with really interesting results. Writes a great paper. A really, really good paper.
I track down Amanda who has moved to Mississippi or Texas or somewhere far away with her cats and garden. I email her, and attach Marge's manuscript. Marge is first author. I'm last. Amanda is in the middle. I attach authorship regs from where I am that essentially say: everyone who should be an author needs to be an author, and no one who shouldn't be an author should be. I say that as she supervised this data collection (true), but did not collect it (also true), and that the data, although not the hypothesis and question, had originally been conceived to be part of her thesis (which we co-designed), that it was appropriate she be an author.
Amanda was furious, although I am not clear why. She copied her anger to the Dean, to the lawyers, to everyone. And concluded her email with "I see you tracked me down. I'm living in a beautiful place. If we were still friends, I'd invite you down, but we're not". I wasted time talking to all the appropriate players (lawyers, deans, ombuds) and the paper came out, in good IF journal (Marge is now jr faculty and doing well). I never heard from Amanda again.
My mistake was not about authorship - I was honorable, and have no regrets. I've published other of Amanda's data, and she is a co-auth on everything. I send her emails asking for input and approval, and hear nothing back. That is a bit problematic, since the corresponding author is supposed to get approval from every co-auth, these days. But choosing between the sin of a co-author who doesn't agree, and the sin of leaving Amanda off, I take the first.
My mistake was in not supervising Amanda better. I did not recognize her issue and step in soon enough. I tend to run my lab a bit looser than many, mostly because I don't want to waste time and energy being a hard ass. When I'd meet with Amanda, she showed all the signs of progressing. But those signs were not enough. Or misleading. I needed to drill down deeper into her work, and I didn't. Picking the right level of interaction with trainees is hard. Making the environment where they can thrive is hard. Figuring out authorship is not so hard. Enni, I hope this is something you can laugh about in ten years.