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Coauthoring papers as an undergrad (as a programmer slave)

  1. Feb 3, 2014 #1
    I've been given the opportunity to write programs for two different professors working on separate papers (one math, one physics), and when published they say they will list me as a coauthor. With the first, I sorta resisted a little, because I don't see the amount of work I did as really significant and the code was relatively simple. With the second, I'm not going to resist, because, despite feeling I don't deserve it, I do like being able to say I coauthored a paper.

    To be clear, the first was finding max cliques in a graph. The second is numerically approximating some ODEs.

    My question is whether others see it the same as I do. I know it's a scam. That is to say, I know they are only listing me as a coauthor to get me to write a program so they can avoid programming. When I brag about it, will others know that it is likely a scam as well?

    It really seems to be more a matter of networking, showing interest in helping professors and a small amount of talent. If I had heard of someone doing the same before having been involved in it myself, I would have been a lot more impressed than I would now. I hate to admit it, but I sorta like to impress people. All things considered, would this be more likely to impress someone in academia or make me look like a wanna be?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2014 #2


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    First off, don't "brag" about authoring papers. Generally it's recognized that if you are named as a co-author on a paper as an undergraduate, you probably weren't the driving force behind the paper.

    That said, what I usually tell my students about authorship is that if your name goes on the paper, you're accepting responsibility for what goes in it. That means that anyone can come up to you and ask you about it and expect to get a coherent answer. This is very important when networking or during job interviews, for example.
  4. Feb 3, 2014 #3
    To what extent? I mean, I can say they found some cool way of saying that the max clique of graphs with a certain type of generator is equal to the max clique of a specific subgraph plus some constant. (I know about the generator and how to construct the subgraph, but I don't want to do into details.) But I can't claim to understand how they proved it.

    As for the physics one, we'll see. We've only talked about the ODEs involved so far. ODEs alone are relatively simple. I don't know how hard the theory is yet.
  5. Feb 4, 2014 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Being on a paper if you cannot defend the conclusions is improper. Even if you want to brag.

    Offering authorship to someone who cannot defend its conclusions is also improper.
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