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Credit for online helpers?

  1. Aug 14, 2014 #1
    I am working on a bit of a mathematical modeling project, and if I get my small contribution done my name will likely end up as one of the contributors to a paper, with a lot of other names, mostly oncologists and one mathematical biologist, who is my mentor.

    However, given some of my struggles with Matlab, I've received online help from someone online. I waited as long as I could to ask for help, because I was trying to use this as a learning opportunity. However, the person who responded to my inquiry was very gracious, and even wrote re-wrote some of my code for me. (I'm still not sure if it works.)

    At one point does one go from a helper to a collaborator? If this does work, should I include this person's name? The person who is helping me doesn't really know what the research is about, as I communicated the bare amount of information needed to solve the specific problem. I would like to do the right thing here, so any advice is appreciated.

    -Dave K
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    Seems like a personal choice to me if it's sort of "close to the line", but in general I think that generosity towards others is always a helpful life choice.
  4. Aug 14, 2014 #3


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    This sort of thing differs greatly from one field to another. Maybe you should mention it to your advisor, tell her/him the help you were given and let her/him make the call.
  5. Aug 14, 2014 #4
    Yes, me too.
  6. Aug 14, 2014 #5
    It seems to me you should start by asking your mentor or the lead investigator of the paper first. If you feel strongly that this person has made a significant contribution to the paper and are bent on listing them as an author, then you certainly need to ask them if they'd like to be listed as one.

    Typically, though, in these types of situations, you would list this person's contributions under the "acknowledgements" section of the paper. That's what that section is there for. You really don't need anyone's permission to list them there, and they are almost always appreciative of the nod.
  7. Aug 15, 2014 #6
    Good point. I'll check on going along those lines.

    Thanks all.

    -Dave K
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