Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Overlooked?

Today I got an email from someone to whom I have provided significant input regarding research ideas and writing in recent years. We are not collaborators by any means, but our fields overlap enough that we have had extensive conversations and I have reviewed several of his recent papers. Today he wrote to apologize for not acknowledging me by name in his most recent papers, even though (according to his email) some of my comments and ideas have significantly changed/improved his work. If he hadn’t emailed me, I would never have noticed that my assistance was unacknowledged.

In any case, I thought “No big deal”, assuming that he had just spaced out on the acknowledgments and only mentioned his grants or something like that. Out of curiosity, I looked at the acknowledgments of one of the papers that could very reasonably have acknowledged my input, and there I read a list of several Famous Male Professors who had provided input, reviews, and ‘insightful conversations’.

So .. following up on yesterday's post, shall we give him the so-called benefit of the doubt and assume that I wasn’t overlooked because I am female and therefore just basically a helpful person by nature whose help becomes part of the upholstery, and that it is a coincidence that the people acknowledged by name just happen to be senior male professors whose every utterance is surely an intellectual gift to be treasured? I am fine with that, even if I don’t believe it 100%.

Fortunately, my delicate ego has emerged from this latest minor episode unscathed yet again, and I will not hold this lack of public acknowledgment against the author. My guess is that he emailed me today because he is worried that I will very likely be asked to review manuscripts of his again, and I might be so incensed at his ingratitude that I will lash out at his data, not to mention his interpretations, and thereby derail his fledgling career. I would never do that, although I admit that it doesn't bother me if concern about this makes him briefly and temporarily anxious.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

could it be that he had put you as one of the desired reviewers? it would be kind of weird to have somebody openly acknowledged as familiar to the work reviewing the paper, and the editor would be unlikely to follow the suggestion. So perhaps he just wanted to increase the chances that your paper would be sent to you.
This is obviously not an excuse (there would have been better ways to deal with the situation, eg talking to you about acknowledgments BEFORE sending the paper) but it might explain the behavior. Junior people (like me :-) ) sometimes do silly things out of anxiety over papers, grants,...

non-US fsp said...

My gut response email would be to keep him on the hook and ask "but why?" (you didn't cite me).
You can surely phrase this question more eloquently, and get him to tell you *why* he didn't acknowledge you (in none of the papers?) alghough you have been so influential for him.

TW Andrews said...

Is he tenured? It may be that political concerns are foremost in his mind when he's doing citations. Given that he thinks highly enough of you and your input to send you an email acknowledging said input, it's unlikely that he simply forgot to mention you, but rather did so consciously.

You're obviously in a better position to judge if he'd do that to be a jerk, or for an understandable (if potentially wrong-headed) reason.

Female Science Professor said...

He's not tenured. He's in Europe and his position may be expiring soon. I am sure he's in a stressful situation.

Patricia said...

did he read your blog???

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that he has considered this issue in some depth, or you would not have received this email. Perhaps he felt that acknowledgement of your contributions would somehow devalue his acknowledgements of the Bigwig Bunch (in their eyes)?

Mickey Blake said...

I would suggest replying with a gracious, "I'm sure it was an oversight on your part, which you will no doubt rectify on your next publication."

Anonymous said...

I've done the same hoping the other person would be a reviewer. The other person more senior than me.
On the other hand, I have had discussions w/ a senior scientist who suggested taking their name off aknowledgemmnts so they could be requested as reviewer.
Great blog by the way.

Ms.PhD said...

I'd love to know what made him suddenly realize his error? And how conscious it really was?

The politics of credit always amuse me. I know people who acknowledge Famous Men regularly, even when they didn't do anything whatsoever, just to try to earn points. Or, in the reverse of what someone else said, avoid having that person chosen as a reviewer.

I like mickey blake's suggestion that you politely point out that he needs to change his ways.