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Women in Science

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Video clip: The importance of author position has changed over the years due to the REF and now Helen ensures junior researchers get to be senior author to support their careers.

Can you tell me about your experiences of getting published, particularly in your early career?

I was probably fairly prolific, I worked very hard, I wrote lots of papers/ I was in an area that was just growing very quickly and there weren't many people so I didn't find it particularly difficult to get published. As I said there was not much in the literature, it was a new and emerging field so people were interested so yes it wasn't terribly difficult.

Okay, you didn't have any issues around author order or anything like that?

Right in maths back in those days, so this is like pre-ref there wasn't the same, I don't think weight attached to author position. Most of the articles were probably two or three people, I'd done the work so I would be the first author. Probably further down my career when in maths it still kind of didn't matter what your author position was, I would just say okay fair enough if you want to be senior author you be senior author. So a lot of my papers after that when I started getting my own grants or having joint grants with other people, I'm not the senior author where I probably should have been but that was my choice, I was asked and at that time in maths it didn't matter, looking back now I wouldn't do that now.

Why is that?

Because nowadays it does matter.

And does senior author go at the end in maths or?

Yes, so typically the first author is the person who's done the work and then the senior author is the sort of person who either held the grant or is the most senior individual and then you shuffle other people around in the middle. But particularly when you're working on multi-disciplinary projects there can be sometimes awkwardness around author order. Typically I will always now because I know how important it is for more junior individuals, if I think it's appropriate I will say would you like to be the senior author or something like that, try and have that conversation because I can look back on my own publications and think oh I should have been senior author then and people looking through my CV possibly won't realise that that was the situation then, you know, kind of make a judgement.