Research Assistants often collaborate with each other and with a Principal Investigator or their advisor on publications resulting from shared research. In some cases, the activities of Research Assistants are directly related to completion of milestones within the program (e.g., master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation) while in other cases assistants’ activities might be unrelated. Although Research Assistants might be included as co-authors in publications, there are also scenarios in which they might not be included. Regular communication between the supervisor and the assistant about expectations is important and should happen periodically rather than only at the beginning of the supervisory relationship.
Because supervisors of Research Assistants are also often the assistants’ doctoral advisors, they should take care to discuss publication expectations early in students’ graduate careers, and especially to clarify whether publication will be considered part of progress toward graduation. These discussions might address the number and timeline of publications relative to a target graduation date, as well as the role of the Research Assistant in the efforts.
It is important to have regular and ongoing conversations about publications and expectations about publication. Sometimes authorship considerations shift if a paper is not submitted for publication in a timely fashion. Similarly, if the focus of a publication shifts over time (e.g., to include additional data collected, or to include a different analytic approach), reconsideration of authorship may be needed. Additionally, some journals have particular authorship requirements that might determine who can be included on a publication.