Authorship: Who should be on the paper? Where? And who not?

Today, I talked with Rick Betzel ( about authorship.

Authorship is the most important academic currency. It is the main way of performance evaluation and rankings for positions. There are many differences between disciplines, but generally, the first (usually the person who did the work) and last (usually the person who advised and oversaw the project from start to end) author position are the most important. The middle authors should have made significant intellectual contributions to the project. Everybody else goes in the acknowledgement section.

But of course it is not always that easy. Watch our discussion for many different cases with conflict potential:

The most important thing is to discuss authorship with the other people involved, ideally already when distributing the work and responsibilities. Never take for granted that other people agree with you on this.

Further readings:

General recommendations:

Interesting point system of the Kosslyn lab:

How to land a Postdoc position.

Doing a postdoc can be a fantastic experience. In the last session of ACL, I talked with Sho Tsuji from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris who – just as me – is a very happy postdoc.

The most important thing is to find  lab in which you can grow and have a PI that will be a great mentor not only for now, but for the rest of your career. Do a careful screening of whom you want to work with and try to get to know them and people who worked with them (or still do!). Be open-minded and use your network to find out about labs, job search specifics or grant opportunities in individual countries, and personal recommendations.

You will get the most out of your postdoc if you know what you want to get out of it. Make this guide you to what kind of project or lab you want to work in and whether you want to work on your own grant or for somebody else.

In order to find the jobs you want, you need to know your market. Finding a postdoc in the US can be very different from in the EU or Japan or somewhere else. Talk to people who know the market and generally, let people in your network know that you are looking. Your colleagues, supervisors, friends, or conference acquaintances can be invaluable sources of information. Start looking early (at least 1 year before you graduate), identify your goals and potential starting points and then start reaching out. Don’t be shy to email people you are interested in.

Now you need to be competitive. Try to have at least 1 publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It doesn’t matter that much how high impact the journal but you must show that you can get a project from start to publication. In some countries, doing a PhD takes more than 6 years and people typically come out of it with several publications. PIs know that countries are different in that respect, but you must show that you have potential. Talking about potential: make sure your skills stand out on your CV and that you sell yourself as competent in your discipline AND motivated to learn specific new skills. The other thing that is important is your visibility. If you don’t have a google scholar profile yet, make one now. A personal website where you can present yourself as an individual rather than being part of a lab is also strongly recommended (I regret not having done mine earlier). Use the social media outlets you are comfortable with to create your online presence in your discipline. And of course, go to as many academic meetings, conferences, or symposia as possible or even better help organizing one!

Now, if you want to hear more about our personal experiences, watch the video:

How to use twitter for academia

What is twitter useful for?

  1. Stay up to date with new research
  2. Find jobs, grant opportunities, academic meet-ups
  3. Network and become (more) visible
  4. Attend conferences virtually (check out the all-twitter brain conference  and of course in Twitter)
  5. Get access to paywalled papers (e.g. #canihaspdf)
  6. Find help & resources
  7. Get input from other scientists on data, stats, writing, etc.
  8. Teach the public, and learn from other twitter users

To learn more, watch the video from the live session where Nikola (, Tommi  ( and me talked about our personal experiences with academic twitter:

Here are some more practical tips on how to get the most out of twitter (what we couldn’t cover yesterday during the live session): 

    • Whom to follow?
      • Other scientists (and labs), journalists, funding bodies, science enthusiasts and communicators
      • See who your followers are following in turn, or whose content they retweet
      • Use public lists that others have created for specific topics. (Here’s a good one for CogNeuro people:
    • Keep your newsfeed manageable
      • Use services like TweetDeck ( – this allows you to split up your main feed into “sub-feeds” which are more manageable, based on topic or any other criterion you want.
      • Websites such as Buffer ( and Hootsuite ( will let you schedule tweets – you can make a queue of tweets which will then be posted automatically at (ir)regular intervals. This saves your time, and also benefits your followers who live in different time zones.
      • Turn off most if not all notifications! Social networks are built to be addictive – having your phone buzz every time someone tweets or replies to you will become very distracting once you start following more people. Making sure that you use Twitter at times that suit *you* is key.
      • Remember to weed your following list periodically – unfollow people you are no longer interested in, or add new people who you just met at conferences, etc.
    • Your public persona
      • It is generally a good idea to keep your personal and professional social media accounts separate, especially if you are an early career researcher.
      • If you want to keep your account professional, make a separate private account. Then you’ll have the flexibility to post about anything else you want, while not angering all the people who followed you for your science content.
    • How to tweet and content ideas
      • Sharing links – share why a news story, publication, video, or image captured your interest
      • Post short updates on your research; make these posts longer by using threads (almost like a blog post)
      • Start a dialogue or conversation by tagging other users, or using hashtags. Some good ones are: #phdchat #postdoc #ECRchat #scicomm #openscience
      • Do an online journal club – Twitter can be great to talk about new papers you’ve read, ask questions, etc.
      • Public AMAs (ask-me-anything sessions) – answer questions from the public about your work. One good example of this is @IAmSciComm, which has a new scientist host their account each week, and talk to thousands of science interested followers!
      • Live-tweet talks at conferences – you don’t need to take it too seriously, even a couple of bullet points per talk will contribute, and if more than one person does it it will create a nice public record of a conference. It is very common to get thank you messages from people for sharing info from conferences they couldn’t attend.

More practical tips can be found in a recent Cogtales post.

How to deal with gender bias in academia?

My honest first answer before this session was ‘I don’t know’. Similar as Atsuko put it in this live session, I am not living in my home country for many years and it is hard to tell what is about me being a women and what is a cultural thing I don’t understand. But there is this almost painful awareness of having to justify my existence all the time. This constant feeling of having to proof that I deserve to be here.

The most important thing I learned in this session was that this will never stop. And accepting that this is something which will always be part of my professional life also brings some kind of relief with it. I am not alone and I am just as much part of the solution as everybody else.

I am very grateful for the insightful and genuine discussion with my colleagues and friends Asli Ozyurek, Yoed Kenett, Emily Coderre, and Atsuko Takashima. I learned a lot and I recommend everybody to watch the discussion. Instead of trying to summarize the contents I give you the content overview with minutes and topics we discussed so you can listen to what is most relevant to you.

3:39 Different career stages, different problems
13:45 Role models and leadership styles
22:19 Coaching women how to survive in a male dominant culture
33:55 Networking strategies
46:30 The struggles of being a parent in acdemia
1:03:20 Realistic applications and making a change for the individual as well as for the system

Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk about more!

How to review a manuscript for a journal.

Good reviews are supportive, constructive, thoughtful and fair. They identify both strengths and weaknesses alike and offer concrete suggestions for improvement. Good reviewers acknowledge their own biases and knowledge limitations and justify their conclusions.

Bad reviews are superficial, petty, and arrogant. Bad reviewers are very opinionated but typically don’t justify their biases. Their reports focus on weaknesses only but don’t offer solutions or other form of helpful feedback.

In today’s session, I walked you through the review process and told you how I write review reports:


Here you can find a template for the review report.

Additional ressources: offers a detailed step by step guide. offer additional advice and concrete examples of how to express criticism diplomatically. features a lot of personal strategies and experiences which are often different from what I do.

Where I stole the summary from (almost word by word):

How to deal with rejection & frustration

Being able to deal with rejection and frustration is a key academic skill. The earlier you learn it, the better. Whether you get roasted in a Q&A session, have to deal with constant cynical remarks from peers, get a series of papers or grant proposals rejected, or deal with the endless frustration of university bureaucracy and interpersonal conflicts – negativity lures around every corner. It’s time to pick your weapons.

With my friends Dr Molly Berenhaus and Dr Christina Bergmann, I chatted today about our strategies to deal with the everyday rejection and frustration in academia. In the session we talked about First Aid as well as Long Term Prevention strategies. You can rewatch the discussion here (most important take home messages below):

  1. Understand that this is part of your job. Your experience is not unique to you -everybody deals with the same shit. Promised.
  2. It is also rarely personal.
  3. Never, NEVER act in the heat of the moment. Buy yourself some time and try to keep the situation under control.
  4. No public rants about your failures, unfair treatment, or colleagues. There is a time and place for the much needed venting, but this is not on social media and not in public.
  5. Take it as a lesson to become better as a researcher, as a writer, as a reviewer, as a teacher or supervisor, as a colleague, as a recruiter.
  6. Try to localize the problem and be open to change.
  7. Internalize the constructive message, not the negative feedback.
  8. Reach out for help. Avoid getting isolated at all costs.
  9. Protect yourself from negativity by keeping a lot of work in the pipeline. Don’t put everything on one project.
  10. Celebrate each success.

How to manage your supervisor

Today I talked about the relationship with your supervisor. The role of your supervisor is to provide you with an environment suitable to develop your academic skills in order to become independent and to finish your thesis in a reasonable time. In turn, your supervisor expects from you commitment, involvement, and accountability. It is important to understand that your supervisor is also a person with strengths, shortcomings and an own agenda. Luckily, it is usually in your supervisors best interest if you succeed because your success is also their’s. In order to have a functional relationship with them it is crucial to build on strengths and develop strategies to deal with difficulties. You are just as responsible to nurture your relationship with your supervisor as they are. In the live session, I discussed different types of supervisors sand how to deal with them:

Most supervisors are a combination of the different types and you will have to figure out TOGETHER what works and what not. Keep in mind that academics usually never receive any training for supervising. They depend on your feedback and openness to try different strategies.

There are a few general rules which will help your relationship with all of them:

#1 Talk open about expectations, communication, and concerns. Most catastrophic supervisor-student relations I have seen are the result of not talking about problem for too long and some cases so long that it was too late to fix it. This is always sad and frustrating for everybody involved, first and foremost because it is so unnecessary. If you run into trouble or feel something does not work out for, schedule a meeting and talk immediately!

#2 Their job is to help you get independent, so do not expect to get pampered or to do your work. As hard and painful as their feedback can be, make the most out of it. And always keep in mind that this is not personal and well meant.

#3 Always be proactive and prepared. Don’t wait for your supervisor to manage you. Scheduling meetings, planning projects, making deadlines, finding relevant training etc. is your job. Their job is to advice you on your work and projects, not to manage it.

Last but not least, if there are irreconcilable differences and you cannot make it work together, this is not the end of the world. Most institutes have procedures (and mediators) in place to deal with this. Contact your graduate school for more information!

Academic side hustles

Today, I talked about academic side hustles. You can rewatch the session here (mini summary below):

Most side hustles are helpful for networking, developing and communicating your skills, and can generate a side income. You should only invest in side hustles which will help you achieve your goals or are fun. Keep in mind that these are usually voluntary activities which should in the first place benefit you and your career.

If you are very early in your career, I suggest you focus on fewer things. Most helpful side hustles for pre-doc researchers are reviewing (you can ask your supervisor to help you get experience or volunteer for conference abstract review), teaching (don’t overdo that, it is very time and energy consuming), as well as volunteer and science communication services (public outreach, valorization).

If you are at least halfway through your PhD and have finished one project from start to publication, you can also think about doing a side project (one is enough for the beginning). This can be a research project unrelated to your thesis work, supervising an undergrad or master’s thesis, or a collaboration with people outside your lab.

Towards the end of your PhD or in your first postdoc, your focus should be on networking and communicating your skills in order to increase your visibility and establish yourself in the research community. Good side hustles for this career stage are (co-)editing special issues, organizing lecture series or a symposium, online tutorials, external collaborations (the latter two go well with research tool development).

Once you are a more experienced postdoc, you should figure out what your ideal career path is and what skill set you need. This should define which side hustles to pick above everything else. You want a managing position but don’t have much experience? Get some students or RAs and volunteer for some committee you find interesting. You want an internationally established research lab? Get external collaborations (maybe through editing a special issue?) and good students to do some exciting extra projects. You want the security of a tenure or teaching position? Apply for a guest lectureship or volunteer to take over a course. You want to explore your market value outside academia? Time to get your website shiny and communicate your skills (maybe via a blog or online tutorials). You can also consider starting to freelance and rent out your skills to companies on the side (e.g. consulting, data analysis and data visualization, editorial services, research tool development (hardware and software)).

Not for everyone are admin and committee services. You should only volunteer for these if you want to learn about institute politics and management. Same goes for non-obligatory teaching.  If you don’t care about teaching, don’t want to learn it, and rather change career paths than doing it regularly, just don’t. Teaching is often treated as a central post of every academic position and it is not. If you would rather quit academia and do private sector research than teaching undergrads, don’t waste your time on this. Rather make sure that you do things which help you get around teaching in the future (e.g. research grants, industry interface research). Another thing which is only great if you enjoy it, is having a blog or online tutorial series (or a very active twitter account). If you don’t think this would be something for you, stick to a clean personal website and keep the rest of your online presence clear.

Actually making money on the side can be done by offering editorial services, teaching, consulting (e.g. a friend of mine is external adviser for a gaming company who value the input from a psychologist/neuroscientist), analyzing data or data visualization. Keep in mind that making money with this requires that you already have the skill set or are able to develop it fast. These can also be great opportunities to set a foot outside of academia and explore your market value.

Time and energy management: My take on work-life-balance

Today I talked about how I try to optimize my energy to work at my best as often as I can. You can rewatch the session here and read a brief summary below:

  1. A perfectly balanced day to day life is a lie! Stop reading internet posts like ‘These are 10 everyday habits among the most successful achievers’. These super successful people might do all of these things on their best days, but trust me: Nobody has their best day everyday. The sooner you accept that there will be more and less productive times, the better. It will save you a lot of frustration and feeling like a failure.
  2. The good news is: You CAN have a perfectly balanced life on a larger time scale. There will be busy times where you will have to pull these extra hours. But there will be slow times, where you can go home early (or take off for some days) and should not feel guilty about it. The best advice I ever got: Work hard when it goes well. And when it doesn’t, do the most necessary things and take care of yourself.
  3. A happy and healthy academic is a productive academic. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to take a day off. When you are exhausted, you cannot work your best. Stop wasting your time being tired in the office without getting important work done.
  4. Sufficient daily sleep, reasonably healthy and regular meals, and regular exercise are the basis of being a functional human being. These 3 things are non-negotiable. You cannot go even a few days neglecting them without taking a hit in your productivity. If you want to be productive, these 3 things are your highest priority!
  5. Positive energy in, more productivity out. Downtime and relaxation are important, but make sure your private life is also filled with other activities which give you energy, purpose, confidence, and a social life outside of work. This is crucial for me to stay sane and keep in touch with reality.
  6. Don’t fall for the failure trap! If you take your projects too personal and things go wrong (and I promise they will eventually), you easily fall into the failure trap (failure trap = your project sucks >> your work sucks >> you suck as a researcher >> you suck). Having your self-value not solely dependent on your work success will prevent you from falling for this negative thinking and help you find solutions faster.
  7. If something worries you and distracts you from your work constantly, take care of it. NOW. If there is something draining your energy, get it out of the way.
  8. Forget the haters. There will always be people who think that being an academic means to be a cynical and miserable and they will make it their priority to remind everybody how much their job sucks, how underpaid they are, how desperate your future is, and how you should feel guilty for being a functional human being outside your job. Keep them on distance. Your job is to be the best person you can be. This will also make you a better researcher.
  9. Stop telling #youshouldbewriting jokes.