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Activity 1: Provocation and Response

In a provocation and response, the point is not to present a best practice or to arrive at a conclusion. Rather, we aim to unsettle assumptions to provoke thought and to engage in dialogue about assumptions and practices, and their intended and unintended effects.

Provocation: Read the following case by Dr. Brent Thoma from MEdIC Case: The Case of the Honorary Authorship, used here with permission from Teresa Chan.

Dr. Keurin was excited for her meeting with her research mentee, Andrei, today. He was a junior emergency medicine resident with a strong interest in research that had just completed his first project! They were just meeting to review the final draft before submission. As she walked into the coffee shop she saw him slumped in his chair, looking a bit dejected. That wasn’t like him at all.

“Hey Andrei, is everything okay?”

He sighed. “I dunno. I just met with Dr. Lee to talk about this whole submission process. You know, which journal we should submit my manuscript to and such.” Dr. Lee was the program’s Research Director and one of the most renowned emergency medicine researchers in the country. She knew that one of the reason’s that Andrei had ranked the program so highly was so that he could work with the illustrious Dr. Lee and he had confided to her in previous meetings that he had been disappointed about their lack of interaction so far in residency.

“Oh, and that didn’t go well?” she asked. “Well, I dunno. It was the first time that we had discussed the project since I ran into him in the hall at the beginning of the year. You’ll remember that he hadn’t been too impressed with the idea at that time.”

Dr. Keurin remembered. That was actually how she, a much more junior researcher in the Faculty, had come to be Andrei’s mentor. She thought he had a great idea for a research project and had supported it to fruition. “Anyways, I had met with him to ask for some advice on where we should submit the manuscript and we had a good chat about that. But then he mentioned that I should send it to him to give it a final once over and add him as the senior author. He said that if we added his name it would strengthen the chance of our paper getting published. I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say. You’ve really mentored me through this project, that should be your spot! But I’m also worried about my future job and research projects if I were to piss him off. What do you think?”

Dr. Keurin pursed her lips. This was putting her in an awkward position. She recalled a similar conversation from when she was a resident. She had just gone along with it because she figured that was how research worked, but it didn’t feel right then and it still doesn’t feel right now. At the same time, it would be horrible for her prospects at her institution to be on Dr. Lee’s bad side. What should she say?

Response: Use the following questions as a guide to discuss the situation.

  1. Do you think Dr. Lee deserves to be an author?
  2. How should authorship order be determined?
  3. How do you think Dr. Keurin should deal with this situation?


Thoma B, Chan T. MEdIC Case: The Case of the Honorary Authorship [internet]. 2016, July 8 (accessed 2018, Apr 17). Available from:  Medical Education In Cases (MEdIC) Series, Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM).

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