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A few years ago I undertook the position of co-editor as a journal and organized a redesign of the entire journal: new layout, new cover, new typesetting, new printers, everything. I'm very proud of all of this work, and I make sure to bring it up in cover letters and interviews.

I learned about a year ago that my fellow co-editor lists on their CV that they redesigned the journal. (Note: they didn't even claim that they organized it, which would also be false, but that they did the redesigning, so it's plagiarism of the designers and typesetters, too.) But this is unequivocally false; they had precisely zero contact with our new designer, our new typesetters, or our new printers. I'm not even sure this individual knows what articles we published in the volumes for which they were co-editor.

Despite my frustrations with what I felt was outright plagiarism of my career, I ignored it. But I've recently learned that this person and myself are on the shortlist for the same job.

In my eyes, I'm in a lose/lose situation:

  • When two CVs say that a person was responsible for something, obviously at least one person is fudging the truth. I worry that my colleague's CV calls my own honesty and integrity into question.
  • But I can't really go speak to anyone about this, can I? It seems like I would just come across as trying to tattle or get a leg up in the job search.

Is there anyone I can contact, or any way to approach this in a safe way?

  • 2
    Is there any way for someone to externally see or verify who did what? – Thomas Feb 9 '18 at 18:26
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    @Thomas The only way I know would be to contact the designer, typesetters, and printers. They know me, but they have no idea who the other person is, because the other person was never involved. – Richard Feb 9 '18 at 18:27
  • "I learned about a year ago that my fellow co-editor lists on their CV that they redesigned the journal" - how did you learn this. If it's through some public source, you're free to acknowledge that resource, methinks – sehe Feb 10 '18 at 15:38
  • @sehe I saw their CV online. – Richard Feb 10 '18 at 15:39
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    So why not see if there are any questions about this issue, and if so say "Feel free to contact the designer, typesetters, and printers. Here's their contact info." – pjs Feb 10 '18 at 17:02
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I would just ignore it. I doubt that anyone will even notice unless they look at the two CVs side-by-side, and even then, they will probably just assume that the two of you worked on the redesign together. They wouldn't doubt your honesty (nor the other editor's). So I don't think this really disadvantages you.

It might be a slight unfair advantage for the other editor, but I think it's minuscule. In hiring decisions, things like professional service get a very low weight. The fact that you were an editor is perhaps somewhat helpful, if the journal is recognized as publishing good research, but what you actually did as editor is too minor a point. The fact that you can redesign a journal may speak to your graphic design skills, but academic jobs don't care about that - they care about your research and teaching (in some combination). In fact, I'm not sure it is wise to emphasize it in application materials or interviews - people might think that tinkering with your journal could be a distraction from actually doing research.

If the topic of the redesign comes up at the interview, just describe honestly what you did. You don't need to get into what your co-editor did or didn't do.

I doubt that you will be asked specifically about the fact that both of you are claiming credit (for one thing, it would reveal that the other editor is also a candidate for the job, which would normally not be shared with other candidates). But if so, I would say something like "As co-editors, we share the responsibility for what happens to the journal on our watch. But on this particular project, I took the lead."

  • After speaking with others, I've decided that the issue likely won't even be recognized, as you mentioned. Thanks for the answer! – Richard Feb 9 '18 at 19:53
  • "I took the lead" sounds like admitting that the other person was involved as well. Why should one do that? Why not add "and I don't remember person X to be involved"? – silvado Feb 12 '18 at 7:33
  • @silvado: Because the interviewer doesn't care what person X did or didn't do. X is not the one being interviewed. The point is to redirect and focus the conversation on what you did. "Took the lead" is accurate and doesn't require you to accuse X of lying. – Nate Eldredge Feb 12 '18 at 15:12
  • Wasn't this the suggested response to an interviewer's question about both claiming credit? I would interpret that as in fact caring about who did what. – silvado Feb 12 '18 at 16:36
  • We are in "angels dancing on a pin" territory because I regard it as absurdly unlikely that an interviewer would ask anything of the kind. But the line I'm suggesting here is "What X said about what he did is his business. I'm not here to talk about X. I can tell you what I did, and it was this..." – Nate Eldredge Feb 12 '18 at 18:15
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The situation sounds unfortunate. I don't know the details of what you and the other person claim. However, I think that someone looking at both of your applications will not immediately suspect dishonesty.

It's quite normal for people to take credit for joint work. If the other person is listed as a co-editor (or co-author if the work is a paper), they generally have the right to claim credit. It's only really problematic in situations like yours where the contribution was entirely unequal. Ideally this situation would have been resolved in advance by removing them as a co-editor.

There is not too much you can do about it. Trying to raise a dispute or do anything to criticize the other candidate will make you look bad. However, there are two things that you can do in general:

  1. Have your references explain your contribution. This requires you to have one of your references be knowledgeable about the situation, which may not be possible in your sitation.

  2. Be prepared to discuss the situation in your application or in the interview. If you can give a more detailed and confident explanation of what you did, then it will be apparent that you were more involved. However, you should be careful to avoid disparaging others. So prepare diplomatic answers. Talk positively about your work, not negatively about others.

  • Thanks so much for the help, especially your last point. I'll definitely keep that in mind! – Richard Feb 9 '18 at 19:54
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I agree with @NateEldredge for the most part.

A piece of advice which is "wisdom in hindsight" for OP, but may be relevant to others:

If you have a bit of your CV, or your work, that you're particularly proud of as an experience (as opposed to a paper with your name on it) - either manipulate your environment to make some written acknowledgement of what had happened (e.g. in OP's case - publisher sends him a thank-you letter with fancy letterhead), or write about the process ex-post-facto in a blog. It shouldn't be self-laudatory, but if you're genuine enough, and link to people you worked with, and present what things were like before and after, and maybe describe some kind of lesson learned or even extol and praise others who were involved - that makes it clear that you really did do that.

Now, the thank-you letter is not something you can put in your CV, but you could theoretically use that if asked about who-did-what. The blog post is something you can link to from your CV, and that really nails down the who-can-take-credit question. Of course, as a commenter suggests, don't expect the people reading your CV to actually read it; they'll just note it's there.

  • 2
    Attaching a thank-you letter would be so weird to me it would count against you. And a blog post you write, apart from not actually nailing down the credit issue, is something I would almost never read on a search committee. However, it is reasonable to get letters from people who know about the things you've done that you're most proud of, which can include service. – Kimball Feb 10 '18 at 18:22
  • @Kimball: Yes, indeed; see edit. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Feb 10 '18 at 18:29
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By accident I have come across this site, but I'm going to chip in because I have decades of experience to draw on. So I hope this helps ...

Don't let your "colleague's" activity distract you.

Your CV gets you an interview. It is your performance in the interview which gets you the job, so that is where you should now be concentrating.

If you mention the alleged irregularity a) the interviewer(s) will not have time to substantiate your claim, and b) you might come across as negative. So, if a discussion on the work comes up, make sure you answer everything as positively and accurately as you can; show you know the details of your work.

I have read thousands of CVs, and engaged hundreds of faculty. Just try to relax, show you can be part of the team, tell them what you bring to the table. Good luck!

-2

These days lots of unscruplous actors fish CVs off the internet for all kinds of purposes, most probably various business models for example to isolate and make people more desperate so employers can get them for cheaper. Make really really sure before taking any action at all that the source for that CV is really who you are afraid it might be. Because it might well be an attempt by third actor to undermine your network and your confidence.

protected by Alexandros Feb 11 '18 at 22:54

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