I just graduated from grad school and to say that it has been hell is just a euphemism. My supervisor has been a bully all the time and every thing that I did and didn't please my supervisor was met with fierce retaliation.

The right thing to do was to leave, but for many reasons I couldn't and I was trying to think of the situation as another challenge of life.

Even after graduation, my supervisor did not let go. The latest action was to block the publication of my work which is essential in progressing in my career. My supervisor does not want to hear about publishing anymore and keeps saying (in the rare occasions where my emails are replied to) that I can point to my PhD thesis, that should be enough, no need to publish, no preprints even. We are talking about three finished papers, the essence of all of my struggle during those years.

Can I publish by myself? Should I report this behavior and seek help from the University or a senior? By experience, students in the lab who seek help from outside get punished even harder. What would be the best way to get control over my work? I am less interested in confrontation and focused towards moving on and taking credit for my work.

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    How does your advisor "block" your publication? And, are you still in "the lab"? How do you not have control over your own work? Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 18:20
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    I am not in the lab anymore. By "blocking" I mean that my supervisor does not agree to the publication anymore, that includes the submission process, the fees etc. I do not have control over my work because my supervisor said that all the results produced in the lab can be published only if my supervisor agrees to it. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 18:32
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    If their co-authorship is required because you used their data or their contributions of some other form (or they can argue that you did use their advice along the way) they can have the paper retracted if you publish without their approval. However blocking you like this probably goes against the school's wishes, so you should take it up with the dept chair and/or dean. If your advisor's goal is to keep the results for themselves then this would be academic misconduct. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 19:50
  • Indeed, my supervisor has overseeing rights on the work but I think it is unethical to block the publication because of interpersonal issues. I think I will ask help from my dean. Now I am applying for jobs and I don't know how to tell them about my previous situation, I will start a new thread about it. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


If you are the sole author of a work then you can publish it. However, if your supervisor needs to be listed as a co-author for contributing content, not just custom or courtesy, then he can block it as any co-author can.

On the other hand, even if he must be co-author on a joint work, you can probably write an independent paper and publish it without any "permission." This would only be false if you have signed some agreement with the professor or the university to yield rights to them. That would be unusual for dissertations, but you would be aware of it if it bound you, I think.

Note that the ideas that you develop in your studies are free to be used. It sounds like your supervisor is trying to "own" ideas. Other than patent, that isn't allowed in the laws of most places. You might also seek guidance from the research office of your university. They will know whether you are bound or not, though they may lean in the direction of the university.

If you try to publish and he then interferes it will be the time to escalate the issue.

But if your work depends on the work of others you have to consider their rights as well. Normally properly citing that work is enough. Contracts can be limiting of course.

  • The situation may be a bit more complicated if the OP used any type of data which belongs to the lab but is essential to the research.If that is the case, they cannot publish without using the data, and cannot include the data without approval...
    – Nick S
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:05
  • @NickS, hence my last paragraph. Joint work is problematic. But ideas are free. But I think that a valid interpretation is that if you don't need to include the data, but merely refer to it (cited, of course) then you should be fine. But the research office can give better information.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:14
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    That is the case exactly but I am the sole author on the papers with my supervisor. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:14

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