I work in an research institute in a german university. My institute does not work in my area of research (Spacecraft GNC) but they got funding for a project in this area for which I was hired (when I was hired, institute's Managing Director (MD) did not tell me that Spacecraft GNC is not their area and that this is the first project they have gotten in this area. I found this out after 2 years at this institute because a colleague told me that if we don't lie to the candidates, no one will come to our institute).

While working on this project I found out several mistakes/illogical points made in the proposal but I did extra literature research to show that some of the ideas they proposed in the proposal were technologically not possible currently. I worked in this project solely without any guidance, help or even discussion with anyone in my institute, but when I wrote the paper for the conference about this project research, my project Manager and Institute's MD told me to put their name as authors which I had to do.

After this project, I wrote a continuing proposal within this project about developing different system for this project which is also not the research area of my institute. All the ideas in the proposal are mine. Now, my Project Manager (different guy) is asking me to put some other colleague's name and his name in the next conference abstract both of whom know little about my system, have not contributed to any research and I have not gotten any input from anyone of them as it is not their area.

I just want to include my MD's name in the abstract keeping in mind that I work in this institute I have to write his name for political reasons. He has also not contributed anything to this research, in fact it is not his area. How should I tell my project manager and MD that I do not want to include the project manager and another unrelated colleague's name to the paper abstract, as the atmosphere at my institute is toxic. My dealings with my colleagues and Managers is such that they take ALL the credit for ALL the work that I did/do and they don't like it when I do extra work in my projects. I have always been courteous to them but they have abused and harassed me. I think the fact that I am an international woman is also a factor as I have not seen my male colleagues treated like this.

I would really appreciate if someone could advise.

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    the atmosphere at my institute is toxic... they have abused and harassed me — Get out.
    – JeffE
    Feb 28, 2019 at 10:31
  • Thanks so much for the response. I have been thinking of leaving for past 2 years but I though may be I am mistaken, so I spent more time. But they kept abusing me and harassing me. Also, the fact that I wrote the proposals with my own ideas and getting the funding for them made me stay as I wanted to work on them too. Now, this is the last project I will work here and I will be leaving in 7 months. Feb 28, 2019 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


You may just have to go along with all the boss types. What is fair, what is customary in field, and what is forced on you can all differ. By countering the last, you can also wind up forcing yourself out of the organization. While it is probably your best option to find a better place to work, being forced out is probably not the best option for your career.

But if such things are customary in the field you work in, then you just go along with it as a (sad) consequence of working in that field. Many fields have non-contributors listed on many papers. I also realize, of course, that your field and their field are a bit different and may have different standards for authorship. But a boss can find ways to prevail or make your life miserable.

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    Actually, it is unethical in my field and theirs to put authors who have not contributed anything to the paper but they don't care about it as they submit their papers to non-peer reviewed conference where every paper submitted is accepted. I submit mine to prestigious peer-reviewed conferences which are full of experts in my field from top US universities, NASA and good people from other places. And it is hard to get abstract accepted to such conference. I will be leaving this institute in 7 months and they cant force me out because neither have I behaved badly not have I not done my work. Feb 27, 2019 at 23:40
  • I have done loads of extra work in the 2 projects I have worked here. So, in germany they cannot force me out else I can take them to court because they don't have any complains with me. And regarding their own papers, they put 7-8 people who have not worked on the paper on it which they know is unethical but they dont care and neither do I unless it is my paper. Because I try to practice high ethical standards like the experts in my field whom I look upto. And I did not come here to complain about them to the authorities as I am a very mellow person. Feb 27, 2019 at 23:41
  • Oh, the 3 bosses here continuously find ways to make my life miserable as much as possible because they know that the quality of paper I produce get through prestigious conference which is unlike most of the people (including them) in this institute. Anyway, thanks for your response. I figured if there is response, it will be along these lines. Feb 27, 2019 at 23:41

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