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I have been working with another postdoc on a paper, here is what happened: I presented a work of mine before it was published (but it is in my thesis and on arxiv) and he decided he will use the same exact model with a slight change. I have talked it out with him and finally with my lab adviser as he was not collaborating, and we decided to send the paper as coauthors after our adviser mediated the issue (though it was bumpy), even sorted out whose name goes first etc.

The methodology belongs to me and the application area is the same (topic), although he has written all the code practically (he said he wanted to learn and build a more modular code etc) I did contribute by writing small scripts but he ended up not using them.

My advisor has asked their collaborating institute whether I could join (the irony that my methodology is stolen but I need a pass to join the project) and they did approve it (I have all exchanges and emails). I spent countless hours discussing and working on the project with him, as he is working on another project I have little clue about the execution but he had to travel often and he made a presentation to the partner institute. I also suspect that my adviser got the patent of the code on his name as I have noticed he took my name out of contacts on github recently. I had not asked to be in the copyrights of his code but he has told me that I was going to be there relating the model. My adviser only wants to please the partner institution I am afraid. I was away for a week and before that my colleague and I saw each other very briefly and all sounded to be on track. He has run over time for the completion of the project so he is not working here anymore technically. Today I get no reply from him on multiple attempts and I learnt that he has removed his computer's hard drive and my adviser is off for vacation for an unknown time.

I suspect that my colleague will try to send off the paper we were supposed to write together without my name on it, I have email exchanges as proof but most relied on my adviser, whom I don't know if I should trust after the copyright issue. What do I do if he sends the paper without my name? Do I write to the editors? His partner institution? Is there a board for this?

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    Without reading a wall of text - do some editing with paragraphs... But if they do submit then contact the editor with evidence that you contributed. Do keep all documentation, edits files etc – Solar Mike Apr 8 at 15:33
  • In the worst case maybe upload your version/results on arxiv.org and tell him you will do!? The editor is no judge nor Sherlock Holmes and maybe even a colleague/friend of your colleague...the questions here are often really funny :-) – user847982 Apr 8 at 18:58
  • @MichaelSchmidt I am not sure how this is supposed to be funny but glad to make you laugh. I have been a reviewer and an editor so it is not like I have delusions about them being superheroes. – dusa Apr 10 at 21:37
  • Editor of a well known journal can take some measures, reject the paper, put the author in a black list, give a warning, do something. I was wondering if there is a consensus or a way to handle these issues, there should be. – dusa Apr 10 at 21:37
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    there is a reason scientists often only work together with colleagues they trust or in collaboratively funded official projects. My advise is to learn from this and move on. Sorry I have no better one, but I think there is none... – user847982 Apr 10 at 21:50
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I have been working with another postdoc on a paper, here is what happened: I presented a work of mine before it was published (but it is in my thesis and on arxiv) and he decided he will use the same exact model with a slight change

There is a misunderstanding about "publishing": you probably mean that it was not published in a journal/conference, but apparently you did publish your model, which means two things:

  • Your authorship on this is established
  • Anybody can reuse it, provided they cite your work appropriately

The methodology belongs to me

Not really: yes you are the established author of the methodology, but it is now available for anyone to reuse it, as per the usual academic process (the only exception would be if you patented the work prior to publication).

I have talked it out with him and finally with my lab adviser as he was not collaborating, and we decided to send the paper as coauthors after our adviser mediated the issue (though it was bumpy), even sorted out whose name goes first etc.

This is what gives you a (moral) right to be a co-author for this particular work.

My advisor has asked their collaborating institute whether I could join (the irony that my methodology is stolen but I need a pass to join the project) and they did approve it (I have all exchanges and emails)

Avoid using the word "steal" if you published it: if all that the other author did was reading your thesis/paper, the only requirement is for him to cite the origin of the work.

I also suspect that my adviser got the patent of the code on his name as I have noticed he took my name out of contacts on github recently.

Are you talking about an actual patent? If yes, for what? If this is about your methodology which is already published or about a code publicly available on github (under a particular license maybe?), it's unlikely that a patent would be granted, but IANAL.

Today I get no reply from him on multiple attempts and I learnt that he has removed his computer's hard drive and my adviser is off for vacation for an unknown time

Multiple attempts over how long? If it's only a few days there's no reason to panic, he might be busy. Did you agree on a method to write the paper together, a venue to submit it or a deadline?

I suspect that my colleague will try to send off the paper we were supposed to write together without my name on it, I have email exchanges as proof but most relied on my adviser, whom I don't know if I should trust after the copyright issue. What do I do if he sends the paper without my name? Do I write to the editors? His partner institution? Is there a board for this?

You should rely primarily on your advisor, and if they don't cooperate you should seek support in your institution, e.g. head of department or ombudsman.

  • While I understand anyone in the world can read my thesis or arXiv paper, use my methodology and cite it, I do stand by my view in the case when a colleague from the lab decides to work on a paper with the same methodology, on the same problem, on the same dataset while they well know that you are in the process of trying to get it published (peer reviewed journal). The problematic part is us being in the same lab. How ethical is it to submit basically the same thing your colleague does while you know they are already in the process of submitting? And leaving them out on top? – dusa May 27 at 13:39
  • And of course he has flaked out, or submitted by himself, I don't know, I have got a copy of the code , made changes, running tests, wrote and shared the paper so far but I will need his approval to submit. He did respond a few times after that/kind of buying time but he is no longer responsive (last 2 weeks). I can't reach the results on the cluster, errors in the code. Well he was not able to get a patent, but he tried without involving me. My PI says he won't contact him but I should. No idea where this is going. – dusa May 27 at 13:45
  • well thanks for this part -> "You should rely primarily on your advisor, and if they don't cooperate you should seek support in your institution, e.g. head of department or ombudsman." Though I am not sure if they would want to be involved. – dusa May 27 at 13:48
  • Also, citing works on arXiv or citing peoples' thesis are not supervised, in principle you can get away with not citing these works as they are not peer reviewed publications. A person would have to sue you to prove their point. However, it is not ethical, so you don't just go around try to replicate arXiv papers and send them to journals. – dusa May 27 at 13:55
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    @dusa given that this has become a conflict, it is important to find a mediator: normally it's your supervisor's role but you seem to suspect them as well. you're saying your head of department or ombudsman might not want to be involved: it's not a matter of whether they want or not, it's their responsibility. imho you shouldn't try to solve things by yourself. anyway even if you contact a publisher the first thing they will do is contact your institution to check your claim. – Erwan May 27 at 14:39
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There are two issues here, one is that your "colleague" is engaging in plagiarism. This is a big no-no for most if not all journals. Just being accused of plagiarism can end someones academic career. As such, I am surprised anyone would do this so blatantly. If you know which journal the submission might go to, I would contact the editor in chief there and talk to him. With the method being in your thesis and on arxiv, you have a very good starting point in proving that the method belongs to you and the other guy is just a leech. (There are ways around this by properly attributing, but I doubt he does that)

The second issue is one of copyright. If you worked on code and wrote part of it, then your advisor has no right to remove your name. That's tantamount to stealing. And there are some nice fines for that, including jail time in severe cases. I would talk to your advisor about this, explain that it's not ok to remove your name. After that discussion, you should put it into writing and send it to him on paper, so he cannot refute anything later.

If your advisor or colleague are not cooperating in this, I strongly suggest to contact your universities legal department. Most universities do not like their students work being stolen, not even by their own professors.

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