I graduated a couple of years ago performing a master thesis with two supervisors. They both were happy about it and wanted to write a paper from my thesis, including me as author, but after my graduation I didn't hear from them again. It is worth to say that my supervisors had the pdf file of my thesis and all the figures and plots in vector graphics.

To my surprise and deception, I found out that my two former supervisors have published a journal paper based on my master thesis, which is not cited. Not only they have reported all of my plots, but they have also copied the captions (with almost no modifications), equations, tables, and entire sentences (some of them just copy-pasted, other ones with very minor modifications). Moreover, the simulations section reports 2 simulations that I carried out during my thesis, and both the parameters, the plots, and the analysis of the simulations is basically copied from my thesis. After all this content taken from my thesis, I only see that the authors have just acknowledged me in the article for the simulations only, and not even for all the plots and all the sentences they used.

Needless to say, this situation makes me very angry and frustrated. I would like to know, given this situation, whether:

  • I can accuse my former supervisors of plagiarism, contacting the editor of the journal and proving that a very large portion of the paper is taken from my thesis, which is not cited. Although my thesis is not available online, the authors could have included it in the list of references, and I can prove that they have a copy of it;
  • I can ask to be included as author of the paper, since most of the work published is based on my master thesis, and not only the "simulations", as the authors wrote in the acknowledgements.
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    Are you still in academia? Or doesn't it matter to you if everything "burns to the ground"? If you have nothing to lose in academia, you can roll in the big guns and say precisely that not only were your studies, but also your text used, which is pretty clear plagiarism and you expect amendment of the author list. Otherwise, you might consider being more political. – Captain Emacs Apr 10 at 9:57
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    Agree with the above comment. I suspect you are not in academia and they behaved so incorrectly because thinking you don't care. If you are in academia their behaviour is totally awful but it also more tricky to give you a suggestion. – Alchimista Apr 10 at 10:05
  • That's a great piece of advice @CaptainEmacs. I am still in academia, though I do not know for how long. So I would opt for a more political option, but I still want to know which options I have – Joey Apr 10 at 10:05
  • @Joey They already published - this makes it difficult to find a solution that preserves their face and secures your rights at the same time. How much substance is published, and how much more of the work is still unpublished where you could ask (well, in principle "demand") to be co-authoring? – Captain Emacs Apr 10 at 10:17
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    @Joey Phew, that's not good. If you intend to mark your territory, you could write to them and ask how it came you were omitted (by mistake? - although you know it's probably not) from the paper and whether they could send in a correction sheet to the journal. Again, it really depends how important the matter is to you vs. whether you stay in academia vs. when you intend to leave. It is incredibly upsetting, but if you wish not to burn all bridges, the idea would be to try to leave them a way open to save face and reinstate your rights as co- (well, actually first) author. – Captain Emacs Apr 10 at 14:17

If they supervised your work, they do have some right on the result. Check the exact guidelines, any licenses you gave to your school or funding entity. Before doing anything rash, do ask somebody knowledgeable with all details. Could be a trusted colleague or your lawyer.

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