I'm an early-career scientist and I attended a conference 2 years ago organised by a local university. I presented the results of one of my first funded research projects and I included my assistants as co-authors. The presentation went well and the rigorous work has impressed the panel and the audience and even one panel are interested to collaborate with me. However, one of the panel, instead of giving feedbacks decided to somehow "discredit" us and our effort by saying "So you are from University X and you must be a colleague of Professor Y. I have high regards of her work and thus I believe in your work." The thing is Professor Y was never involved in my project nor familiar in my work. I wasn't offended by that remark (or should I be?) but I feel that this kind of comment is unfair and shouldn't be tolerated especially when dealing with young scientists starting their career. Today, I was concerned that this panel member will be again present in an upcoming conference and I am sure he will do the same remarks again as he did to other before in past conferences he panelled. And I am also sure that our paths will cross again this time. My question is: Should I "call him out" when he do this behaviour again? Is it polite or proper to "call him out" during the panel discussion? Any advise how will I deal this kind of behaviour without being impolite.

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    I don't see at all why that comment would be seen by others to discredit you. The person was essentially trying to make a connection and support you. Perhaps a cultural difference? – Jon Custer Apr 17 '19 at 20:01
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    While a bit odd, I don't understand what's wrong, can you explain? – Azor Ahai -- he him Apr 17 '19 at 20:12
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    I don't understand why this question is downvoted so many times. This post reflects a sentiment that may seem paranoid at first, but can nevertheless be common in early career professionals. – xuq01 Apr 18 '19 at 17:56
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    @xuq01 as early career and starting to establish your name and reputation, the action of that person (panel) is a little bit discouraging. The way I understand his approach and remarks was like he is trying to overshadow my work and it feels like "Ok I don't care about your work, you get my trust and attention because you are associated to Professor X", but what if I am associated to another professor he doesnt know? But thanks for getting my point. – xavier Apr 18 '19 at 18:16
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    There's a small but significant difference between "...and thus I believe in your work" and "...and I believe in your work too". The first can be taken to mean that your work is good not by your own merit but because of others in your university, but the second is a compliment! – YiFan Apr 19 '19 at 0:51

This sounds like positive banter/smalltalk. It's a way of creating a positive link which the OP interprets negatively. I personally would interpret the statement as the person liking your work but not wanting to say so directly, as direct compliments are frowned upon in many cultures or even sound suspicious. Obviously, OP takes it exactly in the opposite spirit - so one never gets it right.

I will hypothesise that calling them out will only:

  1. cause not to want to talk to you anymore;
  2. cause them not wanting to deal with you ever again in the future;
  3. if they know them, probably privately remark to Prof. Y about the strange and borderline impolite behaviour of OP, despite the good work of OP.

To be honest, I fail to see how this statement could possibly be negatively interpreted, but obviously OP did so. Nonetheless, my very strong recommendation to OP is to reconsider whether this is not actually meant as a very complimentary statement.

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Don't read too much into the remark. While some would say such things to lessen you, others wouldn't even think of it in that way and, instead, consider it a neutral or even positive comment. On the face of it, the person is trying to connect himself with you through the other person.

In particular, with no more information than what you write here, I think it would be a mistake to "call him out".

I would take the worst case interpretation of the comment as a person who is a bit insecure and is trying to boost them-self, rather than tear you down. That you suggest this is a common practice of the person seems, to me at least, to support that view.

But even if the person just goes around tearing people down, it isn't worth the mental effort to respond. They are what they are. There is nothing to be gained in that case.

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  • At first, I received the comment as neutral and it wasn't offending. It was a positive comment, but "believing and applauding" my work because I am associated with a random Professor X (who doesn't even have familiarity with my topic) seems he is trying to unjustly overshadow my work. – xavier Apr 18 '19 at 18:24

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