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I am a third-year PhD student in Germany, and I have some issues with my supervisor.

To make a long story short, he does not read my research drafts but instead, he asks us to review papers he takes from conferences as a reviewer, and then he submits them with his name to make a reputation.

He also bans me from writing my thesis. Other students in the past including master students have had similar problems regarding their master thesis. And recently a PhD student quit after 3 years of working in his group and a few other cases in the past.

Anyways, the main reason I am writing this is that about two years ago he asked me to work on a remote project (with another group remotely) to have a joint research paper. After doing all the things that he and the remote professor ask me to do, my so-called supervisor now does not allow me to write my paper based on the result of this research, and I found that he (and the remote guy) are replacing me with another student on this project and are ignoring all of my works. I have been working on a private repository in GitHub, but I do not have a master user.

What are the possible solutions in this case? How can I defend my rights? Is there any way to collect evidence from the repository or emails? Can I bring these people to court?

I have tried to talk to my supervisor many times, and it doesn't work. Also, the head of our department does not want to involve himself in these jobs.

This is an update to the answers and comments below:

Thank you guys! I need to write this long response to Buffy and other people comments: Indeed I am looking for a proper advisor. However, for now, I want to get my paper published (the remote project). Even though I must change my supervisor, still I devoted 2 years of my life on this work. So, I think it's my right to have this paper in my CV even if they write the paper separately.

It was a kind of deal between my so-called supervisor and me and his friend (the remote professor) to have a paper in the end.

  1. How can I collect proofs regarding all the ideas and technical works I have been putting in this project? (for example, has Github any option in these situations? )

  2. Can I write an abstract about this project with some details and upload it somewhere like Arxiv or Researchgate. Does it force them to put my name at least as a co-author for the paper?

  3. Having some screenshots or recorded screen from the history of the repository can be helpful? (in case they kick me out of the git repository )

  4. Is there any international, Europian or American student association or similar things to help people like me?

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    It seems that you have been working with this professor for a long time, even if you know he's abusive. Are you ready to fight with him, or is it a priority for you to continue the relationship? – Federico Poloni Apr 18 at 7:13
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    Does your university have someone you can talk to confidentially? A student office, de-escalation office, dean of research or dean of student affairs,... – Dirk Apr 18 at 9:16
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    This sounds truly awful. I'm sorry you are experiencing this. No one should. It's completely unacceptable. – user2705196 Apr 18 at 11:51
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    Have you tried to find another supervisor- even in another institution? And "bans me from writing my thesis" - who would do this? – Solar Mike Apr 18 at 12:07
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    Thank you all, yes I have a bunch of emails as pieces of evidence and I am trying to inform all people in the department and university because these people are harmful to academia. – Carmen777 Apr 18 at 14:55
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I'm surprised that you have found any reasons to stay. I don't predict that you can have any happy future if you stay in this situation. There is clearly a lack of respect, maybe both ways.

I can't think of any path to success whatever if you stay. Even if you can force better behavior, the resentment will come back to hurt you when you are ready to move on. I wouldn't expect any decent letters of recommendation.

None of what you describe is proper. I hope it is uncommon.

Find a better situation, even if you need to change universities. The head's lack of interest may make staying also impossible.

Unfortunately, this advice comes with a heavy cost since moving will be difficult and you may not be able to take your research with you. The less developed it is, probably the easier it is to carry it away and continue. But you need a supportive advisor.

  • Unfortunately, this pretty common with sick supervisor, I do deeply understand the OP had, the best thing is to find a new supportive advisor. – user103209 Apr 18 at 14:14
  • Thank you @Monika, I am looking out for a proper advisor now. – Carmen777 Apr 18 at 15:23
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This is unfortunate. In your third year, it is even harder to make up your mind to leave because you have put this much time in your research. However, if you want to fight, you do have the right to defend your rights.

In addition to @Buffy's suggestions, if you do decide to fight, then find out who is your institution's ombudsman. They are a common entity in the US universities, and maybe in Germany they have a different title. They are supposed to investigate these kinds of matter independently. But be prepared to show them everything they ask. Then it is up to them to decide who is guilty. Be prepared to accept the outcome in any direction.

That being said, if you do win this fight, you might get your name in the papers and also might get to stay in your current lab to finish your PhD. But don't expect any words of appreciation from your supervisor when it is time to get letters of recommendation. That bridge will be burned for sure. I have a second hand familiarity of similar situation as one of my close friends was involved in this kind of situation. He ended up changing the supervisor and transferred to another campus of the same university. Good luck with any of your decision.

  • Thank you, I am considering this option too, I think I am not going to continue with this professor anymore, I should mention that I have one accepted paper now in a decent journal (related to this work, but it was an independent work) – Carmen777 Apr 18 at 15:34

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