72

As you might see from my history I don't have a good relationship with my advisor. Recently we wrote a journal paper together based on my thesis. I wrote the introduction, analysis and the description of the app we had developed for our research. In crude terms, I wrote 15 pages of the 23 page journal paper. My advisor told me that our draft was submitted to this journal three weeks ago, yet I never received any notification from the journal that I was listed as author or co-author.

I went into the help section of the journal to figure if they do send emails to every author and it seems you do need an email to register as co-author. Confirmation here.

According to the guidelines, if the co-author is not registered with the journal, their email should be provided. Its quite obvious I should have received an confirmation email and my advisor only has my .edu email so there is no way another email address could have been used. I have written a journal paper to IEEE as co-author before and I had received an confirmatory email saying I was listed as co-author. I am afraid of confronting my advisor about this as I need co-operation to graduate and in my thesis defense, but I was curious to know if I will get an email if I am listed as co-author? More importantly, should I be listed as author or co-author in this case, when the work is based on my thesis and I wrote most of the paper?

I called the 1-800 number and when I told them the submitter's last name (my advisor) and the paper title, they confirmed that my advisor was listed as sole author. They told me that they had to un-submit and resubmit the journal paper to add me as co-author and they gave me contact of a University professor for further inquiries. I have all the email proof of my work (for instance emails where my advisor asks me to write intro and I would reply with the intro text attached and so on). I am seriously upset right now. I have my thesis defense in December and I fear that if I confront my advisor, things will screw up. Can you please advise on what I should do right now?

PS: I was told that I am listed in Acknowledgement section in the end, which is completely unfair. The Deciding officer (it seems he is the final authority in these cases and RIO reports to him) at my University is the vice president, who was my advisor's PhD Advisor half a decade ago. They are both from same city of a foreign country and are close family friends. Rumor has it that the Vice President rejected multiple highly qualified candidates to get my advisor for Asst. Prof. Position. All my friends are asking me to drop it because I don't have many bullets to go after them, but they can completely screw me up or set me up for something if I go against "one of their own". I am still evaluating what to do.

PPS: Thank you for all your advice. Even though I don't know any of you personally, you were very kind in giving me your time and advice. I cannot thank you all enough. I spoke with a full professor in another deptartment in Engineering. He asked me to stay put till December until the paper is published. He was of opinion that the University is a big cesspool and they only way to clean it is to "get the people" who are doing this publicly and shame them. I do not know if I am being used as pawn right now in University politics or what I should do. I spoke with other people too and all they said was "Is not getting an authorship on journal worth more than not earning the degree". It seems sole authorship does carry extra weight age in front of tenure committee. The whole situation has completely shattered my faith in academics, and the fact that I am part of a state university makes this even more depressing. By the way, one of the two editors of this journal was on advisor's PhD committee. So many people have advised me not to contact any of them. In academia everybody seems to know everybody, in fact it seems more like a cult. I am just doing a Masters now, I always had plans to do PhD and explore my curiosities and see what I can achieve with perseverance, hard work and to test my mental capabilities to their limit, but I am done. I quit. I never felt so depressed for a very long time. Academia these days seems to run by industry practitioners who had previous experience at corporate politics and are good at it or by businessman who wear good clothes, have good people skills and just show off while delegating all the work to GRAs and underlings, and that's not what I am and will never be.

  • 45
    Tell her that you haven't gotten any e-mail, suspecting that the journal might have messed up your e-mail address, you called and sadly found out that THEY missed you in the process. Ask her if "we should retract." Give her one last way out. If she has half a brain or if it's an honest mistake, she will retract. If she waves hands or tries to hula dance away from you, then come back here and we may be able to give you some better suggestion, depending on how much you are willing to pay the reaper when these all are over. – Penguin_Knight Oct 29 '13 at 1:02
  • 36
    I just went through some of your older questions, and it seems that your supervisor is a seriously nasty piece of work. Please, for the love of science, once you've safely graduated, go to your university's Ombudsman with all the grievances you've collected. Assuming what you say is all true, people like this are what destroy our profession, and the lives of countless others. I completely understand if, after you graduate, you want to forget this thing as quickly as possible, but please keep in mind that if you don't do anything, there will be others. – Pedro Oct 29 '13 at 10:19
  • 21
    The Deciding officer (it seems he is final authority in these cases... — Nope. The final authority on the authorship of a journal paper is the journal editor. – JeffE Oct 30 '13 at 22:26
  • 11
    Definitely let the editor know! As a journal editor, I would much rather learn about a situation like this before the paper was published than after. You can ask them to keep it confidential for a while so you can investigate how to handle it. There's no guarantee that they will do so, but it seems like a reasonable request and I would certainly agree. – Anonymous Mathematician Oct 31 '13 at 0:55
  • 19
    Very sorry to hear about your final update. These bad experiences that you had are definitely not the academia I know. From my personal experience this type of behavior is extremely rare and most academics would find it disgusting. Don't lose faith in academia. – Bitwise Nov 3 '13 at 21:01
61

It is an unambiguous violation of ethics for a collaborator to be dropped from the list of authors.

If you wrote a significant contribution to the paper, you are in the right. Your supervisor has no ground to stand on. You should ask your supervisor (don't accuse!) if he/she has included you as a co-author. If a mistake has been made, the sooner it's fixed the better. You could also have a good claim to first authorship, though that is something to decide between authors.

Edit: a little humour - full credit goes to Nik Papageorgiou / The Upturned Microscope.

enter image description here

  • Moriarty as in... Sixtysymbols? – CHM Oct 30 '13 at 4:19
  • Nope, it's not my real name. – Moriarty Oct 30 '13 at 5:00
4

Yes, web submission software can send authorship confirmation emails to all co-authors, but not all journal publishers actually configure it to do so. I can confirm that at least one journal by Taylor & Francis does not send confirmation emails to people other than the corresponding author.

  • please see my edit. – james234 Oct 28 '13 at 23:36
19

There may be nothing to worry about. In ScholarOne (the web submission system being used), the submitter is supposed to enter contact information for all the authors, but an impatient submitter might skip that. As long as you are listed as an author on the paper itself, I'd bet the web submission stuff can be fixed after the fact (it might annoy people, but it's unlikely to derail publication). Probably the person you called at the publisher just checked the ScholarOne metadata without examining the submitted PDF, in which case you don't know for sure whether it lists you.

Instead of provoking an angry confrontation, I'd focus on first figuring out whether you and your advisor are in agreement on authorship. I'll assume you have not explicitly discussed this question, since if you had, then you should have ended up with agreement one way or the other, or at least known you disagreed.

As a first step, you could bring up the question. For example, you could write "I realized recently that we never explicitly discussed authorship of our paper. I've envisioned myself as first author and you as the senior author, since I wrote much of the paper and it is based on my thesis work. However, I should have discussed this with you before submission. What's your take on the author ordering, and how did you handle it in the submission?"

Then you can decide what to do based on her response. If she explicitly says you're an author, then I'd trust her on this. You could still discuss author ordering, based on the conventions in your field.

If your advisor says she doesn't think you should be an author at all, then you'll have to discuss this issue. It would be counterproductive to accuse her of dishonesty or of trying to steal your work. Instead, you should just try to make the case that your contributions justify coauthorship. You could refer to guidelines for this journal or for your field in general to help you argue.

  • i will call them again tmrw at toll free and ask them to look into journal draft itself if they can .Otherwise they gave me details of a prof. they asked me to contact. I will ask them for details and will ask to them to keep everything confidential. – james234 Oct 29 '13 at 2:05
  • 32
    If your advisor says she doesn't think you should be an author at all, then you'll have to discuss this issue. — But first collect a complete trail of your work and email exchanges with your advisor, and discuss the situation—calmly, professionally, and without being accusatory—with an informed third party, like your department chair or ombudsman. An advisor publishing their student's graduate thesis work without the student's name is grossly unethical, but just being right won't necessarily help you. Be prepared to burn all bridges with your advisor. – JeffE Oct 29 '13 at 4:37
  • 10
    Not just unethical, but also counterproductive. At the advisor stage, the main challenge is showing that you can advise PhD students who produce publishable work. If you "steal" publications from them you are just stealing from your own future career. – drxzcl Oct 29 '13 at 13:57
4

I am seriously upset right now. I have my thesis defense in December and I fear that if I confront my advisor, she will screw me up.

Simply as a matter of self-interest, your adviser probably doesn't want you to fail your defense. The work is being published in a journal, and at least one of the names on the paper is hers. If it's then being judged as academically inadequate for a PhD, that reflects badly on her.

Also, if she's really as bad as she sounds, she'll have a reputation at your school, and many of the people on your committee will realize that.

A more realistic concern is that this is also the time when you're going to be applying for your first job, and she may not give you a good recommendation. E.g., if you're applying for a postdoc at another university, people there probably don't know her personally and don't understand your situation. Once you get past the hurdle of getting that first job, you no longer have to depend on your adviser for a recommendation. One option to consider would be to get that job lined up before starting a big row over authorship of this paper.

  • 2
    I actually have job lined up in a research division of an corp in which my advisor had no hand. So i am not concerned abt reco letter. – james234 Oct 29 '13 at 19:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.