I developed a novel technique (from 2016 until my graduation in August 2019) in my area of study as a PhD student. I transferred the technique to another PhD student, which took all of Fall 2018. Today I found that the second student and my (ex)advisor submitted a paper in July (before my graduation), and neither included me as co-author (even though I helped the second student adapt my technique to his problem with significant hand-holding), nor cited my papers documenting the technique.

Today my (ex)advisor sent an email asking me to help transfer my technique to a third student. The third student informed me that the second student (who left the research group for another) is not cooperating, and stalling with excuses of other commitments. Of late, my (ex)advisor has become very toxic to work with, and has lost numerous good grants. What do you advise I do in such a situation?

1 Answer 1


The proper advice, I think, is to ask for co-authorship on any future papers that use your technique. Point out that you are actually due this for having developed the technique and even more for adapting it to the other students' work. Not for "helping them" adapt it. For adapting it. Nor would I be shy about saying that they made an error in not including you on the recent paper.

They might just offer an acknowledgement and you can decide if that is enough for you. I don't have a recommendation about that, but think that co-authorship is probably more appropriate.

And, if they say no, then your decision about helping is also pretty clear, I think.

I wouldn't make the suggestion quite so strong except that you say the relationship with your advisor is already toxic. You have your own career to think about and your own research goals and needs. You don't need to also do someone else's work without proper attribution.

  • 1
    Also insist on one of your papers describing the technique being cited. Oct 16, 2019 at 20:30
  • @PatriciaShanahan, yes. Good catch. And since the current paper is "submitted" that could be added to that paper. An outside shot would be to add the OP as an author, but I think that is (politically) unlikely. But the future is more in control of the OP.
    – Buffy
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:31
  • Any future papers would only be possible if I help this third student understand the technique (since the second student and I have left the group). The point is that the technique uses very modern and complex theorems from multivariate probability, which took quite a bit of effort to be understood by me, and would need a few months of my time to explain to the third student. It's like a chicken and egg problem, to ask for authorship on future papers.
    – Kartik
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:44
  • A lot of questions here are similar to yours. Student does a lot of work and others are authors. Some are harder to find a solution for, but have a lot of similarities, including a non supportive advisor or ex advisor. But it is good to ask for what is rightly yours.
    – Buffy
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:57
  • +1: Not for "helping them" adapt it. For adapting it. - Poetic. Oct 16, 2019 at 21:32

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