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While completing my PhD, I was assisted by my advisor in writing three papers. Because he had to go on medical leave for a period, we have been slow in getting them submitted for publication. (He did not allow me to submit the papers myself. He insisted on controlling the submission). I am first author on each of these papers.

Now that my former advisor is back from his leave of absence, he has begun submitting the papers without my knowledge. (I emailed him to ask about plans for submission and he informed me that he had already submitted the papers a few weeks prior). He has refused to share the final manuscripts or a list of journals that he has submitted the papers to. He just tells me to wait until the papers are accepted, then he will contact me. From what I can determine, he has told the same thing to another co-author (who was also one of his PhD students).

I find this behavior to be not only odd, but moreover incredibly unprofessional. While I am still a young researcher, I am not a complete push-over. I believe it is completely reasonable to ask that I be included in the publication process.

One major issue that I worry about is the authorship order. When I became his PhD student, a few people warned me that he would try to creep his way up to being listed as the first author on the final publications. (I guess that he did something similar to a previous student: drag on the submission process until the student graduates, then secretly slide his way onto the publications as first author).

What steps can I take to ensure that I am given a more reasonable say in the publication of these papers?


Side note 1: My advisor was fired from his previous position (where he was my advisor). As such, our former university is not likely to be willing to do much about this. He now works as an assistant professor at a different school. Because he is almost 10 years into his career and still not tenured, he is becoming desperate to get some first author publications.

Side note 2: I am in a stable position currently and am not reliant on my advisor for anything. My career is not leveraged by him.

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    I would stop working with him - you have little to no chance of any control. – Solar Mike Jan 8 at 18:34
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    Are you sure everyone is appropriately listed as authors? – Buffy Jan 8 at 18:37
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    I forgot to ask: Why was he actually fired? – Captain Emacs Jan 8 at 18:38
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    @CaptainEmacs He did not quite seem to understand that one has to actually get official approval to miss a year of work for health reasons. (He just moved to Florida and didn't tell the department he was going on leave). He also was insanely hard to get along with. Politics probably played a role in his firing. I do not think he was well liked. Professors with 25 years in the department do not enjoy being falsely accused of plagiarism by an assistant professor. – Vladhagen Jan 8 at 18:50
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    Not in Academia this may be a bad suggestion--why not complain to his current university? At least to get him to cough up where the articles were submitted and copies of what was submitted. Maybe ask his department chair. – mkennedy Jan 8 at 19:57
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Yes, your advisor behaviour is unprofessional and certainly against the ethical policies of virtually any serious publisher. I'd contact the other coauthor and write a joint email along the following lines (modify according to your knowledge of the situation):

Dear X,

We are disappointed by your refusal to share the final versions of the manuscripts and the journals which they have been submitted to. Journal policies require all authors to approve a submission, and not only does your refusal go against such policies but it also undermines the trust that should exist among coauthors.

We kindly ask you to comply with our request. In case, we will take all the necessary steps to exercise our author's rights.

Best,
Y and Z

If they still refuse, contact the ethical or disciplinary office of their university, if there is one, or the Head of Department.

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Unless you are willing to make a formal complaint through the university or the journal, there is probably little you can do.

But don't work with this person in the future. That should be obvious.

If you are already clear of his influence and ability to sabotage you, then a formal complaint might be worth doing, but more for the benefit of future students. But if he still holds a thumb over your future, personal preservation might be the wise move.

But move on ASAP. Or faster.

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    Thankfully this advisor holds no real influence over my career. I work in a non-academia research career that is not contingent on him vouching for me. I am leaning towards filing a complaint with his new department just so as to prevent this from happening to future students. I think that a large part of why he has been allowed to get away with many of his prior antics is because no one has ever pushed back. He has perfected the art of academic manipulation by means of withholding publications and degrees. – Vladhagen Jan 8 at 20:25

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