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A few years after finishing my PhD, I was notified by my former supervisor that they had submitted without my knowledge a section of my PhD dissertation to a journal, listing me as first author and adding other team members as co-authors. They had litterally copied the section verbatim, without adjusting it to reduce the verbosity and to follow the outline a journal article usually has, even keeping in references to other paragraphs in the dissertation that didn't make sense anymore out of context. The paper was accepted shortly after.

Is it an acceptable practice to do so?

What could I have done to prevent the publication of this article at the time?

-- For context, I hadn't been in touch with my former lab in between the end of my PhD and this event, and the field is systems biology.

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    Do you object to its publication or is the question for information only? – Buffy Jan 15 at 20:25
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    The answer of gnometorule here seems complete and accurate. No reputable journal should ever permit this. No professor should ever attempt it. Bad actors all round. – Buffy Jan 15 at 20:33
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    I wouldn't say the story is strange. The usual understanding is that all (or most) research will end up with one or more publications. The supervisors may have told the student at an earlier time that the work will be published even if he/she graduates or that the supervisor has lost contact with the student or that there has been a falling out. The supervisor is also kind enough to place the student as the first author. – Prof. Santa Claus Jan 15 at 20:40
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    @Prof.SantaClaus I cannot understand how you can think this is acceptable/normal. – QuantumBrick Jan 15 at 22:31
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    @Prof.SantaClaus The student should not necessarily be grateful for having a paper of poor quality published in a journal of poor reputation, with their name on it but without being informed. The least the advisor should have done is to inform the student before publication, so they can at least object to their name being attached to it. – Servaes Jan 16 at 11:16
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It is obviously not ok to publish the work of someone else without asking all authors. It is also certainly startling to see it done in such an apparently careless manner (as an unedited copy of a thesis chapter that doesn’t conform to the standards of the publication journal - and still somehow gets published). So what happened is puzzling.

Realistically, there is nothing you could have done to prevent it from happening. Given how strange this story is, you couldn’t have been expected to explicitly tell your adviser to please not do what they did. Maybe they meant well, maybe they did it to add a publication to their own record, but they shouldn’t have done this as they did.

What this means to you depends on details you don’t mention in your question (e.g., are you in industry or academia, did you plan to use your thesis work in other ways, are you worried about what you consider a sub-par publication).

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    Correct. Absolutely not ok. – Buffy Jan 15 at 20:34
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    And was this a predatory journal or a legitimate one? – B. Goddard Jan 16 at 14:02
  • @B.Goddard This is a legitimate journal. The thesis chapter that ended being in the paper contained some valuable analyses, but wasn't edited in an optimized way for journal submission in terms of concision and organization, though I guess it didn't matter that much as it ended up being published. – crocus71 Jan 16 at 14:31
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    I think I'd write a serious letter to the journal, then. Something slipped (the editor is a buddy of one of the authors, or someone is not paying attention to standards) and they need to know about it. – B. Goddard Jan 16 at 14:50
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    @B.Goddard just bear in mind you might burn bridges with your former supervisor. Not that it should matter, given their record, but still bear that in mind. – o0'. Jan 16 at 16:46

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