While working on a paper, my PhD advisor (at a prestigious school, if that matters) sent revisions that included three pages plagiarized from a book. Thankfully I caught this before the paper was submitted, but otherwise it could have had terrible consequences.
The past year of the pandemic was quite hard on me, and this happened just as I was starting to get better. Now I'm back at feeling uncertain, isolated, and this is literally giving me terrible headaches. My semester is completely off the rails, my mood has been affected, and it's hard for me to perform right now.
I've brought up the issue with my advisor, who claimed it was an accidental mistake. We only talked once besides a few emails, and I'm dreading to have another talk about this and next steps. Whether or not this was a mistake, I feel hurt, cheated, and I have lost trust in my advisor. Actually I've lost trust in most of academia at this point — sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded with people that are very unhealthy and maybe a bit crazy.
Am I overreacting to the situation? I know I was in a vulnerable state before this happened, so it's definitely hitting me hard. But I'm also trying to not overreact.
My options at this point are to:
- quit my PhD
- change advisor and research field
- find a co-advisor and stay in the same field
Option 1 is very appealing, since I have a nice life outside of my PhD. However job opportunities are not as good as they could be at this point. Option 2 is scary to me. I'm afraid that very few faculty act with decency and integrity and I don't want to end up in a bad situation. Option 3 would be easiest in terms of finishing my PhD, as long as I can get my productivity back up while regularly interacting with my current advisor.
Any outside, objective opinion on this would be very helpful to me. I haven't yet talked about the issue to anyone in my department, even though it's hard to avoid talking about it with friends.
Edit: People are speculating about the gravity of the incident and the consequences for me if I take one decision over another. The most important things here are that:
- Trust with my advisor was broken and it will be difficult to work with them and trust their advice in the future. Some people are trying to find ways that it could have been "ok" to plagiarize three pages, but here what matters is that it certainly wasn't ok for me.
- It is a serious enough incident that both me and my advisor are very careful navigating the situation, and I cannot talk about it freely at my school without that causing problems or risking an investigation taking place.
- I will not make any decision based on internet advice. I have mentors I can talk to and many people I trust in my life. The answers provided here help me gain different perspectives from my own and help me process what is going on. No answer here is going to "cause serious harm to me" or anything like that.
Edit 2: Some people seem to think that quitting my PhD would be flushing my career down the drain. That is not the case. Most PhD graduates in my field go on to work in industry. It's not uncommon for PhD students in my field to quit after being recruited by a famous company. I have many options. Regarding changing research subject, again this is not uncommon in my field which relies on a strong set of core knowledge and skills, and where everything can be tied together in a thesis. There are downsides to doing this in terms of networking, overhead, and continuity, but I've done it before and I know I can do it again. Regarding finding a co-advisor or changing advisor, again that is not uncommon in my field. I'm not helpless, I'm just distraught by what happened.
Edit 3 (conclusions): I've concluded that what happened is absolutely unbelievable and amounts to incompetence and/or research misconduct. However, I am also over-reacting in the way that this is affecting my mood and productivity. Realizing the latter should help me work on the mental health issues that I'm facing. Regarding issues with my advisor and next steps, this is something that resources at my university will help with.