7

I am studying Computer Science in an unknown, crap tier university in India. Due to my interest in Deep Learning, I've done some strong projects and internships in it. Word passed over and people started asking for help with things, and subsequently my current situation also happened because a professor came with the Head of Department in my university and asked me to work on an ML project for them. I agreed to it since it was some small work. Later I got to know that this was going to be the PhD thesis of that professor, but I didn't mind it since it was a small work and also because the Head of Department is involved (if I rejected, they would probably punish me by intentionally reducing my internal marks and failing me).

The work I did for the paper was completely ridiculous but the professor was still very satisfied with it (it was on par with the quality of rest of the fake papers published in the journal he was going to publish in). I was also forced to fake the results for the paper and bluff up things. If anyone reads merely one standard paper in that area, and then takes a glance at this cooked up paper, they can easily figure out that its faked and is a completely worthless paper with zero academic contribution, and only helps the university and the professor to increase their paper count.

The problem is that the paper is now finished and the professor just said that he will put my name on the paper. I am strongly against this and I've tried saying this softly like "No sir, it's okay, you don't have to put me in the paper", but he is adamant and wants to put my name in the paper because I've helped him make it.

I'm still young in undergrad and I'm planning to pursue an MS in a good university and further pursue a PhD. I'm super worried about having a very bad and ridiculously faked up paper this early in my research career. Anyone in the future can ruin my career by mentioning that a paper that has my name on it is completely fake and unethical. I also won't be able to make it to any university for higher studies because the admins and professors at grad school can spot this ridiculous paper easily and reject my application right away. I am extremely worried about it and I'm having panic attacks thinking about this and my future, and I am not able to stop the professor from putting my name on the paper.

What can I do about this?


Addressing the points in the comments:

  1. I did have two choices - yes and no. Had I said no and refused to participate in this fraudulent project, I would've been intentionally and illegally failed in the course, and committed to mental torture (this can happen in India unlike the US). This is like an offer that I cannot refuse and I said yes only to survive myself from this situation - which is why I say I was forced. It's like being held at gunpoint.
  2. I cannot switch to another institution at this point (I'm a final year student with still 8 months to graduate). And I don't think I can harm my relationship with the Head here even after graduating because I'm dependent on them for an LoR. Since an LoR from a professor is better than one from industry, I have to obtain one from the Head here because it is better than obtaining an LoR from any other in this institution.
13
  • 4
    “No” is a complete sentence.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 14:56
  • 1
    @Bryan No, there was actually no deadline for this work. The professor just wanted his PhD fast and pestered me everyday to just go with the faking route. As you mentioned, he did initially ask me to just do it fast, but when I said that "it takes about 2 months", he instantly got angry and said me to just fake it instead of spending 2 months because he "wanted his PhD fast". This is actually what happened, and I did not fake it just because I was short of time. I was not short of time at all, it was just that this professor wanted me to fake it for him so that he can get his PhD fast.
    – newres
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 16:08
  • 4
    Yes, that is actually the correct response, and in an external setting, I would've clearly used that response. But this situation is very different because I am literally forced to go with their option. Had I not agreed to work on the project, my completion of the course would be in question (as I had mentioned in the post, they can literally choose to fail me on purpose if that's what they want. And this kind of stuff happens in universities like this in India). Because of these reasons, I'm not able to use the usual response (which is just a no), and that's why I said that I'm being forced.
    – newres
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 16:21
  • 1
    I may have missed it in all the additional information in the many comments to the question and answers, but do you have any idea why the professor would rather have your name on the paper than not have your name on the paper? I would think that without your name on the paper (which is an option you have given the professor), the professor's contribution to the paper would appear greater (especially if no other authors). Perhaps identifying the professor's motive for having your name on the paper can help you in devising a way to avoid having your name on the paper. Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 7:32
  • 1
    I added the country tag. This is a cultural issue, not specifically linked to academia. It would be the same if you were working in a factory producing hydraulic equipments, providing fake data for their pumps. I am sorry for you.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 10:36

3 Answers 3

3

The work I did for the paper was completely ridiculous but the professor was still very satisfied with it (it was on par with the quality of rest of the fake papers published in the journal he was going to publish in). I was also highly encouraged to fake the results for the paper and bluff up things. If anyone reads merely one standard paper in that area, and then takes a glance at this cooked up paper, they can easily figure out that its faked and is a completely worthless paper with zero academic contribution, and only helps the university and the professor to increase their paper count.

If your description is fair, this is not a "bad quality paper", it is a fraudulent one.

The problem is that the paper is now finished and the professor just said that he will put my name on the paper. I am strongly against this and I've tried saying this softly like "No sir, it's okay, you don't have to put me in the paper", but he is adamant and wants to put my name in the paper because I've helped him make it.

Then don't say it softly. "It's okay, you don't have to put my name as an author" communicates "it is acceptable but not necessary that my name be concluded". A very reasonable response to this soft statement would be to include your name if they think your name should be included.

If you do not want your name associated with the paper, you must say this. You can still say it softly to start as, "I do not want my name on this paper," but you may need to insist with "I refuse to have my name on this paper". Ideally, I would get this documented e.g. in an email, so that you have something to refer to if your name is nonetheless associated with fraudulent work.

It's understandable that your position will be confusing to your advisor, because you've already participated in the faking of results, which makes it seem like you're on board with the whole enterprise. I would not recommend doing this in the future - if asked to produce fraudulent results, you should refuse immediately at that step and therefore not risk being credited for that fraudulent work. Of course, you could still be involved in a larger project in which other authors have not acted ethically and you feel your name needs to be withdrawn for those reasons, but you are still personally responsible for the specific individual work you do and the quality of that work.

Besides that, I don't know what to say. It seems you feel you are in a lab that regularly publishes fraud, in an institution that is permissive of fraud. I don't know what benefit you think you'll get from this arrangement. Maybe things are not really as bad as you make it sound here, but if they are, your next steps should all be about getting someplace else. Good luck.

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 10:12
  • 5
    "your next steps should all be about getting someplace else" Easier said than done.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 10:35
2

I’ll add some thoughts on top of @BryanKrause’s excellent answer. To summarize a lot of information from the comments, the story I’m getting is that you:

  1. faked data, but did so under coercion (or what you perceive as coercion) by the corrupt head of department;

  2. now wish to distance yourself from the fraudulent research by refusing to be a coauthor of the work; and

  3. do not seem to think that you could have behaved in any other way, or that you have any ethical responsibility for this fraudulent research being published or helping to get someone a fake PhD, as long as it doesn’t mention your name.

Well, I’m sorry to be a bearer of bad news, but I think this last belief is not quite right. If this research ends up getting published, then, regardless of whether it has your name on it or not, you will have been complicit in academic misconduct. And you already are complicit in misconduct, since you helped someone get a fraudulent PhD. Thus, if your career is hurt in some way by this unfortunate turn of events, you might be forced to acknowledge that it was your behavior, and the choices that you made, that played a role in those bad consequences.

Perhaps you acted under coercion, and if so that would be a mitigating factor that reduces your culpability to some extent. I’m not passing judgment, since I know only very few details about what happened. And I don’t actually have much in the way of practical advice I can offer. But, before you make any decisions about how to act, I’d advise you to first of all do some soul searching and face the fact that you cannot easily claim to be purely a victim in this situation. Your mindset about the situation seems to be misguided, and this might have led you to make wrong decisions in the past. Changing your mindset might lead you to better decisions going forward. For example, you could adopt the view that a corrupt academic is not an acceptable person to even want a letter of recommendation from, under any circumstances, and look for a path forward in your career that doesn’t involve caving to corrupt demands from such people. Even if that seems like an impractical approach to take, I think it would ultimately serve you better in the long term.

Good luck!

5
  • 2
    Sorry, for some reason ppl seem to disagree that I've been forced. To provide an analogy, if I were a bank employee with access to the vault, and a robber comes in with a gun and points it at me to open the vault, I do have the option to say "no" to not violate the banks rule of opening vaults at unnecessary times and also to not aid the robber in his act, but I'll get shot. I have no other option but to open the vault just for my survival. You can't arrest me for supporting a robbery since I was forced in this case. (Gunpoint refers to being illegally failed in the course in my case.)
    – newres
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 2:57
  • 1
    As the bank employee who opened the vault, I do wish to distance myself from the crime if the robber ever says that I was in on this together. And due to our law system, there's a way to logically disprove that I was a partner of the robber. But this is not the case in academia, as the fraudulent paper will appear with my name and I've thus ruined my life for acting at gunpoint. And that's why I'm looking to distance myself from this situation. So far there doesn't seem to be a solution and I'm feeling very depressed :(
    – newres
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 3:09
  • 2
    @newres that analogy makes sense. Actually academia is just as receptive as the legal system to accepting evidence that someone is not at fault as compelling and valid. So it sounds like you need to make sure to have evidence that you were/are acting under coercion. Whether it’s by creating an email trail of your refusal to go along with a scheme, emailing the journal, or some other way, having such evidence at the ready is probably the way to go.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 4:03
  • I don't think I can acquire evidence for acting under coercion since it has all ended, but I will get evidence for refusing to add name in the journal.. But I don't know what that evidence would be helpful for.. Could you please shed some light?
    – newres
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 14:44
  • @newres well, if your name ends up on the paper you can complain to the journal and use the evidence you have that you did not consent to this.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 18:07
1

I think you have to be creative, and you should avoid fighting an injustice with another injustice.

There is a weak point in authorship, and it is the non-univoque relation between a person and the name of the person.

One smart solution is then to add noise to your name. This way, in the future, if you do not refer to the paper, it will not be easy to find out that the co-author of the paper is really you.

When you will give in to your professor request, ask them politely to put your name as "newres + the family name of your grand grand mother", in a form of respect towards her, and adding as well "Edgar" which is the nickname you always use to distinguish yourself from the other newres doing ugly stuff in CS.

Note: no paper publication forms, no publishers (not even the one doing big scams) are requiring ID to check authors'names.

3
  • 2
    More creatively, just leave a message in the acknowledgement, something like "In Developing Interesting Datasets To Help Inscribing Subject, Uttermost Nature Defied Enahnced Reasoning Clashing Outrageously Errors Regarding Cultural Indictementes On Nature." Smart people may read I DID THIS UNDER COERCION
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 13:59
  • I'd initially planned to give a completely different name to convince him that it's my given name at birth. I'll try to do it this way if the previous plan doesn't work out. Thank you for this idea!
    – newres
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 14:48
  • @newres additional suggstion: avoid like the plague research gate, as well as central database like orcid and the likes as long as you are in the network of these persons, otherwise they will surely connect you to the paper... I do not expect you to be in their network for longer than some months, but be careful and good luck
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 7:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .