Okay, So I'm not sure if I am making a big deal out of nothing but I am concerned based off of what I have heard so I figured I'd ask for advice.

I recently left a R&D job at a small private company that specializes in endoscope/surgical tool reprocessing systems. I have stayed close with some of my co-workers one of which was put on a new project for the head of one of the other departments. We will call my coworker "B" and the head "M".

M is going for her pHD in Health Science. Part of this included doing extensive testing on endoscope reprocessing (think months of work: testing the scopes and research). M told B that she couldn't do the work (according to her her committee wouldn't allow her to) and B was assigned the task.

B spent time doing testing, troubleshooting issues (because M's solutions were not working and flawed) and writing up her data with some basic data analysis involved. Apparently this data was core in M's thesis. When M presented for the Committee it was over ZOOM so B was able to be present.

B received no credit anywhere in the acknowledgements and based off of comments from the committee B was under the impression that the committee thought M did the work. B is frustrated because that was months of her work and I am concerned that the committee is not aware that M didn't do the work or design the experiments.

So I have 3 questions:

  1. Should B have received credit/been put on the paper?
  2. Does it make sense for M to not have done the work herself?
  3. What if anything would be a logical next step?
  • 1
    I am a bit confused by the terms you use: You talk about M's thesis which I understand as the written part. B attended when "M presented for the Committee" which I assume was a talk with subsequent discussion. Then you ask if B should have "been put on the paper", sounds like a written document again. Can you clarify if B's contribution was acknowledged neither in the written thesis, possibly publications, nor during the thesis defense? Do you know this for sure? Nov 7, 2022 at 15:46
  • So the thesis was defended and during the presentation B was present for this and was not acknowledged at all. No one has told B she will be acknowledged in the written thesis or publications (based off of my experience people tend to tell you if they will be putting your name on either and you often have to sign an affidavit that you were in fact involved). Nov 7, 2022 at 15:59
  • The way you describe it now suggests that you do not know for sure that there is no acknowledgement of B's contribution in the written thesis. When defending their thesis, PhD candidates often lean towards overpolishing their results and sometimes err on the side of overstating their own contribution. This is not best practice, but does not imply anything about what is written down in the thesis. The committee might therefore be well aware of the facts by reading the thesis. Be careful not to jump to conclusions. Nov 7, 2022 at 19:30

1 Answer 1

  1. Based on your summary here, yes definitely.

  2. No, I can't see a reason that makes any sense at all that M couldn't do this work; if they couldn't do the work they should have addressed that with their supervisor and adjusted their topic.

  3. I'd recommend that B ask for a meeting between B, M, and M's thesis supervisor to discuss. Next steps depend on whether the thesis supervisor sees this as a problem or not.

There may be a separate issue about use of internal company resources that's not really relevant to the academic issues and so I haven't addressed it.


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