About a month ago, I read a new article published by my previous advisor and three other researchers in a top journal. I noticed that part of it uses part of my master's thesis, only written as if they are the ones who did it.
It is the second time he is doing that, only that last time I didn't know my rights. I wrote them, asking them to add a citation to my thesis. My advisor refused. He was claiming to "forget" citing me and that it was too late to make any changes. When I reminded him of the first time he "forgot" to mention me, he said that he paid me a scholarship, so my work is his (meaning he will do it again and again). Of course, I was not very happy with this disrespectful answer. I was also very unhappy to understand that he didn't let me finish my masters (he kept me for 4 years!) because he knew that my work will become "his" one day.
Just a little background - I come from a small country, and my field is very specific. One bad word from this professor can ruin any chance to build a career at a local university. My current head of the group (I am doing a postdoc in another country) told me to write to the journal editor, but she also said she doesn't think I will get any reply.
I wrote to the editor, along with a link to my masters' thesis and the parts that he copied. I didn't expect any answer. However, he replied very quickly and told me he and the other editors see it as a very serious case – They want to contact my advisor and change the article. I got panicked and asked him not to do that, explaining that it can ruin my possible future career. He proposed a Zoom meeting. Then, he proposed that I speak with other past-students of his, and that we write a letter together, so it will not be personal, only from me. He emphasized that he can't leave the article like that because it is a significant plagiarism (3 paragraphs + graph). I agreed.
The problem is that most of his students did not finish (they either changed an advisor or left before finishing). The one who did finish managed to do it because another professor pressured this advisor, so there was nothing serious he could use.
I am currently in an advanced stage of getting a research position in another local university. I try to postpone the action from this journal as long as possible, hopefully, to be after somebody from the other university will surely ask him about me. But:
- It is not serious not answering for such a long time
- I don't know if I can postpone their letter to this past advisor long enough
I know I should not have written this message in the first place. However, I did, and now it is too late. So the question is – what can I do?