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I have a PhD interview in a few days. I am already registered as a PhD student at a university, however I am planning to switch to a different PhD program. My reason to switch are related to the issues with the previous work of my present supervisor that are facing retractions and comments (on pubpeer) for scientific misconduct.

I think that it is better for me find a better lab to prevent any damage to my profile. Should I let the interviewers know that I am already a registered PhD student who is planning to switch due to these reasons? I am not involved in any of these questionable studies and have not published any research with my supervisor. Can this affect my selection chances during the interview?

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    Whose misconduct? Is it your? Partially yours? Third parties?
    – Buffy
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:00
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    Do you want to change fields (as the tag implies) or simply change programs?
    – Sursula
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:10
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    So not an interview with another professor in the same department, but a wholly separate department?
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:12
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    What does "registered as a PhD student" actually entail? Often a PhD position is tied to an employment or stipend and may include obligations towards the university or a funding body; are there any such conditions that affect if and how you can actually start working for someone else? Your previous question suggests that you haven't just registered but are actually a PhD student for several years, so at the very least your CV would have an obvious gap if omitting your current PhD studies, wouldn't it? Mar 20, 2023 at 16:45
  • Thank you everyone for your comments. The misconduct is purely from my supervisor and her previous students. I am nowhere involved, neither during the research work nor do I share any authorship in these papers. Her previous papers started receiving the comments after I joined the lab. My interview is scheduled in a different university (so of course in a different department). And yes, I am a PhD student from the past couple of years; however, given the circumstances, I find it safe to switch. I am planning to refund my present funding (the fellowship), if I get a position.
    – BSC
    Mar 21, 2023 at 6:10

1 Answer 1

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If I were the person interviewing, I would be very sympathetic to your predicament and would not use your current supervisor's misdeeds against you. I'd be happy to have a student who left their previous lab due to credible accusations of misconduct.

I would, however, avoid using derogatory or judgmental language that might make someone worried you have something against your current advisor besides their misconduct. Instead, speak factually and dryly about it and focus on what you want and what is good for you. For example, avoid saying "I'm leaving Professor F's lab because he is a fraudster" and stick to "I've recently become aware of credible accusations of fraud raised against my current lab, and feel that I would have a better experience training in a different environment."

I do think it's possible you'd receive a different reaction from friends and colleagues of your current advisor, who may have a hard time believing the accusations or believe in some alternative explanation, but I think it is probably to your benefit to screen out advisors who would defend the sort of behavior you're trying to get away from.

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