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I just started the third year of my PhD and my contract expires in December.

My project comes under a broader much bigger project involving 5 teams. I was the first one to be recruited on this project and so I have worked very hard over the past 2 years to set up the system in place. During the last 2 years I have received almost no help and guidance from my supervisor. It's been a fellow friend and post-Doc in the lab who left by the end of my first year who helped me to learn and implement everything. At the end of my second year, my boss moved his lab and this move was very badly managed. I did not see him for up to 4 months. During that time, he started to sit in the new lab without having any conversations with me about how to manage my project. It was a very difficult time for me. I realized that under the university rules I had the opportunity to add another supervisor so I went ahead and added another supervisor. The additional supervisor is also a part of the multi disciplinary project I mentioned.

For my second year, one of the main components of the system I am supposed to be working with did was defective and my supervisor wanted me to fix it for the bigger project without worrying if I spend time fixing it that would not lead to a publication. I did that. In parallel, I also worked on my own research project so as to have a publication. My supervisor has now hired a post-doc and another junior researcher (his friend in fact) . Consequently I am handing over all the work I have done to them and they are telling me that I don't belong to this project any more. This for me is heartbreaking because I worked really hard on setting up the system and now I will be just be an insignificant author on someone else's paper using my work.

My second supervisor doesn't know any of this as he has said he is not a specialist in the field. Also, he is very early in his career and possibly wants to maintain a good working relationship with my 1st supervisor rather than stand up for a PhD student.

I don't know what to do, nor how to claim credit for what I deserve.

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    Could you specify your regional location (eg. US/Europe/South Asia/East Asia etc.)? Feb 22 at 7:32
  • I am in Europe, more specifically france
    – user183861
    Apr 1 at 22:16

1 Answer 1

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I'm sorry to hear that. Stories like this one are very common in the PhD world: lack of supervision, projects transferred from one person to another, supervisor moving to a different institution. The truth is that a supervisor typically cares much more about the overall project rather than the students the project was assigned to. It may sound unfair, and it is, but your relationship with your supervisor is not the ultimate goal of a PhD. The goal of the PhD is to learn the job and become an expert in the techniques and methodologies you have applied throughout your training. With your next position you will be expected to develop your project independently, and your supervisor won't even know the details of your research until you deliver a manuscript. If you are able to do that, your PhD was a success. I understand your concerns about the authorship of your project. This is another common controversy between students and supervisors. If I were you, I would bring this up to your supervisors and tell them that even if the project will be continued by a different person, you provided a significant contribution and therefore you need to be co-first author in the paper. Of course the final decision will be made when the paper is ready for submission, but I think you have the right to ask.

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