Just few days ago, I completed all requirements for the degree, all is set and done. I am organizing a workshop with my adviser to be held in few months. Right now, we are reviewing the submissions. My adviser insists that I am not qualified to review the papers because he designated me as a student organizer and my degree completion does not change that. But he expects me to write the reviews that were assigned to him! On top of that, he cannot cover my travel expenses for the workshop, because of the University policy not to pay expenses for the former students. So, I'm on my own to find the travel funding - I will need to ask my employer for funding.

What bothers me is that when convenient, I'm treated as a student (to write the reviews), but when not convenient, I am treated as a former student (funding the travel expenses). What should I do? I talked to him twice now, and I still getting emails asking when the reviews will done.

Is this a common practice? Am I out of the line to question it? And what does this say for our future relationship working independently in the same field.

I should say that I have a job and funding lined up (funding starts after the workshop). So, I don't need a letter of recommendation from my adviser, but staying on good terms would be beneficial. On the other hand, my adviser was hoping that I could fund some of his students over the next year with the funding I received.

Thank you!

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    What country is this in? – Bill Barth Jul 18 '14 at 21:16
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    "Is this a common practice?" More common than it should be, perhaps, but it is certainly not a standard practice. "Am I out of the line to question it?" Absolutely not. "And what does this say for our future relationship working independently in the same field." Good question. I suggest calling him and having a conversation about this. Don't pick up the phone until you're sure you can stay calm and cordial no matter what. When you talk, work up to being as frank as you can, to the limits of his receptivity. Try to make sure that he knows that your funding gives you some leverage here. – Pete L. Clark Jul 18 '14 at 21:43
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    @Bill: Hmm, maybe I misunderstood. I was interpreting the policy as "We can give funding to outside people so long as they are not former students." Upon reflection, that is so ridiculous that your interpretation seems likely to be correct. – Pete L. Clark Jul 18 '14 at 21:47
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    @Orion: You should look independently into what the funding policy is. As a general rule, it is best to inquire into funding before you sign on to something requiring travel (although it is all too easy not to). In my field we do not have "student organizers" so I don't know anything about the finer points of that. But it is hard for me to read your situation in any other way than that you are being unfairly penalized for having graduated. This is a really bad departmental practice, and it may well be worth discussing it with other faculty: the chair, the director of graduate studies... – Pete L. Clark Jul 18 '14 at 21:59
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    My adviser insists that I am not qualified to review the papers... But he expects me to write the reviews that were assigned to him. — Repeat after me: "I'm sorry, but as you just said yourself, I'm not qualified to write your reviews." – JeffE Jul 19 '14 at 0:24

Other cultures may have different approaches to the ethics of this, but I think it's pretty out of line for the US.

I would recommend standing by your commitment to help organize the workshop, but I would not do your former advisor's reviewing for him. You've graduated, you're a fully-fledged member of the doctoral community.

Pete's comment is pretty spot on. Be as nice and cordial as possible, but be firm in your refusal to do his work for him.

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  • Removed incorrect "not". Just mentioning it, because it changes the whole sense of the sentence. +1 for "I would not do your former advisors reviewing for him." – Faheem Mitha Jul 19 '14 at 0:20
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    You've graduated, you're a fully-fledged member of the doctoral community. — For the record, you were a fully-fledged member of the research community even before you graduated. Otherwise, you wouldn't have landed a job. – JeffE Jul 19 '14 at 0:25
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    I would only upvote this answer if there's also advice on HOW to refuse to do the work. That's the hard part. Of course OP knows that he shouldn't do the work that is not his. – Heisenberg Jul 19 '14 at 0:49
  • Just to give an update. We had a conversation that stayed pretty civil, and at least the expectations are clear now. I will be upgraded to a regular organizer, and will be responsible for my own funding. He would not allow me to be a reviewer in order to maintain high-quality of the workshop and not bring any questions over the peer-review process credibility. I did not agree to do the reviews for him. I got a guilt trip for putting him in a very bad position. He would not have agreed to do the workshop had he known I wouldn't be reviewing the papers for him. – Orion Jul 21 '14 at 17:03
  • All said and done, I feel good about it. Not thrilled, but in peace with it. @Anh I structured the discussion over the roles and common interest: transitioning to the new phase of collaboration that is less day-to-day, but with more impact to his benefit. That I am willing to accept more responsibility for more independence, and that I am committed to organizing the workshop, and not putting him in a difficult position. Circling back to these points, whenever the conversation became tense, helped keep the tone cordial. At the end, we agreed to disagree. – Orion Jul 21 '14 at 17:10

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