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I am a recent Ph.D. graduate in computer science. In the last few months, I wrote a paper about an aspect of my thesis, with the collaboration of my former supervisor. We found a call for papers for a "special section" of an important journal, that is a section focused on the data set we are exploiting. The submission deadline was set to the end of November 2014, but surprisingly we just discovered that it has been post-poned to the end of March 2015, a four month delay. I did not know if it was better to send this paper to this "special section" or to the "normal track" of the journal, so I asked here on Academia.

User Geoff Hutchison suggested to me to contact the editorial board and ask them if I could have all the original time schedules. That means to have all the notification and re-submission dates as they were not post-poned, except the final publication date. It seemed reasonable to me, so I wrote to my former supervisor (who is also the co-author of the paper, even if his contribution to the project and the paper is only around ~5%).

He replied to me in a very ill-mannered, thwarted and angry way, stating that "writing this request to the editors may cause a lot of problems", that I am "not able to understand how lucky we are for the existence of this special section", "having the paper accepted in this special section may be the best thing that could ever happen to our our paper", that I "should focus on how to improve the paper, instead of inventing new ways to create problems", and I should "understand that the paper isn't worth much".

What to reply back to this "gentleman"?

The paper is mine, comes from the doctoral thesis of mine, from an idea that I had, and was written entirely by me. My former supervisor just reviewed and corrected it. I am not going tolerate this disrespectful behavior, and cannot stand having a co-author that considers my paper "not worth much".

[EDIT]: Thanks to all for your contributions. I'm asking to you all some suggestions on how to manage this situation: should I trust someone that is the co-author of my paper and thinks that the paper "isn't worth much"? In my opinion, this statement is in contrast with actually being a co-author of the paper. How to let him know that I did not like his ill-mannered way to reply back to me, without damaging my perspective paper submission?

closed as unclear what you're asking by xLeitix, Peter Jansson, Enthusiastic Engineer, earthling, Fomite Dec 4 '14 at 3:52

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    The SE advice was: "Personally, I'd submit early, indicate in the submission letter (and online forms) that the article is for the special section and be done with it." Where did you get this: "...have all the notification and re-submission dates as they were not post-poned, except the final publication date." – Alexandros Dec 3 '14 at 15:42
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    Personally, I don't think it is a problem that one of the co-authors doesn't think highly of a paper. It is often the case that some papers are big breakthroughs and some are just a tiny advancement. The supervisor said it isn't worth much, not that it isn't worth anything. And that's just his professional opinion of the paper - it is not a personal criticism. How is that disrespectful? – Bitwise Dec 3 '14 at 15:43
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    I see nothing ill-mannered, thwarted, or angry in what you quoted. You might want to give yourself some cool-off time. – fkraiem Dec 3 '14 at 15:45
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    "understand that the paper isn't worth much" might have been worded better, but to be honest, it would probably be a fair assessment to say that 99% of this community's research is not worth much in that we're not curing cancer or finding the Higgs Boson. Lesser comparative worth does not indicate "worthless", it just indicates how much time you should dedicate to it. How much more you get out of the special section, to your ex-supervisor, is probably suspect. – Compass Dec 3 '14 at 16:03
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    @Compass Even most papers on curing cancer aren't worth much, since they're just a small part of a big tapestry of research. – jakebeal Dec 3 '14 at 17:33
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In the last months, I wrote a paper about an aspect of my thesis, with the collaboration of my former supervisor.

That means that the paper is not 100% yours. Do not add or remove co-authors on the basis if you like them or hate their guts.

Having the paper accepted in this special section may be the best thing that could ever happen to our our paper

Sounds like excellent advice. Special issues are more focused, have shorter response rates and usually easier acceptance for more focused papers.

Writing this request to the editors may cause a lot of problems"

Also excellent advice. You want to contact the editors to do the review of your paper sooner just for you? This is simply stupid.

should focus on how to improve the paper, instead of inventing new ways to create problems

You have four months to improve the paper. Are you sure that it cannot be improved? Are you afraid that your competitors might publish sooner? If yes, submitting to the journal now, will not save you anyway. Could you not upload on arxiv? You should also discuss this with your advisor.

Conclusively, cool down. As a PHD graduate and not a student anymore, you must behave always as a professional. Perhaps your paper is not that great (perhaps it is). That is not an insult - it is the sincere scientific opinion of one of your more senior peers (who contributed to your success). Do not burn bridges with your supervisor, just because he expressed his honest opinion (even if you do not agree with that).

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It's hard to tell what your former supervisor is thinking from just the few out-of-context fragments you give. I think, however, that they may have some good points and that you may be reading it as much more disrespectful and confrontational than it actually is.

From what you have written, it sounds like what's really gotten you angry is the "isn't worth much" statement. The unfortunate truth, however, is that with extremely rare exceptions, most individual scientific papers aren't worth much on their own. Since you are quite early in your career, each paper may seem very important to you---and a few high-impact papers can make a big difference in getting postings. In many cases, however, both impact and career are built more cumulatively from a collection of good but not world-shaking publications.

It's not possible to judge for certain without knowing your particular research, but your former supervisor may simply be giving you an honest assessment of the likely impact of this particular piece of work. This likely doesn't say anything bad about you or the work, but is just pulling back from the hyper-focus of a dissertation towards the bigger picture. The same goes for the other comments you highlight.

If it were me in your shoes, I would not be likely to read this as a set of insults to a former disciple, but rather as your former supervisor beginning to talk to you more as a peer and collaborator.

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