I previously asked this question Senior co-author is jeopardizing two years of work.

I have been trying to address my senior co-author's concerns. However, he is still not happy, and has now started to openly insult me in the group email discussions among all co-authors.

What should I do? My supervisors and other co-authors appear to choose to remain silent. I will be soon applying elsewhere, so I would like to have good recommendation letters. It is becoming difficult to care what happens to the paper, since it would be in preparation anyway while I am applying elsewhere.

Academia is a small world, so I would like to remain on as good terms as possible with everyone, including the difficult co-author.

(PS. I would accept the highest voted answer in the other question but I lost my login)

  • 3
    Regarding your PS: Please take a look at I accidentally created two accounts; how do I merge them?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 7, 2015 at 13:03
  • 7
    What is your advisor doing? This question should go to him and preferably in person.
    – Emilie
    Dec 7, 2015 at 13:47
  • 8
    You don't provide any information about the nature of the insults. That's understandable, but on the other hand it might be helpful to know in order to properly respond. E.g. "You're an idiot" and "You obviously don't understand Bayesian statistics" are both insults but merit different responses. Dec 7, 2015 at 15:08
  • As the others said, you can seek support from your advisors, by approaching one or more of them on an individual basis. But there's one other thing you can do: you can stand up to the person who's behaving like a jerk. Here's a standard formula that can help you: "Bob, I am not accustomed to being spoken to that way." This works best if you say it in person, and look him/her in the eye. You don't need to frown -- a neutral tone and expression give it more strength. If that doesn't do the trick, you may need to do some targeted ignoring. Over email, this might be to respond to ... Dec 9, 2015 at 2:17
  • everyone in the group except the jerk. Hopefully it will be sufficient to do this at most a handful of times. // There are some arrogant a___s in Academia. Those who behave that way tend to do it because people around them let them get away with it. // Just to reassure you -- often, the bystanders remain silent because they feel embarrassed by the unpleasant behavior. Don't take their silence personally. Dec 9, 2015 at 2:17

2 Answers 2


Things have gotten personal, it is best if you remove yourself from the fight. Anything you say, no matter how sensible or innocent, is likely to be poorly received.

Instead, talk with your most trusted collaborator and ask them to defuse the situation (and follow up, to make sure they do!), preferably someone who has received the insulting emails first hand. Once your difficult collaborator has calmed down, you can all meet and discuss the paper. (NB: it is possible that some have already started to talk to him about this in private, or they are just waiting to see what on Earth is happening with you two, so silence doesn't necessarily mean inaction).

I'd say it is rather unusual for someone to snap at you, so there may be something else going on here, and perhaps you should look into it. On the other hand, some people are plain rude. In any case, personal insults are not acceptable, and this behaviour should not be tolerated.


The best thing to do now would be to consult your supervisor/advisor in person.

You might also consider a relook at the insults to see if you could get anything constructive from it.

If the criticisms are not constructive; the case in which the motive is to purely do harm, then plainly ignore them as your supervisors do. In the world of research you should be able to bear with such situations. Not all would favour your outcomes or ideals (or even your success for that matter).

IMHO, if such criticisms are really destructive and hence affecting your research performance and focus, consider not to coauthor with those people in future.

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