For 1 year and half I did my master thesis in one laboratory, where although I learned a lot, it was mostly alone, having very reduced supervision and not having a project parallel to any of the PhD students. Finally by the time I delivered my thesis I learnt that I got accepted with a internship in a international institute (application that I did all by myself). My master supervisors were not happy as they wanted me to keep going with experiments to publish a paper. I did what I could before I left for the internship, even taught a new master students with the techniques I implemented. Also I transformed my thesis as much as possible in an article, still requiring just a few more experiments. Now, one year and half later, having I already done 2 internships and started a very good PhD position in another country and scientific area, they still nag me with questions about the article. They did not contribute with any more experiments for the article and only one of the author corrected once the manuscript, only actually correcting the grammar and formatting. At this point I quitted the article but clearly they still did not. I am indecisive if I should: a) just stop replying, b) sent an email explaining that I want to focus on my PhD now and so I have no longer interest in the article c) if I send the raw data and tell them to do whatever they want as long as I have the name somewhere and I can read one of the last versions.

The problem with c) is that although is the most "polite", I know they will keep nagging me and I will have a lot of work to prepare all the raw data (which include tons of images) to send them and most probably they will never actually publish it. With the other hypothesis the issue is that I do not want to have bad professional relationships. It is also important to refer that my thesis was presented in a poster in an international conference so it will not really bring much more scientific knowledge to publish it.

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    A poster and a published article, that's huge difference for other people to find out what you did and what you achieved. There is a value to publish it! Why not finish it yourself, invest let's say a month, you are first author and go on with your PhD, but with publication +1?
    – usr1234567
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:07
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    (c) sounds reasonable. You show effort, and give them opportunity to match it with theirs. The way you describe it it seems quite a one-sided thing, so this can balance it out, and put some pressure on them to actually contribute, without them being able to consider it rude. Plus, if it works out, you have another publication. Looks like a smart solution, actually. Oct 25, 2017 at 11:19

3 Answers 3


I would choose b) if I don't have much time to spare.

Work on every paper incurs an opportunity cost. Time spent at one place cannot be spent at another. If you have many exciting projects that need the time that you cannot afford to spend elsewhere, b) is what I would perceive to be the best option.

If however I have lots of time to spare, and no other project to work on, I would pick c). A publication increase is always a good thing in this case.

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    But in this case she already spent a lot of the opportunity cost. She's not starting from scratch. I would rather advice to get as much value from the cost spent as possible, and that would definitely be finishing the publication.
    – skymningen
    Oct 25, 2017 at 8:01

There are many aspects to consider in this question. Fromn what I read from your first paragraph, you did not feel that you recieved the support you needed or expected while you are working in this research group - and that you spent so much time explaioning it tells me, you are at least a bit upset or disappointed.

Now, someone who disappointed you want's you do do something you would not do by yourself - and it would cost you some of your valuable time and you are not seeing a benefit from it. Even more: They increase your stress level by sending you e-mails and nagging you.

From this point of view, a) is no option in my opinion, since you never draw a finish line under this highly emotional issue, and it will pop up once in a while and you will feel bad. You seem to be a person who cares about the social environment and it would be disturbed - and this disturbes you.

If you choose b), you would be much clearer and you could even talk about it to the people of the other lab if you meet them in person. Everyone in science has little time, so it is a good reason for not writing the paper. If you want to be polite, just tell them in a neutral way about your decision, if you want to given them an opportunity to improve their behaviour, you could try to tell them that you just don't want to support them since they did not support oyu and you feel that they just took advantage of you and you got little in return. This would make it more difficult if you meet them in the future, but might relieve you. If I were you, I would not do it, but I wanted to point out the sub-option.

c) might be a good compromise, but as you said: They will not finish it since it is too much work to dig into someone elses research work organization. You could do b) and offer c) in your mail and see, if they want the data at all. Maybe that's a compromise.

As others mentioned, there is an optiond d) which is writing that publication! Publications are the scientific currency and having one more never hurts. Of course, there is this time issue and the currrent PhD is more important then your masters stuff, but maybe there is some relation between both? Maybe some side aspects which make the publication interesting even in your current direction of research? If you can spend the time, I would try to finish it. Maybe you can offer them that you'd supervise another student remotely, who might do the remaining experiments.


c) if I send the raw data

When you say this I tend to think that maybe having the raw data is the reason why they write you...I don't like the fact that you left with the data honestly, it's not professional and perhaps even not legal. Have you considered that? Anyway, I don't think option c) is viable. I get the impression that you are de facto the leading person in this project, for practical and historical reasons. It's a pity to leave this unfinished, so just make the extra effort and publish this, you'll have one more publication in your CV, avoid wasting good material, and finalise the collaboration optimally even in face of the difficulties.

If, instead, you have lost interest in this OR you have changed scientific field and this is not important anymore OR you are not interested in future collaboration with these people, then your option b) sounds a reasonable and polite answer to me. This might or might not deteriorate your relations with the previous collaborators, hard to say from here, it depends on their personality and perspective on the problem...you are the only one who can judge that.

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