I'm a bioarchaeologist working on my PhD research in a field that incorporates biochemistry (stable isotope analysis) and bioarchaeology/anthropology. I have submitted my first peer-reviewed article based on my Masters thesis and am currently going through the revisions process. I casually mentioned this to my boss, who also happens to be one of my PhD supervisors, and he immediately asked to read the article and insisted that he wants to edit the stable isotope sections (he's a geochemist). I demurred, because the situation doesn't sit right with me, for several reasons:

First, he has absolutely nothing to do this article, as it is based on my Masters thesis research, which was done under a different supervisor and in a different country. Second, I'm not sure as to what his motives are. Does he simply want to help, or does he want co-authorship? I would rather not make him co-author, as, again, he has no business with my Masters research. Third, he's pushy. I have clearly stated that I am a bioarchaeologist/anthropologist who uses biochemical/geochemical methods (stable isotope analysis), not the other way around, yet he is still trying to push me towards geology. I also do not like this. But, because there is no other place in the country to do my research, I am here only for that reason.

Does anyone have some advice? Am I overreacting, or am I right in feeling that he's out of bounds?


  • Do you have to perform experiments in your new PhD lab for the revision of your manuscript? – BPND Nov 2 '17 at 13:35
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    We don't know your advisor, so "what are my advisor's intentions?" is going to be quite impossible to answer. If you can do without his help, you might leave it as is. If you would appreciate his help, maybe someone has a good suggestion for how to say "you're not getting authorship though" politely? I'm drawing a blank. – nengel Nov 2 '17 at 14:00
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    I think this issue is a symptom of a deeper issue. The real problem appears to be that you don't have a good and trustful relationship with your PhD advisor and your research interests don't seem to be in alignment. That is a much bigger issue than what to do about this publication. – Roland Nov 2 '17 at 14:28
  • BPND: Yes, I did have to perform one analysis for the revision at the PhD lab, but he did not perform it nor did I ask for his help. I worked with someone who specializes in that type of analysis and will include her in the article (Acknowledgements?). It was not an integral part of the research, however. – Bioarchaeologist7 Nov 2 '17 at 15:29
  • Nengel: I would appreciate his input on my PhD dissertation and any articles that result from it, but not on the articles based on my Masters thesis. However, because neither I nor the article(s) I write fall into geology, his help would necessarily be limited to possible environmental geochemistry (as he is not an anthropologist), if I choose to include that in my dissertation/articles. – Bioarchaeologist7 Nov 2 '17 at 15:33

The standard answer to all questions from graduate students applies here as well: Talk to your adviser. Have a frank conversation in which you bring up your concerns, have him explain to you why he wants to help, and then -- between reasonable adults -- come to a conclusion of the issue.

You can speculate all day long about his reasons and maybe he about yours. But grown-ups can have a professional conversation that resolves these issues to everyone's satisfaction.

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