Slowly but surely my supervisor's behaviour has escalated. It started from unreasonable, to downright unethical.

My university complies to the Vancouver autrhorship protocol, yet my supervisor/HoC has made his own guidebook regarding who is author and when. Something along the lines of "Student, Actual Contributor, Cosupervisor, Supervisor, Head of Center". Which implies that he is on every single paper. In my papers and in my work in general, though I always inform him and invite his contribution, he never really does anything more than "give comments" which are surprisingly all clustering in introduction and conclusion. When I am finished with my PhD, I need to submit a form for every paper I've published and state which of the coauthors have contributed in which way. This is a direct clash with the University rules.

He also overrules the PhD school, even when he simply cannot. My Mid-PhD evaluation report is now 3 months late, but "who cares, they are super rigid anyway".

There are many examples of how his way of doing things does not comply to actual rules of the institution, and it is putting me in very bad situations both with other authors but more importantly it is impending my progress in my PhD project.

How do I raise these issues with him without being the black sheep that has a problem with the way he does things? It's my impression that the university's rules were put in place for some reason. I've informed the vice-dean of these things and it is being looked into, but in the mean time there are deadlines that I cannot afford to miss - a PhD is a time-constraining thing. Is there any way possible to bring to the table my honest concerns without implying that what he's doing is immoral and incorrect?

After all, I'm a lowly PhD student whose credibility is worth nothing compared to the HoC. I don't want to become a target.

  • 4
    Where is this "guidebook" located? If it is available in any way to outsiders, then that seems like a good thing to bring to the attention of the administration of the university. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 9:52
  • I have sent it to them and they are looking into it. In the meantime, however, I cannot publish papers with such behaviour while it's being taken care of.
    – User293727
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 10:02
  • 2
    Have you talked to other students and academics about this and how do they feel about this situation? You need to be very careful when dealing with this type of academics. I don't recommend being direct with them, as you are in a very vulnerable position.
    – orezvani
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 0:54
  • Nobody is really happy with him which is why upper management have hired external consultants to speak with each employee to assess our well-being. His other PhD students seem to be a lot more docile for some reason. They don't even seem interested in research. One of them has confessed she only took this job because she had no other option. And when they publish papers it's never on their initiative but always his. I'm breaking his system by proposing papers and collaborators.
    – User293727
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 7:31
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    Just to be clear: giving comments actually can warrant authorship. Actually useful comments significantly contributing to conclusions or experimental design is much more valuable then doing eg experiments themselves, when it is about authorship
    – Greg
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Sorry for making an answer, but still without enough reputation to comment.

That is a very tricky situation, I can imagine, even more because you have colleagues that simply don't care. I see that the question is already one month old, but I just wanted to point out, in addition to the other comments, that sometimes universities or departments have some sort of complaint and review procedures, rather than just send an email to the dean.

I would just like to also add that I hope you don't give up on trying to make academia a "better place". Academia is full of people that are "untouchable", and if no one complains, it will stay like that forever. I wish you good luck and if you found some procedure or detail that might be useful to others in the same situation, it would be great if you can write them down here.

  • 3
    It's one month old, I'm still going through hell, but he's no longer my advisor and no longer my boss. The university has indeed ways to remedy this, and an external consultant has been hired to review the entire situation. He is powerful, but not untouchable. And as a researcher in training, I'm using this experience to learn what kind of researcher I want to be - Open, ethical, transparent, and empowering.
    – User293727
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 19:31

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