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Topic: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper  (Read 228 times)

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Offline OLED2550

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My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« on: August 05, 2019, 01:30:27 PM »
This is a challenging situation for me.

I am about to submit my paper (originally 1st author). I discovered the phenomenon myself (which is the key for this paper), I did >95% experiments and I also wrote the first draft which I made updates of it and came up with several versions. The writing process lasted about an entire year, primarily because my supervisor is super busy.

Recently, he rewrote a large fraction of the paper (like 70%) and changed the first author to be himself, with me being put in the second place. He did not discuss with me beforehand and did not notify me afterwards. It was me myself who saw the change in the authorship, then I sent email asking him why. He said the version I sent him has many experiment holes and, while he acknowledged I discovered the scientific phenomenon, he practically designed all the experiments. This is simply not true. Many experiments (while not all) are designed by myself and I analyzed the experiment data. I am new to the field of this paper and hence it seems to me very normal that I will miss something and came up with a draft not well qualified for publication (this is why we need supervisor! right?). He said I did not "drive" the paper and does not deserve first author. He also said the change of the authorship serves as a "shot across the bow" to indicate I did not drive the paper. (A silent shot across the bow? I am not convinced)

It is worth noting that all other his papers have him being the corresponding author with the students/postdoc put in the first place, i.e. I am the only one treated in this way.

It is also worth noting my supervisor is old and established. He does not have the need to be the first author. That said, many other incidents suggest he just does not like me and what he did was just not wanting me to be the first author. For some reason, he does not like me (although I am polite, hardworking and high-achieving)

One example of "other incidents" is the filing of a patent recently. This patent has three fractions and hence three workers, say, postdoc A, PhD student B and myself. For the other two fractions, my supervisor assigns 50-50 contribution with A and B. For my part, because I discovered the phenomenon, I am 60% and he is 40%. Then, you know what, the final patent has the following authorship order: Supervisor, postdoc A, Student B and myself.

Actually I was super angry and wanted to quit immediately. Yet, due to some reason, I cannot leave now and I have two more months to go before contract ends.

Several questions:

Any advice?

Is it possible to file a complaint? (I really think this is sort of naive, that filing a complaint against an established professor in the university he is working at...hahaha)

Offline chenbeier

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2019, 03:47:32 PM »
Two things. Does this happen in a company or at University. In case of company it doesn't matter who did the work. You work for the company and you get payed for your work and everything like patents and so one is owned by the company. In second case you need everything to prove and get a lawyer who can help you. It's a matter of money.

Offline OLED2550

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2019, 03:59:06 PM »
I am working as a postdoctoral researcher in a Canadian university

Offline wildfyr

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2019, 04:11:08 PM »
For the patent it is a matter of money, for the paper, you are sort of at his mercy. This is an all around crummy situation. I do not know of a way to "come out ahead." Your University should have an ombudsman, that is someone you can at least talk to who is on the ground and will have experience with such issues. Their job is to be a mediator.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2019, 05:46:59 AM »
As a general remark, welcome into the jungle of authorship, patent ownership, and so on. Stealing intellectual property is extremely common, much more within companies than among competitors. Lab or group leaders do it very often, that's the basic reason why some "researchers" have so many publications. It may be hard to admit, but scientists are dishonest, chiefs more so.

Then, when several persons cooperate in a creation, each one honestly feels to be the main contributor. It's impossible to make a honest opinion about that.

One should also understand that many people get the same idea independently at the same time, just because the idea was ripe. Obvious cause of angriness, especially if these people discussed before. Take the electric car as an example: once lithium batteries existed, the electric car became usable, so dozens of companies and thousands of individual "invented" it.

I spend much time making inventions that I put on Internet forums freely available to anyone, and guess what, it's a rare exception when someone developing my ideas cites me, even when there is nothing to sell, like the mundane explanation of neutrinos faster than light or the goal of a Neanderthal construction. For industrial items like OLED or future fridges, relying on good faith would be foolish.

In that light, it is healthy practice to create proofs of everything you discover or invent, even before speaking with your colleagues. The proof must bear a date provided by someone else and be impossible to tamper, so a judge can decide you are the author. It won't ease the anger of your colleague who had his idea before you, but it avoids your anger as you date-stamped your idea first.

==========

If you trust the internal email enough (...did you understand: I wouldn't?) to send your ideas to your colleagues through it, send yourself a copy too and save it including the header that contains information about the sender, recipient, date, hash and so on. "A copy" means: not in the company that will throw you away. But then, the information is outside the company, possibly vulnerable to competitors, so better encrypt it.

Better, send yourself emails (from and to home) where you append encrypted versions of your text. Choose the encryption properly.

You might send yourself letters with your ideas, but then encryption is difficult. Carbon paper adds on the text sheet the address you write on the envelope, but it gets rare. Affix the stamp on the opening.

At least in France, you can send an "enveloppe Soleau" to the patent office
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soleau_envelope
https://www.inpi.fr/fr/proteger-vos-creations/lenveloppe-soleau/enveloppe-soleau
https://www.inpi.fr/fr/enveloppe-soleau
if the employer wants to protect an invention if France too, it works. Whether this exists elsewhere?

If you write notebooks with your experiments, ideas, computations, keep them with care. Exfiltrate them on time from your employer: the day your access badge doesn't open the door any more and a colleague brings you a careful selection of your belongings, it's too late. Judges may consider your notebooks as a proof despite you wrote them by yourself without an independent timestamp.

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Laws about patents vary much. Whether inventions pertain to the employer depends on the country, the position (engineers may have a "creative role"), the contract, the field of the invention...

For instance in the US, an all-important target for patents, only the inventors can file a patent, not the employer. Better: citing a wrong inventor, including within the same team, is a cause to nullify a patent. This is one good means for an inventor to obtain his rights.

So if you have credible means (not destroyed by the checking!) to tell your boss and colleagues "I have proofs that I'm the inventor, put me in first position or the patent is null" your chances are excellent. If not, they are doubtful.

==========

Welcome to Germany! Good choice for science and technology. In case you believed the legend of honest Germans, no: they're just normal.

Offline Corribus

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2019, 09:58:03 AM »
For the patent it is a matter of money, for the paper, you are sort of at his mercy. This is an all around crummy situation. I do not know of a way to "come out ahead." Your University should have an ombudsman, that is someone you can at least talk to who is on the ground and will have experience with such issues. Their job is to be a mediator.
To some extent, true. It's also just a really jerky thing for a supervisor to do. OP should know that he has ultimate leverage, however, because the supervisor needs all authors to approve of the manuscript before it's submitted. The supervisor cannot submit it without the OP as an author because the OP can then file a grievance with the journal (for retraction). Therefore if he really wants to play hardball, he can - although there are obviously risks in doing this, particularly if you will require positive reference from the supervisor.  OP may also seek out the dean of graduate studies (or equivalent) and see if arbitration is an option.
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline OLED2550

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2019, 11:10:14 AM »
For the patent it is a matter of money, for the paper, you are sort of at his mercy. This is an all around crummy situation. I do not know of a way to "come out ahead." Your University should have an ombudsman, that is someone you can at least talk to who is on the ground and will have experience with such issues. Their job is to be a mediator.
To some extent, true. It's also just a really jerky thing for a supervisor to do. OP should know that he has ultimate leverage, however, because the supervisor needs all authors to approve of the manuscript before it's submitted. The supervisor cannot submit it without the OP as an author because the OP can then file a grievance with the journal (for retraction). Therefore if he really wants to play hardball, he can - although there are obviously risks in doing this, particularly if you will require positive reference from the supervisor.  OP may also seek out the dean of graduate studies (or equivalent) and see if arbitration is an option.

Yes, you mentioned the paper cannot be published with my agreement on everything of the paper is exactly what I thought of. I originally thought that I would play the game on this to force my supervisor to change back the author order. Yet, due to some reason, I think I have to let it go.

The reason is not I need a positive reference from my supervisor (in Canada). I already got a permanent job in Switzerland company as a chemist. Why I need him anymore?

Yet, I am from Hong Kong. Yes, I am now financially good (thanks to Switzerland job), but I will also need a place to settle. This alone causes me tons of limitation when I decide which/where/when to go to places to work. That said, I will need my current supervisor's help on something.

I hope you understand what I meant here because it is best for me not to mention the underlying reason directly.

Offline OLED2550

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Re: My supervisor acts weird on the authorship of my paper
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2019, 11:10:55 AM »
I must thank everyone here for your valuable helpful advice!!!  :D :D :D

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