Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

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Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby Eli » Mon Dec 03, 2012 3:34 pm

I am a former PhD student (finished in 2007) and now into the second post-doc position.
Here there is the problem:

When I did my PhD, I collected a series of data with supervision. We (my supervisor and I) agreed that we will include the data in publications that I was going to write. The first one took almost 4 years to get published, only due to often delays that my former supervisor had, as she is working really hard on other teaching projects. These delays caused a lot of problems in finding jobs and jeopardized my future, as everyone can understand.

Now I wrote the second one and sent it to her 3 months ago. I asked and all I get back is "I will look at it, when I can". No time, no plan. Now that I have more experience, I have never (or very rarely) seen any Boss do that to a PhD student. I suggested to find an alternative (even involving me to do extra-job), and I came up with some ideas and I got no reply.
I sent a more direct email and I was told that I was not cooperative and that I had a bad tone. Plus something like, I will write to you again only when I have finished with the paper and again no date, nothing.

Now is there anything I can do instead of staying here waiting for her? do I have any rights?

Thanks a lot!

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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby D. L. » Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:15 pm

I sympathize with you, being in a similar situation with an advisor not dedicated to publishing results in a timely fashion (now 2 years post-graduation and the manuscript continues to collect dust). Unfortunately, you are at the mercy of your former PI. It was their funding that allowed you to work on that project, it is their perogative to publish.

I would suggest focusing efforts on maximizing the productivity of your current post-doc.
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:30 pm

Unfortunatly there is not much you can do about this. You could send her a friendly note every couple of months asking how her review is coming along, but that's about it.

While the situation is frustrating, I don't think it's going to be a great problem. You do have the other paper you can point to, and I presume you are going to have papers from your post-docs. Thus, you have demonstrated productivity. If someone does ask about it, you can say your PI has a tendency to sit on manuscripts for some time, and you can even give them a copy of your draft to show that the paper does exist.

Papers get delayed for a variety of reasons. Someone in my group had their papers delayed because the journal had about a two-and-a-half year backlog. Other people I've known waited until after they'd received their degree to write their papers in an effort to finish their studies in the shortest possible time. In both cases the person involved had no trouble finding a job.
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby P.C. » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:10 am

Focus on something more productive and in your control.
Sounds like you made a bad choise in selecting that person as a PhD advisor. Move on. No, you do not have any rights, and if anything pushing the situation might annoy the person who is an important reference for you. It sounds like you are well on your way to doing that by writting a disrespectful letter to your former advisor. You have to be aware that PhD students careers are a very very low priority on most professors priority list. Look forward to the time when you can be higher up on the food chain and abuse the underlings.
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby Eli » Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:36 am

Thank you very much for your replies!
At the end, I think you are all right and focusing on my other papers is the best thing to do (or continue doing, as I have already done so).

Still I found this behavior unfair since I kindly suggested to get some help from other people (suggesting also names), but all I got was no reply, no suggestions. And the only reason for this it is her pride, nothing else. The people I mentioned would help.
In addition, I have been waitingquite for 4 years, doing all the hard work for the previous paper, then I say once that it is fair on me to find solutions to speed up the process, and I get accused of not being collaborative! Who is not being collaborative?

I am at her mercy, and I think it is not right. But as you all say, my hands are tight.

thanks a lot again!
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby J.B. » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:56 am

As a point of note; I don't approve of the way publications are used as a way to measure a person's quality. They ignore intangibles such as a person getting stuck on a dead end project or advisers who lay out unrealistic expectations. Academic positions will always live and die by silly metrics like number of publications, quality of journals, impact factor, citation count, etc. There is significantly more leeway for industrial positions.

I finished my postdoc with a single publication. I was scooped on another paper by a competing lab and all that work was lost. I compensated for that by putting together a research summary showing much of the work I had done, which allowed me to cast myself in a better light. The research summary helped my case a lot, but my lack of publications turned out to be moot; no one cared or questioned my work ethic/personal worth because of it. When I sat on the other side of the table, I rarely even looked at a candidate's publications, let alone made a decision based on them. I was evaluating them on how sharp they were in the interview and whether I liked them enough to work side by side with them.
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby PG » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:26 am

I am an Industry poster and when we hire the number of publications isnt really a major concern. If you have done a postdoc we want to see that you published something from that postdoc period and we dont care about how many papers you published during your PhD. There is just to many factors that play into this.

However, having a bad reference from your previous PI or a potential conflict with someone will hurt your chances. This might not be entirely fair either but with a large pool of applicants in which several have similar skill sets there is no incentive to take any form of risk unless you can offer something else that will bring value to the company.
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Re: Problem with my former supervisor (PhD)

Postby Ana » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:23 pm

J.B. wrote:As a point of note; I don't approve of the way publications are used as a way to measure a person's quality. They ignore intangibles such as a person getting stuck on a dead end project or advisers who lay out unrealistic expectations.

This is also something that frustrates me. There are too many parameters that are left out when we measure scientist's quality based on number of publications and impact factors.

PG, the number and quality (impact factor) of publications is important for certain companies. It is important both for hiring and for promoting scientists. I know it is not the same for all companies so it is worth checking when you interview for a new place.

Going back to Eli, I agree with my colleagues, you should focus on those things that you control. It is unfortunate that your former PI won't help you get the paper out more quickly but there is little you can do and you risk burning that bridge. You should focus your energy on getting your current work published before you finish your postdoc so that you don't find yourself again in a similar situation.
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