X marks the disrespect

February 21, 2013

A few years back I completed a master’s course. In the next few months I will have a paper published in Journal A based on my research project. My former supervisor, Dr X, is second author.

As the relevant ethics committee had issues with the research, last year I wrote a paper in which I discussed why I believed the committee’s conduct and requests were incompatible with the ethical standards set by the American Psychological Association, the British Psychological Society and the Belmont report.

Dr X requested that I suppress the ethics paper’s publication (although neither the university nor the ethics committee members are named in the article). As I disagreed with their reasoning, the paper was published in Journal B after discussions with its editor.

My former supervisor now holds a grudge against me that has resulted in the following.

First, Dr X made attempts to claim the status of corresponding author for our paper in Journal A. Second, the academic would not allow me to edit the proofs for the article. I shared my list of corrections and asked Dr X to do the same, upon which I (as the first and - supposedly - corresponding author) would collate the material and submit our proof review. Despite my twice asking Dr X not to submit the proofs alone because it was my research project and I wanted to do the work myself, Dr X did so regardless and in the email asked the journal to direct any further enquiries to Dr X and “cc me in”.

First, I find this behaviour to be incredibly disrespectful towards me as a fellow academic and a fellow human being. Second, this ultimately makes Dr X the corresponding author, at least with regard to the journal if not its readers. Third, by submitting the proof review without consulting me first, I was never given the opportunity to comment on the final list of corrections on an article based on my own research. Is this acceptable behaviour? Is this the kind of academic climate we wish to operate in? Perhaps it is time for me to consider a career change.

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