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How to tell supervisor they are wrong?

Quote From TamaDP:
Mmm... I think your supervisor might be right. It depends on what you are doing. Are you doing Rna-Seq or analysing chromatin remodelling? (Or any other technique to check expression levels)

Thanks for chiming in. Part of the project is to investigate genetic risk factors to getting the disease initially. And the proposed project is not measuring gene expression, but sequencing genomic DNA (where ever it will eventually be collected from). The disease isn't cancer either.

How to tell supervisor they are wrong?

My project is genetics based and looking at links between a particular disease and possible genetic links. The project plan is to screen a bunch of people with the disease and without the disease, look at some of the DNA sequences and analyse data to see if there is any connection.

So I'm looking into collection blood samples and possibly saliva sample or swabs to get the required genomic DNA as it's the easiest option. However my supervisor is adamant that the samples must come directly from the diseased tissue, which makes is much more difficult to collect, not to mention get ethics approval and funding for.

As this is genomic DNA I don't see the difference where it comes on the body, but can't seem to get my supervisor to understand. It's getting to the point where things are actually getting a bit heated and I don't want to pursue it further.

I'd appreciate any advice on this.

Looking for an image

Hi everyone,
I'm looking for am image I remember seeing a while ago. It was a funny comic about writing a thesis. I'm pretty sure it was a 'pdhcomic'.

Basically it was a list of problems in life you might find with their solutions listed next to them, only with the solutions all crossed out and replaced with "write your thesis" or something like that.

For example.

Unfit? Go to the gym. Write your thesis
Lonely? See your family. Write your thesis

Well I can't cross things out on text on this forum but hopefully you get the idea. Has anyone seen it around and might remember where it is? I can't seem to find it.

PhD graduates vs. postdoc positions paper

I looked back in the forums for a bit and I didn't see anyone post this up. This is a link to a graph I have seen around lately. Or more specifically the Nature Biotech article that includes the graph.

Food for thought for anyone.

Nature Biotech article

Blog post focusing on THAT figure.

Data Acknowedgement

Hi everyone,

I’m in a bit pissed off but I’m not sure what to do about it so I’m asking for people’s advice here.

I’ve been under a rock mostly for a while writing up but in this last week I went to a talk by a postdoc in my lab (not my supervisor but working on a related topic). During the talk he displayed some of my images without any acknowledgement to me whatsoever.

Now this morning I receive an email from a lovely fellow student saying that my primary supervisor had given her images with the direction that she should use them in her thesis. She’s lovely because she sent me an email asking me if this was OK as she thought they were mine and if they were, how should she reference them.

My project is heavily imaged based so those images took a lot of my work to acquire so of course I want that work acknowledged. So that leads me to the question of who actually owns the data and what happens to it when I leave?

I actually talked to the IP manager and he admits that this is a grey area. Technically speaking the university owns the IP I generate while doing research but any images are copyrighted in my name.

But basically speaking I am concerned that my images that I have provided to some lab members for presentations will be shared around and used without acknowledgement or consent, especially after I leave when I am no longer around to see it and chastise anyone.

Thesis running late - stress way up high

So I'm at a bit of a loss and even feeling guilty over taking the time to post this up.

I have a deadline to submit my thesis by December. But realistically looking at how many pages I have to write to get there and yes I still have some lab work to complete it's not going to be done by then. Also, my advisor is really putting the pressure on to get pages done weekly. The trouble is the little bits of lab work I need to complete it stopping me from writing quite a bit of my conclusions. And I can't both write and analyse data at the same time. Basically yes I am running behind.

My university's grad school department has also suddenly starting being quite strict with regard to finishing dates. And although they haven't kicked anyone out yet for not making a deadline, no one wants to be the one to test the new rules and attitude they are taking towards students.

I'm just wondering if anyone has any tips to write the thesis, have a life and not suffer from sleep deprivation at the same time.

To be honest the stress in doing this is really taking it's toll to the point where I have just had to shut down at my desk a little and have a bit of a teary. These times I've been glad to have my own little office. But it makes me feel worse because this is time where I am not getting anything done. I'm thinking of going to the free counseling service at uni, but I know they can't change anything and it's even more time I'm not working.

So yeah, any advice however general I would be grateful of right now.

Who owns my reserach data?

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OK well I'll come out and apologise for my knee jerk response. I do appreciate replies to my posts.

However, I am a bit sick and tired of the supervisor as a seemingly all-powerful non-benevolent being thing, especially after reading around here and finding so many students hard done by as a result of poor supervision. And yes, I did search but did not find anyone in a really similar position.

I'm thinking of it as the same as an investment decision. If I invest a huge time and effort into something (a paper) and expect an appropriate award (acknowledgement). And if I don't believe this will happen I have no reason to comply and am just being taken advantage of.

At the end of the day I believe the PhD system is broken. I just don't want to keep it how it is by bowing to what is has become.

Who owns my reserach data?

Wow OK then. That last comment was basically saying "bend over and take it from your supervisor as he is your God and you do not want to anger him".

Sorry, but I believe I have a spine and a bit of self respect. Sure I can graduate from my PhD with no first author publications, however having at least one first author publication makes my CV look so much better.

And NO, the person who physically sits down to write the paper is NOT the person who automatically gets their name as first author. It's the person who does the most work, including taking into account the effort of writing.

Who owns my reserach data?

Hi all again,
A situation has sort of come up that I would like your advice on.
Basically speaking throughout my PhD my plans for research publications have changed. However I was under the impression that at my last milestone they were pretty much good to go and that my supervisor agreed with all this and was in on the plan.

Fast forward to last Friday supervisor talks to be briefly while walking to a seminar about paper plans to which he outlined his idea in about 30secs to which I responded "I may have some different ideas". So later that evening he sends an email out to a few of us with this plan. And I have to say it's not a bad plan, there are few strange bits in there which I wouldn't do because I don't think it adds anything to the paper. But what got me was the list of authors on his plan which was commented "rder to be arranged at end to fairly reflect contribution.".

Now the general idea of this paper was to be mine. And as far as I am concerned it contains most of my data although supervisor has listed some data analysis to be performed by others (which I will fight to do).

Now the paper plan as he's written is slightly more vast then what I was going to do. And while it may be a higher impact paper, it's much better for me to be first author of a lower impact paper containing my work then a second author on a higher impact paper. So I am prepared to veto the plan and remove permission for the use of my data which would ruin the paper plan as it stands.

But am I permitted to do that? As a paid researcher I know that the data and any ideas developed on my paid time is technically owned by the lab. But how does this stand as a PhD student and how much say do I have in how it is used?

Friend named as author and asked to present a paper they had nothing to do with

OK minding own business yada yada yada...
If it was my friend I would give advice along the following...

-Read the paper first. See if it's any good. If it's crap as first author, retract it.
-Don't do the presentation. If she doesn't a crap job or can't answer questions because she doesn't know the topic then it's her reputation at stake.
-Talk to supervisor. If they don't know it's a unethical thing to do, they are likely to do it again. Ask supervisor to retract the talk application.
-If it comes down to it, just don't turn off and plead being sick.

This is just plain wrong. No workplace would expect someone to do this.

Actually doing something about bad supervisors

Quote From cplusplusgirl:

"Basically speaking I view a PhD like an apprenticeship or traineeship w. You get horrible pay but you have someone is responsible for teaching you the trade, with the idea that you come out of it all with the skills to become an employable part of the workforce. Would you agree with this?"

In one word, NO.

Your supervisor is NOT responsible for teaching you the trade. YOU are. It is your contribution and therefore you teach yourself your own trade. Your supervisor is there to ensure you learn how to do this independently and that includes being independent from them! They are responsible for showing you how to swim in the murky waters of academia and that is quite a different thing.

I disagree. Part of the 'trade' of being a scientist is how to navigate academia as part of a career - so you are already off to a bad start. If we were going to be completely independent of our supervisor then there would also be no need to find a supervisor that was in the same area as our research. But just look through these forums to find how hard it is to progress with a supervisor with a background from a different field. And yes if a supervisor is an expert with a particular rare and complicated technique then yes it is their responsibility to teach it to you, not just "well there's that 3 million dollar piece of equipment, now go play" and we all know how fiddly new equipment is and how useless the manuals can be.

But it's not just supervision that can be bad. Even with the simple fact we are deemed a 'student' means we get less industrial rights. For example, employees and official volunteers (at least here) are automatically covered by workers compensation in the case of an accident at 'work' or during travel on the way to work. PhD students, not so, even though we still have an identifiable 'boss' with identifiable responsibilities in the scientific workplace.

Living alone?

I am fortunate that my family lets me live with them. I have considered moving out to a sharehouse (couldn't afford single rent) to be closer to work and get away from the family. However with all the horror stories I hear about share houses I have been turned off completely. A 1 year minimum lease is way to long for me personally to risk living with horrible housemates or bad owners/real estate agents.

Maybe if you can find a place with just one other person it could work better as opposed to some of the houses packed with people you see around.

Some stories are just wrong.

Actually doing something about bad supervisors

======= Date Modified 29 Jul 2011 02:35:43 =======
It’s good to hear that there is some positive support and discussion towards this idea after a lull. And all of you make some good points.

Yes we are adults and deserve to be treated as such, but certainly also as newcomers to the field, and thus should be given training, induction and assistance from ‘bosses’ that is appropriate to the role we are undertaking. But being treated as adults means that things such as false independence (where someone is left without supervision to find their own way) and ‘soft deadlines” (a personal pet hate) should not be used.

The issue is students always have the choice to leave a supervisor. But often it means that the student must also effectively leave the project, along with the blood sweat and tears already invested in it as there is not another supervisor with the appropriate experience or expertise in the field the fill that gap. And yes, supervisors in the vast majority of cases are necessary, even though something it seems they are a necessary evil.

And no, at a lot of universities there is not requisite for supervisors to attend any sort of specific supervisor training. If there is any it is often a very short course (1 day or less). I have encouraged my own supervisor to attend some held, but he did not and it was no compulsory for him to.

To Eska, you said you left your supervisor and left behind notes to the head of department and postgrad officer. But I ask, what happened to your old supervisor as a result? Yes, they lost a good student, but did they get any sort of reprimand at all as a result of your letters? My guess would be no.

Actually doing something about bad supervisors


I would love to help create some sort of legally binding contract to govern the rights and responsibilities of student and supervisor throughout candidature. Minimum levels of supervision and project guidance would be the major points. The trouble is because PhD are going on around the world and I am just one person I don’t really know where to start and it’s going to take a lot of people behind it for it to go anywhere.

Would anyone here care to share there thoughts on the issue or offer advice (or even support)?

Thanks for listening.

Actually doing something about bad supervisors

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============= Edited by a Moderator =============
======= Date Modified 17 Jul 2011 10:01:39 =======
So I’ve recently had yet another bad experience with my supervisor. I’ve posted on here in the past with issues but s%&$ just keeps coming up and I’m really getting sick of dishonesty and general crappiness and lack of integrity. But I won’t go into details again because this I wanted to talk about something else and I may create another thread later anyway.

Basically speaking I view a PhD like an apprenticeship or traineeship w. You get horrible pay but you have someone is responsible for teaching you the trade, with the idea that you come out of it all with the skills to become an employable part of the workforce. Would you agree with this?

Now however in the traineeship situation there is a legally binding contract that is signed by both parties that states obligations concerning general working conditions, available facilities to most importantly to me the level of training and supervision. Now in a PhD there is no such contract, in fact nothing even remotely similar, so if there is an issue with student/supervisor there is nothing that can be done other than contacting the University grad department which often does not have any power and certainly doesn’t treat student and supervisor equally. So the student is worse off.

In another point the PhD environment is normally similar to a workplace environment. You would normally work within a team who’s project have a similar theme and with an overseeing ‘boss’ (supervisor) to oversee and guide work and manage projects. However as well, is this was an employer/employee relationship again there are legally binding contracts signed regarding workplace conditions as above. There are also overarching workplace laws regarding general workplace conditions including workplace harassment and bullying. Again, the student/supervisor relationship is not governed by these. And while bad bullying and harassment will normally be taken seriously, there is again much less recourse for the student compared to a proper employee.

Now I have read cases on this forum that I would think would be clear cut cases of harassment and workplace bullying. Not to mention cases where supervision has been far far less than adequate and something that in a traineeship environment would leave the supervisor in clear breach of contract.

It really annoys me that PhD students are really seen of as second classes citizens in this regard. A PhD is a solid commitment both in terms of time and effort yet we aren’t getting the protection that others are getting. And in a lot of cases, at least as judged here, we need it. Don’t get me wrong there are rules, but reading through mine they only state what a student can and can’t do during candidature and don’t place any restrictions on the supervisor.