======= Date Modified 18 Sep 2011 14:20:38 =======
Hello, I was looking for some opinions here from other postdocs. I have a job at a teaching led university that wants to be more research active. They employed me as a research assistant (I am on the brink of submitting my PhD). My brief was to add to the evidence base of the field I work in. However, there seems to be a general belief among staff in the department that I should be taking undergraduate dissertations (maninly students I have never met, supervised, etc) and essays/reports and write them up for publication in peer-reviewed journals. I am unhappy to do this as a) the quality is not very good b) I think it is unethical to put my name on stuff I have had nothing to do with and c) if I don't put my name on I am just a ghost writer (I have not trained as a scientist to end up as a ghost writer of undergrad publications). How common is it for researchers to find themselves in this position?
Hi Blueberry, I think you are right to be wary - I have never heard of this happening before. Are others in the department doing the same - or you will be the only one? Maybe it varies by discipline, but I really don't think this is common at all. Would be interesting to hear what others think.
======= Date Modified 18 Sep 2011 18:47:36 =======
Hi, it seems to be common to publish undergrad work but I don't know how closely linked these scientists are to the work they publish. Closer to home there was one other research assistant and they had published one piece of work in a peer-reviewed journal - they had nothing to to do with the research itself (I think they may even have been an undergrad themselves at the time the research carried out) and were handed the dissertation to write up for publication upon being employed in this role. They were also encouraged to submit another undergraduate dissertation for an oral conference proceeding (despite not being involved in the research at all and knowing nothing about the topic). I nearly died of embarrassment the other day after I was introduced to a new cohort of students by a colleague as the person whose job it was to get student dissertations published! I was horrified - I didn't do my PhD to end up doing this. My feeling is that it will kill my research career dead in the water.
======= Date Modified 21 Sep 2011 14:11:30 =======
I think you are right to be wary of this, I have never heard of anything like this before. Who is the person that is asking you to do this role? It sounds like someone in the department wanting to get more publications before the research assessment. I would check with some senior people in the department (head of dept, head or research & head of teaching that they are all aware and happy with this situation).
I would imagine that before publishing anyone's work you would need at least the permission of the student and the supervisor of their project for the work to be published and them to be happy for you to do it. You would also need to discuss the roles (authorship) before you start if you were to do it.
It does however raise a couple of interesting questions, firstly if the work is of publishable quality why hasn't the supervisor published it already? Secondly about your role, I guess if you were to do this work your name should go on it - in writing the paper you have made a significant contribution to the work, there is no way you should do this as a 'ghost writer' IMO. In order to do a proper job you would probably need to either repeat some of the work or verify the analysis, so need to have some experience in the area of study. Also as regards your position it hinders your opportunities to carry out your own research (which would almost certainly be of better quality). If I were you I would only accept such a role on condition that senior people in the dept are happy, you will get some credit and final say over which projects are of publishable quality and that you are allowed to carry out your own research for a significant proportion of your time. Whether or not you are in a position to make such demands is something only you would know.
I am aware of undergraduate work being published but it is usually as part of a larger project carried out (and verified) by the PhD students, postdocs or supervisor, before one of the more senior people in the group who has been working along side the student writes the publication
Hi, thanks for the reply. The person keen for the publications is my line manager who is teaching focussed and not research focussed (did a PhD c20yrs ago, never published to my knowledge and has not been research active - other than supervising unpublished undergrad dissertations ever since). I wouldn't be repeating the research (usually field work) just writing it up (or touching up dependent on quality). The supervisors and student's name would be on the paper and the reason that the work hasn't been written up is mostly the supervisors are not research active or had any research training other than provided at undergrad level (i.e. not got an msc, mphil or a phd). I would have no way of verifying that the data has not been fabricated, etc and can only take the word of the student/supervisor. The journal that they want me to "aim" for has an impact factor of 0 as it has just been launched. I feel this is utterly insane!
Ah sorry, when I first read your original post I missed the part about being teaching led rather than research led my bad.
I guess not having research based staff around makes things difficult. If the staff aren't very research driven how likely is it that the projects are new/novel work and meet the criteria for publication? For people out of the loop it's often difficult to keep up to date on the research area. Unless some of the staff are keeping up to date on developments in research I would imagine most of your time would be spent searching the literature perhaps only to find much of the work has been done before or proved/disproved already (depending on your field) and as such not suitable for publication. If this isn't the case I'd imagine you'd have alot of work to do to shape the work into a research paper. If the work is of a good quality you should be looking to publish in as good a journal as is realistic IMO, but I guess it depends on whether the deaprtment care more about quality or quantity...
Publishing undergrad work full stop seems rare to me, not sure what field you are in. In my area, physics, it is very rare for an undergrad project to be good enough for publication, and if it is, it is usually only good for publication at the time because of the pace of the subject.
Thanks for the replies. My feeling is 'don't do it' so that's what I am going to do (or not do:p). I think as much as anything it is complete naivety on the part of the department. To be honest, in my field there is almost nothing published so almost anything done by an undergrad is novel but I that doesn't mean I want to publish u/g standard research of average quality that I haven't had anything to do with.
Is it possible for you to get involved in the designing of undergraduate projects and assist in the supervision of them for current or future students? This could perhaps be a better situation for everyone, the department/University & students could still get publications from the work, you would get the opportunity to check that the work was carried out correctly and is of an appropriate standard to be published. Also if you design/assist in desgining the project you could carry on the work after the student has finished, so have your own research, publications and experience of supervising students and designing projects...
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