Supervisors as co-authors but relationships sour

posted
30-Nov-17, 17:37
edited about 3 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
I can't stress enough how helpful it is to share things on here and get your input. Even just saying about how my main supervisor who, although she has no input to the thesis, will write me an excellent ref and is invested with me makes me think - ok - that is all that matters. Just grin and bear the rest - it will be over one day. I think that is what the majority of people are suggesting here on this forum too. : )
posted
30-Nov-17, 18:16
edited about 1 second later
Avatar for DrCorinne
posted about 2 weeks ago
Tudor, I feel your pain, and I am not saying that your supervisor will write you a brilliant reference. I don't write here very often now. But I read when I can. I have a lot of respect and admiration for you. This is why I felt I had to write something. I have been there before you. What I am trying to say is that actually, you do have more than you think to lose. I don't know your situation in detail, but from the reaction of your current supervisor, I gather that your former sups have a lot of influence. If you openly put yourself against them, it is likely that there will be some form of retaliation. I have seen this happening before, and I can tell you it's never the PG student that comes out well from these kind of situations.
posted
30-Nov-17, 20:33
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 weeks ago
Hi, Tudor_Queen,

I would not worry about references from your supervisor.

I disagree with DrCorrine. I got jobs and volunteer work both in academia and non-academia without any reference from my supervisors. Same with my friends. Whilst you are a PhD student or even a postdoc, they instill this fear culture about reference letter that basically made you a slave to your PhD supervisor or PI. Not completely true.

I can tell you that while it is not ideal to not have your supervisor's reference letter, you will live on and still get jobs after you have left your supervisor's side. People may ask, as they have me, why I did not have my supervisor's reference. I just answer - things happened and we don get along. Amazingly, people actually understand and don't press on it. And honestly, after that first job post PhD, you no longer need your PhD supervisor's reference anyway.

So, Tudor_Queen, there is hope yet. All is not lost.Keep your chin up and bravely march on.

From someone who has been through that shit,
tru
posted
30-Nov-17, 21:31
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 2 weeks ago
Couple of points:

1) Do you actually possess the intellectual copyright to your results? I.e. where is your funding from and does it involve a grant gained by the former advisors? It might not be as straightforward as walking away and saying you're not being on my papers as I've fallen out with you.
2) Is the person acting as your named supervisor willing and able to put intellectual input into your thesis? It sounds like they've only agreed to act as a glorified personal tutor. You seem to be taking it for granted but again might not be as straightforward as you think. The odd set-up she's insisted on does make me wonder whether she can go beyond her current role.
3) I would encourage you to reflect on DrCorinne's posts carefully. You sound extremely confident that you will walk into an academic career but the reference question is an issue, as if the supervisor has no intellectual input into the thesis then it will limit the sort of reference she can write and its credibility.
posted
01-Dec-17, 00:12
edited about 9 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 weeks ago
Quote From tru:
Hi, Tudor_Queen,

I would not worry about references from your supervisor.

I disagree with DrCorrine. I got jobs and volunteer work both in academia and non-academia without any reference from my supervisors. Same with my friends. Whilst you are a PhD student or even a postdoc, they instill this fear culture about reference letter that basically made you a slave to your PhD supervisor or PI. Not completely true.

I can tell you that while it is not ideal to not have your supervisor's reference letter, you will live on and still get jobs after you have left your supervisor's side. People may ask, as they have me, why I did not have my supervisor's reference. I just answer - things happened and we don get along. Amazingly, people actually understand and don't press on it. And honestly, after that first job post PhD, you no longer need your PhD supervisor's reference anyway.

So, Tudor_Queen, there is hope yet. All is not lost.Keep your chin up and bravely march on.

From someone who has been through that shit,
tru


Yep this is a great post.
Don't overestimate the power and influence of your supervisor.
If Dr Corrine is correct you are screwed on the reference front anyway so really it doesn't matter now. Industry really doesn't on the whole care one iota about academia and academic staff. That is my experience. As long as you have a reference from someone.
Again if you want to work in academia, you cannot fix what is currently broken with your old supervisor. Just keep it professional and make the break.

That's quite a wide range of conflicting advice you are getting on this thread :-D
Ultimately it's your call.
posted
01-Dec-17, 07:06
by Pjlu 4 star member
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 2 weeks ago
Tudor, are you really at that point where you need to make the break? I'm asking as your supervisors may, like you, just want to get on with it and move you through the final year. They would have more invested in success than failure as ultimately this all reflects on them as well.

The last year is hard and it isn't uncommon to become annoyed with supervisors as they criticise your work in order for it to be a quality piece.

The issues you are talking about now with your supervisors (the ones you mention who only communicate in writing) will continue as this is the main part of the last year. EG: Supervisors constantly criticising your writing until you are at the point where you are signed off and can submit. This is going to happen no matter what.

You are ultimately going to probably change some things to suit them and there may be a few instances where you argue your point-and you can do this through email. I finished the last 10 months of my thesis through distance and most of the discussion regarding changes during this time was through email.

Your main supervisor sounds like she is a person whose opinion you value very much. Can you discuss your concerns with her about how it all might work?

It is a tough situation and I think we all empathise with you. However, I think you need to talk this out with someone in person and perhaps you may be able to work through the situation as it is with some support and a bit of a game plan. Best wishes P.
posted
01-Dec-17, 12:39
edited about 7 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
Thanks everyone. I can’t reply to everyone individually but here is my response:

Yes – a real variety of responses – but that’s what’s so great about this forum! I think that part of the variance in the types of advice given probably arises from the fact that it is hard to convey the situation as it is – and so people have their own different ideas about what is going on and advise accordingly.

Just to clarify:
- The main supervisor (glorified tutor as put by Bewildered – and this is correct) will write me an excellent reference – there is no doubt about that – as she has recently done so for something else; she is very senior (more senior than the others and yes holds the intellectual rights)
- The reason why she acts as a glorified tutor rather than giving input is because: she is at the same time as protecting my interests also protecting the interests of the two supervisors – who gave input to my PhD for the first 2 years and will not want to lose the credit for it (fairly so – one could say). She is a very skilled manager of people and I agree that this set up can make sense.
- The real issue is just when it comes to the nuts and bolts of it – the interactions by email. I have lost all respect for these two people and so communicating is trying (especially when I am being treated badly in my view – being blanked in the corridors by the best friend of one of them who also happens to be my advisor - the person you are supposed to be able to go to for advice and support!)
- This isn’t about the criticism of my work – I enjoy substantive criticism – it challenges you and ends up improving the quality of your work. I don’t receive much of it (it is more just “change that word”, “remove that sentence” type of thing), which I guess is good if it means that my work is good
posted
01-Dec-17, 12:40
edited about 5 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
So as a conclusion I think that I will value the fact that:
- I have the main supervisor who is invested in me and will provide me a reference
- Although I have no respect for those two people, some of their input might be useful. Therefore, I should just value it and pay no attention to the source – treat them as anonymous reviewers – annoying but necessary (I think someone suggested something like this)
- I stand to gain here – a PhD and some papers
- Although the set up is certainly not ideal it is 1000 times better than the previous situation (see previous posts if interested!)

However, I will also be assertive about things though going forward. I have to be able to respect myself at the end of the day.

Thanks those who pointed out the other side of things too – a reference isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. I know people who have managed fine in dodgy reference situations. I totally agree about how this culture of fear (largely because of the unknown) allows those who know less about the system to be mis-used. It is also a context that can reveal who has some character and who doesn’t… i.e., who is willing to abuse their power and who simply will not… which is interesting but another topic for another day!

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