Signup date: 31 Jul 2013 at 12:06pm
Last login: 09 Sep 2022 at 11:10am
Post count: 39
Just another poor soul finding out that academia is full of impostors.
This has little to do with what end of the academic spectrum one is at. The emptiest lab coats I have met were at "world-renowned" universities. Unfortunately, networking and political skills, as well as recknlessness and bullying - and increasingly: playing the diversity card - can make up for virtually complete lack of competence in academia. Public appearances in science and research, e.g., conference presentations and other types of talks, are generally superficial and generally merely a stage for well-rehearsed acting. Actual academic competence is only visible to a small number of close collaborators - mostly students, whose career depends on their "supervisor's" goodwill and who are thus forced to play along.
For fun, just check RateMyProfessor and the like to see how many "well-known researchers" are completely incapable of teaching the absolute basics of their fields. Not a coincidence in my experience.
As the previous poster said, nothing fundamentally wrong with the International University. It is a fully accredited German University of Applied Sciences. Not a particularly good one, but not dubious either.
However, there is a world of difference in the German system between a University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) and a full University (Universität). Master degrees from Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) generally do not qualify you to participate in a PhD program in Germany - you'd have to get your degree from a Universität for this. How a degree from a Fachhochschule is viewed in other countries, depends on many factors. (I know at least one person who got a PhD from a NZ university using a German Fachhochschule Master's, but this is quite the exception in my experience.)
As the previous poster also alluded to, however, there is the more fundamental question of whether a PhD is the right path. You yourself say that your Bachelor's degree is not particularly good, and you want to get a Master's cheaply / easily. Not sure this is the stuff that PhDs are made from.
Your supervisor is not wrong in that, unlike for scientific publications, there are no generally accepted fixed rules for authorship sequences on grant proposals. In many cases (depending on country and funding agency), only faculty members or similar may _officially_ serve as PI and sign grant proposals anyway, regardless of who prepared the text. I can understand your frustration about the uncoordinated edit, but look at the bright side: You have a funded post-doc in your area of interest, a Ph.D. student you may well get to co-advice, and get to claim co-authorship of a major grant in your C.V. If you play your cards right, you may be well on the way to a junior faculty position in a few years's time.
Everything you describe is completely commonplace and expected of PhD students. Reviewing papers and co-advising students are normal tasks for PhD students everywhere. In fact, you should be thankful to be tasked with such responsibilities, since both of these activities look very good on your CV, regardless of whether you pursue a career in academia or elsewhere. One should rather be worried if one's supervisor did NOT entrust one with paper reviewing and co-advising students. This can be seen as a sign of their confidence in your professional competence.
Of course you may not be officially entitled to supervise a student. In many countries, only appointed faculty may officially supervise students. Still, it is customary and commonplace that PhD students and postdocs de facto co-advise students (I did it myself many times). You can only benefit from this: You can put this on your CV and might end up as a co-author on any resulting papers. Why would you be against this?
To give you an idea of what truly inappropriate tasks in academia look like: As a completely self-funded (!) postdoc (!!) I was asked to 1) cat-sit my host professor's cats, 2) help him paint his house, 3) order coffee for in-house meetings and 4) maintain a conference website. I would have, as a post-doc, been very grateful if somebody would have OFFERED me to co-advise a student.
Have you considered the field of patent law? I know quite a few people with exotic or more theoretical STEM degrees who became very successful as patent attorneys or examiners. Since not very many people consider such careers, it is fairly easy to get in. You would not need another university degree, in fact it's mostly training on the job (plus possibly an exam later to become a full patent attorney). You would start either at a patent office or as an intern/trainee at a patent law firm. Although the job can be somewhat monotonous at times, it is intellectually challenging and can sometimes be surprisingly exciting. The first few years can be somewhat grueling concerning work pressure and security, but the money down the road is nothing short of excellent.
First of all, and this is really important: It's called psychology with an S (pronounced "sigh"-cology, the P is silent). Phycology is the scientific study of algae, which I doubt is what you are looking for. To be brutally honest, as a prospective advisor my personal enthusiasm would already be somewhat limited when faced with such a fundamental mistake.
Second, I think you should decide what it is that you want. You say you want show your "own interpretations" of visual illusions. But what does that mean? Do you want to teach children how visual illusions work, or about their history in art or science? Do you want the illusions to be effective in the book (i.e., when the reader looks at them)? Or do you want to use them only as visual ornaments?
Do you have to write a thesis along with a practice-based art PhD? If so, it sounds like provding scientific background information on the visual illusions themselves would be a good idea. Having an appropriate supervisors from psychology would then make sense. However, since you already say that you do not want the PhD to be science-focused, I do not see that having somebody from psychology as main advisor. If this is supposed to be primarly an art project, somebody from that field should take the lead.
As others have stated here, it is normal that equipment obtained through third-party funding stays with the university (in fact, the same applies to salaries which have not been used up). As researcher (Ph.D student or postdoc) you are not an independent legal entity. That's why grant proposal are usally signed by a faculty member, who legally acts on behalf of the university. Of course, this feels unfair when you did all the work and are proud of your success, but the legal situation is usually pretty unambiguous. That being said, as others have stated, simply read through the paperwork concerning the funding. It should become clear quickly who the contractual partner of the funding agency / company was from the legal point of view.
In fact, I knew an assistant professor who moved to a different university and wanted to quietly take "his" computer lab equipment along, for which he had acquired the funding. Result: the dean called him to his office and threatened to call police. A lot of bad blood was generated that day.
You see: There is no black-and-white here. In your case, they published an article possibly heavily inspired by your work, which you yourself had made public in the meantime. But apparently it was an expanded, permutated and re-worded subset of your material. Is this strictly plagiarism? Hard to tell. Is it possible one of your reviewers or editors effectively stole your ideas? Yes, it certainly is.
Don't ever publish anything of value anywhere unless you get a hard, CV-ready, peer-reviewed publication out of it immediately. arXiv sounds like a nice idea, but from the point of view of an academic career it means throwing your hard work away. Get acquainted to the fact that academia is a dog-eat-dog world filled with many unsavoury characters.
Well, yes, unfortunately there are many people in academia who build a career upon (p)recycling other peoples' ideas. I met many "distinguished scientists" who clearly got to where they were by cheating and stealing. A "renowned" professor who was my postdoc supervisor openly talked about the race to prepublish other PhD students' ideas in slightly reworded language, which they used to have in his old research group when he was a PhD student himself. He and his wife (also a professor) fondly remembered and laughed about the many promising researchers who they managed to frustrate out of academia this way. All in good fun, right?
I once had a paper on a then revolutionary idea accepted at a major conference in the field. Only weeks later I received, as reviewer for another conference, a paper which very closely mimicked my own idea and in fact cited my paper - which hadn't even been published. Clearly, one of the reviewers for my paper, a renowned established professor in the field, had largely copied my idea. So while this was not plagiarism in the strict sense (he cited my paper, after all), the author of that paper then immediately "took over" the sub-field which I started: He started publishing a large number of trivial knock-off papers, flooding publication venues with similar publications within months. In these numerous following papers, he then only cited his own first paper and did not mention mine anymore. Many later publications from other researchers then only cited the various later publications of that "colleague", leading to the widespead legend that he had the initial idea and started the subfield.
I was the victim of this technique of burying earlier original work under a mountain of citations of later knock-off papers by established professors many times, in fact.
Later, I had another groundbreaking idea blacklisted from major conferences in my field, because the powers that be (conference/area chairs, etc.) had decided that "the fundamental problem I was proposing to solve is non-sensical". The resistance was such that they repeatedly overruled unanimous positive reviews by external reviewers to keep my work out of major venues. Lo and behold: From about a year later a well-established professor in the field started publishing full papers at major conferences and in the best journals, winning best paper awards several times in a row, etc., on what was essentially an expanded version of my work. I.e., solving the exact same "non-sensical problem" using improved versions of the techniques I had proposed. At least he had the decency to cite the one paper I had meanwhile managed to publish at a minor, inconsequential workshop.
Were these cases of plagiarism in the strict formal sense? Not really. Was it unethical? I think you could say so.
Frankly, it sounds like there is something missing from your story. It would be incredible for a supervisor to delay graduation by two years for no stated reason. That being said, I received my PhD from a German university, and what I remember about the process at the end was the long and complicated bureaucratic process involved (this is Germany, after all). This process had to be triggered and run by the student and involved writing letters and filling out forms for various parts of the university administration. Some aspects of this bureaucratic process also had to be performed a while (6 months or more) before the thesis defense could even be scheduled. Also, none of my advisors actually knew what this (ever-changing and University-specific) process actually required. Rather, I had ask to PhD colleagues for advice and talk to various administrative assistants to piece together the information required. All that my supervisors did was to later tell the dean at what dates they would be available for my defense - but this was after I had taken care of all the bureaucratic prerequisites. Maybe you could ask somebody who recently graduated what the exact process was?
Well, I am male, and I find your supervisor's behavior completely unacceptable. (I also once was in the reverse situation with an inappropriately behaving female student I supervised, and it was very uncomfortable for me.) It is pointless to speculate about your supervisor's motivation. It may or may not be harmless: If it makes you uncomfortable, it makes you uncomfortable. In my view, you should simply tell him - calmly and factually - that the physical contact in a supervisor-student relationship makes you uncomfortable. He has to understand. Part of the PhD process is learning to speak up for yourself. If he doesn't respond, it's time to escalate the problem.
Sounds like she's trying to sabotage you, plain and simple. One of the most common "mental issues" in academia. Don't be fooled by her later attempts to be nice or explain her own behavior away. Is she some sort of tutor or supervisor for you? If not, stay away from her if at all possible. You say she has attendance issues anyway? Then the answer is simple - try to be in the lab when she isn't. Problem solved.
I concur with rewt, getting what is commonly considered a "real job" is the way to go and represents the expected academic career path. Postdoc positions can quickly become a dead end from which there is no escape. Of course, being a lecturer and trying to perform useful research at the same time can be very stressful. However, be aware that this is the life you are signing up for in academia anyway. This is NEVER going to end.
This is an interesting question - and a difficult situation for you. A smallish lab may mean all sorts of things. The PI may simply value quality over quantity. I knew quite a few very good researchers who hand-picked students, collaborators and research topics in order to ensure high-quality research. They simply wanted to focus on the things they considered really worthwhile, and tried to excel at those, rather than chasing every latest research trend. On the other hand, many mediocre scientists practice empire building and try to expand their group at all cost. Of course, there are many other possible explanations as well.
The much bigger question is whether the group is actually as outstanding as it seems from the outside. Personally, I experienced huge disappointments twice after moving at great expense to seemingly leading research groups with world renowned PIs - only to find out after joining that these groups were basically run by impostors.
Unfortunately, some people are extremely gifted at charming, blackmailing and cheating their way onto authors' lists, grants, committees, etc., in some cases over decades. The best publication lists in the most renowned journals, constant presence at top conferences, etc., do not guarantee that even the most basic knowledge and competence are actually present in the research group. Unfortunately, in my experience this is almost impossible to tell from the outside because in particular such sub-par plagiarizers put a huge emphasis on presenting themselves in the best light when visited by other scientists.
In the end, the best you can do is do your research and then make a decision based on the best information you have available. Unfortunately, there is always the risk that you realize after a short while you ended up in the wrong place.
In any case, best of luck to you!
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