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Writing for your advisor after you graduate?


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I wasn't sure where to ask this question, and my google searches haven't really turned up an answer to my problem.

To make a long story short, I recently received my master's after a truly terrible graduate program with my advisor that ended with him not even speaking to me during my last semester. Anyways, his whole thing was "every masters student publishes three journal papers" which I considered BS, but still wrote everything he requested. 2 conference papers (one that won an award), 2 poster presentations and 3 manuscripts later, I have graduated and am ready to put all this behind me. The problem is one manuscript hasn't been submitted yet, and I am now getting revisions from the other authors on the paper. I am just so done with this, and am wondering, what is my obligation to these papers now? I am no longer getting paid (I was on an assistanship), 2 of the manuscripts have been submitted, and I am starting a PhD program this summer and will have plenty of opportunities to publish then.

Anyone been in a similar situation? Has this been addressed already and can someone direct me to the thread?

Edited by bposadas
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xykademiqz has some discussions of publishing with students who have graduated. I don't think her relationship with her students is anything like yours. The gist, I think, is that students sometimes stop contributing to papers once they have graduated, and she finds it very frustrating. The situations she describes are usually different in that the relevant students are ones that go into industry and don't care about their publication record. Yours is different because presumably you want to maintain good relations as much as possible and add to your publications. Despite what you describe about your advisor, I wonder how bad the situation really is, given that you got into a PhD program. I assume your advisor wrote you a letter, and it couldn't have been that bad. I wonder if dropping out of this paper will harm your relationship even further, or help maintain it, or make no difference. I have no idea about expectations in your field so I'll wait for others on that, but in general my feeling is that it's worth your time to make a good faith effort to make the revisions if they are reasonable and should lead to a successful publication in order to keep the peace more than anything else. I don't know if this is a contractual obligation (it's probably not, since you're not getting paid anymore), but a lot of our obligations to colleagues aren't contractual, and yet we do them anyway. 

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10 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

xykademiqz has some discussions of publishing with students who have graduated. I don't think her relationship with her students is anything like yours. The gist, I think, is that students sometimes stop contributing to papers once they have graduated, and she finds it very frustrating. The situations she describes are usually different in that the relevant students are ones that go into industry and don't care about their publication record. Yours is different because presumably you want to maintain good relations as much as possible and add to your publications. Despite what you describe about your advisor, I wonder how bad the situation really is, given that you got into a PhD program. I assume your advisor wrote you a letter, and it couldn't have been that bad. I wonder if dropping out of this paper will harm your relationship even further, or help maintain it, or make no difference. I have no idea about expectations in your field so I'll wait for others on that, but in general my feeling is that it's worth your time to make a good faith effort to make the revisions if they are reasonable and should lead to a successful publication in order to keep the peace more than anything else. I don't know if this is a contractual obligation (it's probably not, since you're not getting paid anymore), but a lot of our obligations to colleagues aren't contractual, and yet we do them anyway. 

Thanks fuzzylogician!
So, my advisor actually didn't write me a letter of rec. In fact, he turned down requests from me and other people in the department to write letters for fellowships and other awards (which I won anyways without his support). My PhD program is in a different department and different field, so I feel in the long run, not having these publications won't hurt me as it is not the field I am ultimately pursuing anyways.

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Well that certainly changes things. Yeah, then I don't think you have any obligation to him, you are done and you should get as far away from him as fast as you can. It doesn't sound like a salvageable relationship and there is nothing for you to gain. I'd write him a very respectful email (ccing other co-authors for good measure) letting him know that you have moved on from the MA to your new PhD program, and that since this won't leave you enough time to work on the paper, you have decided to withdraw your name from the submission. Thank him for everything (even if you don't think you have anything to be thankful for), and keep it very polite. I doubt his response will be kind, but you can just get it over with. 

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Here's the questions I would ask myself.

- Would having this research be published make a difference in the scientific community?

- Would dropping out of the publication help or hurt any of the other authors? That is, are there other MS/PhD students in the author list who would benefit from this publication? If so, can they still pursue this without you?

- Have you talked to your co-authors about potentially changing the order of authorship so that someone else handles these edits and takes over as first author?

Personally, I wouldn't drop a manuscript that's almost ready to be submitted, regardless of whether or not I'm changing fields.

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Thanks for the quick responses you guys!

rising_star, those are good points I hadn't thought of. I am the only graduate student on the paper, first author, and (as is usually the case) completed the analysis and wrote the paper by myself. The project itself, I heard, has been defunded and it doesn't sound likely that anything in the paper will actually be used by the target audience. I am going to talk to one of the co-authors today, but everyone has been trying to steer clear of the conflict between me and my previous advisor and thus I have turned to the wonderful GradCafe community for advice! 

I am really stuck, because yes, I don't want to give up something I did put a lot of work in. But I also really need to start looking toward my future program that will start in a few weeks and really want this whole process to end.

Edited by bposadas
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Talking to your co-authors is a good idea. I agree that you should not stand in the way of the paper getting published, so give your co-authors access to any data you have and answer their questions about methods or whatever else they need from you and can't take care of themselves. But beyond that, it seems that the utility you will get out of this paper is fairly limited, and it'd be best to distance yourself from your advisor as much as possible. If the revisions are minor and easy to make, maybe you could consider doing them quickly. But it'd probably be easier to move down the author list to a position where you have already done enough and no one is counting on you for more, or remove yourself from the list altogether. 

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Are you the first author of that manuscript or co-author? If you are the first author, then yes, it is not the obligation but academic etiquette that you revise your paper based on the revision unless you transfer the first-authorship to one the other co-authors. Otherwise, I personally think you should still lend a hand if the first author needs your support that he/she cannot do your part. It is a proof of your professional customer service although it is not mandatory.

Disclaimer: I am a Ph.D. student who has worked with many Master's students as their thesis mentor. Most of them stopped working with me once they landed full-time jobs. This is reasonable and I am completely good with that. However, there were few already-graduated students who had continued doing the incomplete research with me on weekends until it was done (just about one or at most two months after they graduated). I really appreciated such act.

All in all, I think that once you start something, you should finish it.

Edited by ShogunT
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Thanks everyone for the good advice and points to consider.

ShogunT, thank you for your perspective. It is so easy to develop tunnel-vision and only see my perspective and goals and not really think about the lab I am trying to leave behind. After talking to my co-author, who only had a couple of suggestions, I will make the revisions quickly and send it back to my previous advisor. I guess while my previous advisor won't be writing me letters anytime soon, it would be in my best interests to show the other co-authors that I am professional and see the paper to the end.

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19 hours ago, bposadas said:

Thanks everyone for the good advice and points to consider.

ShogunT, thank you for your perspective. It is so easy to develop tunnel-vision and only see my perspective and goals and not really think about the lab I am trying to leave behind. After talking to my co-author, who only had a couple of suggestions, I will make the revisions quickly and send it back to my previous advisor. I guess while my previous advisor won't be writing me letters anytime soon, it would be in my best interests to show the other co-authors that I am professional and see the paper to the end.

 

That's a good thing to do. Wish you all the best!

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I'd make a point of doing the manuscript revisions from the comfort of your favourite coffeeshop, with a large drink of your choice and probably some kind of chocolate-based treat. 

In this instance, the path of least resistance is probably the best one. Deal with the manuscript as quickly as you can, don't spend ages agonising over it. 

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