Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Tyranny of the Awesome Supervisor

  1. He’s just as invested in this project as I am.
  2. He takes my education seriously, and he really wants me to do well. So if there are improvements to be made, he’ll let me know. If he says the work is good, I should just believe him and leave it at that.
  3. He’s a nice guy, and nice people tend to not become awful when giving feedback.
  4. He knows me and my work patterns really well, and carefully considers strategies that will help me move forward when things aren’t working.
I still have to actively keep these things in mind to keep my insecurities at bay. So even though Dr Awesome is awesome and not at all an Asshat, there are still challenges to be dealt with when it comes to the supervision of my project. But I’d be really interested to hear from other students what kinds of strategies they use to keep their insecurities in check when it comes to interacting with their supervisors.

Six Ways to Improve Equity in Australian Universities

Image result for equity in higher education
ncsehe.edu.au
by Anna Bennett, University of Newcastle, The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/six-ways-to-improve-equity-in-australian-universities-61437

[Editors Note: This is a good discussion; however, there is little mention of what I would suggest would be the very significant negative effects of Australia's VERY high fee structure on equity. Until this is sorted out, we won't be able to effectively tackle the other measures - Dr Robert Muller]. 

The latest report from the Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s elite universities, has sparked debate about the demand-driven system and equity in Australian higher education. Research shows we have made progress, but improving equity across the sector is challenging.

The Go8 argues that specific equity funding should be “restored” to assist universities with targeted initiatives. This funding has been delivered through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), which the government recently announced will be reduced from next year.

How to boost equity in higher education 

New research from Newcastle, Melbourne and La Trobe universities identifies the types of initiatives that have demonstrated they can help students from equity groups access, participate in and complete university.

Initiatives captured in the study must have been specifically aimed at one or more of the defined equity target groups. Other groups identified by survey participants and authors of impact studies include those who identify as first-in-family and people from refugee backgrounds.

1) Attending university open days

Attending university as part of a pre-university experience program has been shown to increase the likelihood of school students considering going to university in the future. Attending open days provides students with a clearer understanding of what the university life would be like. Studies show that having mentors involved in campus visits makes them more effective in developing aspirations and intentions to go to university than attendance without them.

2) Mentoring

Time spent with mentors is shown to be important for school students in low socio-economic (SES) areas whose immediate family or caregiver has not been to university. Stories told by mentors about their own experiences prove effective in overcoming limiting views about who is able to participate and achieve in higher education.

High school students in particular respond to university student role models or mentors from similar backgrounds. This form of “in-group” identification is linked to a greater sense of belonging in a university. This helps to challenge stereotypes about who goes to university and who studies particular courses such as engineering and science.

Mentoring is effective - when compared to no mentoring - and it has an even greater effect on improving intentions to attend university when it continues over a period of time.

3) Demystifying university culture

Strategies to address and counter students’ doubts about belonging and academic ability are important. For online students, the use of social media can enable social, academic and ongoing group interaction. Incorporating social media has been shown to increase opportunities for students from low-SES backgrounds in building strong social support networks.

On-campus experiences are also documented as being helpful for mature-age students in demystifying university and aiding the development of a student identity. This provides university pathway students with a taste of university life and helps them develop realistic expectations of what they will experience in their undergraduate degree.

Importantly, incorporating ways of learning from participants' cultures - by, for example, involving local community members when designing class content - has been shown to increase a reported sense of engagement and belonging for students from refugee and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

4) Developing academic skills

Many of the impact studies captured in our review cite a lack of engagement among equity students with conventional forms of support. Because of past stigmatisation, some students do not wish to engage with the bureaucracy that surrounds provision of support because of what they perceive as deficit labels. Past policies and practices mean that, particularly for Indigenous students, there may be low levels of trust and feelings of powerlessness in seeking conventional forms of support.

Other studies assert that the main reasons why a proportion of students do not access learning development are time constraints (making attendance at extra workshops difficult) and the need for students to receive feedback from assessment tasks before their needs can be identified, which leads to time lags.

Some equity participation initiatives in undergraduate programs use an outreach model of directly contacting students who have failed a first assessment, for example. This assists in developing the academic skills of more students by connecting with those who would not otherwise have sought assistance. But it is essential that support is relevant to their area of study.

5) Well-designed online learning and resources

Online learning approaches and focused online orientation activities are shown to provide greater engagement in learning. There are ongoing challenges, though, for students accessing good-quality technologies and sustaining engagement in online programs.

One study describes the impact of e-learning tools that were introduced to a cohort where 62% of students study via online courses, the majority were equity students and many were from remote, isolated areas. These e-tools included a combination of video clips, online tutorials and discussion boards/groups to encourage active learning, connection and engagement with course content. Increased engagement was reported as a result of the e-learning tools and discussion boards. Data showed that the majority of students (over 90%) found e-tools a useful learning resource.

Carefully paced, online and on-campus bridging or preparatory programs designed to assist first-year undergraduates before semester starts are also a way to enable students to gain basic knowledge and skills.

6) Collaborations between institutions and communities

As the previous points demonstrate, programs that are planned by providers in response to student needs, and in consultation with stakeholders where relevant, are more likely to sustain interest in university as a future option.

Programs that are inclusive, flexible and responsive to students (regarding the times programs are offered, for example) are more effective because they receive greater participant and community support. This is shown to be particularly important for students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and remote backgrounds.

What next?

Earmarked specific equity funding is essential to ensure that recent historic gains in equity in higher education are not lost.

However, we need more research into effective equity initiatives that are being used worldwide. Not only is specific funding essential for ensuring a fair and equitable system into the future, this needs to be anchored in a national approach that both draws on and supports ongoing program evaluation and research about what works best.

Anna Bennett, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

GAMSAT Essay Preparation

Image result for Medicine
healthylife01.com
by Michael Joseph Johnson

For those who are interested in working in one of the medical schools in the area, you need to start your GAMSAT preparation because this is an exam that determines if you will be able to study to become a doctor or not.

The exam has three major sections and one of the areas that most students have problems with is writing essays. This is part of the Written Communication section of the exam. The section includes two essays and each of them is supposed to be written in half an hour.

The one hour that is provided for this section can appear to be very limited for some people but it is possible to write two great essays within this period.

During your GAMSAT preparation, you need to practice on how to come up with two coherent essays in the allotted hour. A lot of practice is required to come up with an essay that stands out.

To write an essay that stands out, you need to start working on the structure. This means that your ideas need to be broken down. The structure should include an introduction, body and then conclusion. Once you have outlined your structure, it is easy for you to know where each idea will be placed.

In the exam, students are provided with quotes to respond to. This means that you should read the quotes carefully to determine what you will base your argument on.

During your GAMSAT preparation, you need to know how to come up with strong arguments when you are writing your essay. Weak arguments will not earn you the kind of marks that are required to get into medical school.

In academic essays, strong one-way argumentation is usually discouraged but when it comes to this type of exam, you need to support your views with a very strong argument.

Make sure you have a well laid out plan before you begin to write the essay. This will make it more coherent.

At the beginning of the essay, you should state your position very clearly in response to the statement. The introduction is very important because this is what determines if someone will continue to read it or not. It may also be effective to include some news about an event that has taken place recently when you are writing your essay introduction.

GAMSAT prep includes practicing various essay writing styles. Just use the provided link to learn more about how to write a great essay during your GAMSAT prep.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Joseph_Johnson
http://EzineArticles.com/?GAMSAT-Prep---Writing-Effective-Essays-for-the-Exam&id=6098870

If you are after a GAMSAT essay writing tutor, look no further than Dr Robert Muller at: http://tutoringtoexcellence.blogspot.com Robert works with people all over the globe in preparation for the Australian and UK GAMSAT exams via Skype and email. In addition, Robert has written a guide on exactly how to write your GAMSAT essays which can be found here.

Don’t Neglect Your Data!

"Box of floppy disks and USB memory stick" by JIP - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.by

This situation comes up a lot, especially when I speak to social scientists.

A student has 1 year left before they have to submit their PhD thesis. They have written 10s of thousands of words. They have read countless articles. They have an outline of their thesis and a few drafts of some of their chapters. They have some good ideas, they have a good knowledge of their field, and have done all their data collection… But they have done zero data analysis. Sometimes, they won’t have transcribed their interviews. Some won’t have even listened to the interviews since they conducted them (perhaps several years ago).

This leaves them in a very precarious situation; with only a few months remaining, not knowing whether there is anything useful in their data, and not knowing how to find out. They have to learn how to do the analysis for the first time under enormous pressure, with no opportunity to redo any of the practical work should there be a problem with the data (or to further investigate anything interesting).

It’s a nightmare situation, but so easily avoidable if you start learning how to do data analysis as early as possible. This includes:
  • Learning how to use the software you need (eg NVIVO)
  • Putting data in an appropriate format (transcription)
  • Basic analytical techniques (coding)
You don’t need a full data set to get started. It doesn’t even need to be real data. Starting early means that you be more comfortable with the analysis once you do have a full data set, and having an understanding of the analytical process will help you get better quality data. Don’t neglect your data, and don’t treat the analysis as something you can throw together at the end.

What to do if you have neglected your data until now

First, make sure you know where the data is, then start on whatever formatting needs to be done. For example, if you have audio recordings of interviews, these will probably need to be transcribed. Many underestimate how long this takes, so start immediately.

Once you have one transcribed file, that’s enough to load into whatever software you are using so you can play around with the basics of analysis. If you know someone who has used the software before, ask them nicely if they can show you what their process is for analysing data. If you don’t know anyone, find some online tutorials to get you started.

You must then get all your data into a usable state. Until this is done, you don’t really have anything to work with. It’s time-consuming and can be tedious, but it has to be done. Try to put together a checklist so you have a consistent process to follow. Take note of where you save every file, and ALWAYS keep an unaltered copy of the original raw data.

Only once you have the data in an analyzable form can you start to figure out whether you have anything valuable. The earlier you do this, the better.

Image: “Box of floppy disks and USB memory stick” by JIPOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Brexit: the Aftermath for Universities and Students

Isabel Infantes / PA Wire
by Mike Finn, University of Warwick, The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/brexit-the-aftermath-for-universities-and-students-61698

The UK’s vote to leave the European Union has been met with shock and apprehension by universities, academics and students across the country.

University leaders became increasingly worried about the possibility of a Brexit as the poll neared, with three vice-chancellors giving their reasons to remain here on The Conversation. But now, with the result in and Britain destined to leave, what kind of future beckons for Britain’s universities?

Research funding

As a full member of the union, for the moment Britain still enjoys membership of the European Research Area, the Horizon 2020 research funding programme and a range of other research partnerships and initiatives. With the vote for Brexit, these relationships will - at some point in the future - cease. Some may be reconstituted, but it is hard to believe this will happen on the same preferential terms given widespread reluctance among EU leaders (fearful of further secessions) to be seen to be giving Britain a good deal.

It is true that Horizon 2020 is open to non-EU members - for example it includes Israel, which has a long history of collaboration with EU research. But access to these programmes is often highly political and in my opinion, it is difficult to envisage the UK - a much bigger higher education system than Israel’s, for example - being able to access the programme on the same terms currently offered to non-EU members. This is particularly the case, given the Leave lobby’s opposition to free movement to the UK, an issue which has restricted Switzerland’s associate membership of Horizon but which is not relevant to other members such as Israel or Armenia.

Current associate members of Horizon such as Serbia, Montenegro and Albania are working towards EU membership, while Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which allows free movement of people. While some Vote Leave leaders have been quick to say that free movement wouldn’t be restricted post-Brexit, it is highly questionable whether Britain will be allowed access to the EEA, or whether the British public could be convinced of this option - given that this would be unlikely to reduce immigration.

Testing times for research. Suwit Ngaokaew/www.shutterstock.com

None of the Horizon associate members remotely compare in scale to the UK’s research power. The former EU Commission president Juan Manuel Barroso remarked in 2015 that the UK is receiving more than what its economic or demographic dimension would entitle it to receive in terms of EU research funding. In 2014-15, according to Universities UK, universities attracted more than £836m in research grants and contracts from the EU. It would appear unlikely that the UK could continue to punch above its weight in these terms once it is outside the union.

There is no guarantee, as some have argued, that the government will make up any future shortfall in research funding. Higher education does not exist in a vacuum and the long-term economic prospects of the UK are now in serious question.

Student experience and teaching

The future of the ERASMUS student exchange scheme, from which 200,000 UK students have benefited, is uncertain as far as British students are concerned. It is also perhaps inevitable that the UK - having rejected the European Union in a bitter campaign marked by significant anti-immigrant rhetoric - should become a less appealing destination for EU students, who currently make up 5% of students at UK universities.

More than this, the funding settlement whereby EU undergraduates pay fees at the home rate of £9,000 a year (and are able to access the same preferential loans as UK students, albeit with a new residency requirement for maintenance loans from this August) will end at some point. This may possibly be as early as 2017-2018, although the Student Loans Company moved quickly to note that the financial settlement will remain unchanged for existing students and current applicants.

This follows moves by individual institutions, such as UCL, to guarantee current EU students’ fee rates. There is no certainty that a parallel settlement comparable to the original one will be put in place. Taken together, this will pose challenges to universities with high EU student intakes, as well as those that had been hoping to increase EU student intake now that controls on student numbers have been lifted.

Students’ teaching may also be affected. It is highly likely that a proportion of EU academics will choose to leave UK higher education and return to their countries of origin, or move to other EU states. Of academics working in British universities, 15% originate from other EU member states.

A number have issued prominent statements that they are now considering leaving the UK given pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric. European universities will also make job offers to “star” British names potentially uncomfortable with the outcome of the referendum.

Higher education reform

There may be some cause for optimism, however, for those opposed to the government’s ongoing higher education reforms. It is likely that they will, at least temporarily, be derailed. Though the Higher Education Bill is already before the House of Commons, the executive was woefully unprepared for a leave vote in the referendum.

Civil servants in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and beyond will have bigger fish to fry over the next two years than developing the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), implementing the new governance arrangements or completing the transition to a marketised system. The University of Warwick’s vice-chancellor Stuart Croft has called for the higher education reforms to be postponed. Governmental overload, or its very collapse, may ensure that’s exactly what happens.

Britain is in the middle of an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Universities matter to government and are a real factor, in government-speak, of achieving “success in a knowledge economy”. But they are not more important than trade or inward investment, securing export markets, or preventing the collapse of the territorial integrity of the union. In short, higher education will have to wait in (a very long) line.

The task before Britain’s university system is to secure its position in the global higher education sector even as the status and economic firepower of the host nation state diminishes, or - in the event of an independent Scotland - simply falls apart.

Mike Finn, Principal Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Guest Post: Publishing Without Supervisors

English: Graduation
Graduation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
, Tenure She Wrote: https://tenureshewrote.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/guest-post-publishing-without-supervisors/

Today’s guest post is by The Blundering Ecologist, a Ph.D. candidate at a research university in Canada. In addition to research, she is passionate about asking uncomfortable questions and learning the rules so that she can break them properly. 
 


I can’t do this.

That was my only thought when my class professor told me on the first day of classes I had to list my M.Sc. supervisors as co-authors on all the work I submitted to his class. I anxiously took notes until class was over. Loitering in the hall, I waited until all the other students had left so that I could ask for his advice. Why was I supposed to list my M.Sc. supervisors as co-authors when they have not significantly contributed to my work?

“For my dissertation my PI was just like that. The whole four years I struggled alone and the last thing I wanted to do was put his name on my work. In the end, I didn’t have the guts to publish alone. It was just easier to put his name on it.”
“I can’t do that.”
“I mean, if I was you, and I had the [expletive] to do it I would go back and publish without him … put him in the acknowledgements. That would really show his co-workers what kind of researcher he was.”
“But, for now?”
“For now, put their names on your work and keep your head down. He has complete control over your M.Sc. and the headache isn’t worth it … at least, not yet. Don’t make things difficult for yourself.”

One of my supervisors was an urban geographer (primary M.Sc. supervisor) at my university and the other an ornithologist (secondary M.Sc. supervisor) at a university in another city. My M.Sc. work was in Ecology and on mammals. My project was handed to my primary M.Sc. supervisor from the funding agency. The funding agency’s questions were clear and decisive, all I needed to do was the fieldwork, data collection, statistics, and interpret the results.

Twelve months later …

That professor’s words never left my mind. As I quickly moved through my degree at a pace that surpassed my labmates and colleagues, I constantly grappled with that notion: gift-authorship.

Was I prepared to allow my primary M.Sc. supervisor to be listed as a co-author on work he did not significantly contribute to? Could I live with my decision to list him? On the other hand: could I stand up on my own? Was I strong enough to take a stand and make such a controversial statement about my ethics as a researcher? My gut was much more clear about what I needed to do. I was going to publish my thesis without my M.Sc. supervisors. But, on what grounds? Google was only so helpful.

Turns out this is a very discipline specific issue which made it hard to pin-point how to handle matters in my situation. In Ecology and Biology, it is common for junior scientists to list their supervisors as co-authors on their thesis. It is socially expected. It is a given. Usually students and supervisors have this discussion early on in their degree, however this was never something I knew I should bring up, nor was it ever mentioned by my primary M.Sc. supervisor. The closest he got to mentioning authorship was when he asked me to list him as an author on a class project that I submitted to a professor on a topic unrelated to my M.Sc. work. After seeing my face, he recanted and said that he supposed he would need to read it first, however my class professor should be a co-author seeing as she taught me the material (yes, you read that right). Point was: I needed guidelines and I needed them fast.

I ended up finding a dozen different opinions on authorship from my field published in both official (journals) and unofficial capacities (blogs, newspapers, web forums). The consensus was clear: academia needs more honesty in not just publication preparation (data handling, results, etc), but also authorship lists. The informal channels cautioned: students, be warned: you will be swimming against the current. If you burn a bridge, you better have a boat waiting.

There I was, match in hand, about to burn a very large bridge. My actions, to me, were justified. The journal I wanted to submit my work to had very clear authorship guidelines that I planned to follow to a T…

Paraphrasing, authorship should be based on:
  1. Significant contributions to conception and design, acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for paper; AND
  2. Writing and revising it critically; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Accountable for all aspects of the paper.
Caveats followed: Everyone who meets the four points should be listed as authors and anyone who doesn’t meet all four points should be in the acknowledgements. Using this outline, solely obtaining funding, collecting data, or providing general supervision does not qualify someone for authorship. Especially important: all authors should be able to take public responsibly for the work and therefore have sufficient knowledge about the paper.

Pen to paper, I sat down and wrote out every single volunteer, employee, friend, parent, and colleague that helped me write my thesis - from start (funding) to finish (thesis). The list was long, but two things stood out:
  1. My friends, labmates, and colleagues helped me more than I realized (one former labmate actually qualified to be a co-author due to her extensive participation in all aspects of my thesis).
  2. My M.Sc. supervisors contributed very little to my thesis.
So, there I was, faced with a reality I could not walk away from. It would be me and my labmate publishing my thesis “solo”. Her response, “I thought you would never ask.” Then, as if an afterthought, “Is that even allowed? This might sound ridiculous, but is it even legal?” I got where she was coming from: would I lose my degree for doing this? Would I be kicked out of my M.Sc.? Stopped from doing Doctoral work? Dramatically (albeit justifiably), I wondered, would my career be “over”?

Those were tough questions that I didn’t have the answers to. None of the documents I read explained just what could or would happen to me if I published without my M.Sc. supervisors. Unsure where to begin, my first stop was the Ombudsperson office. She explained that she, frankly, had no idea. From there, I went to the Thesis Office, asked for a confidential meeting and put forward the question to my Department’s representative. She didn’t know either. She suggested I speak to my Department’s Graduate Program Director. His response was least helpful, “You don’t have to, but it would be nice.” “Nice” as if I were simply doing someone a favour, rather than allowing my primary M.Sc. supervisor to gain credit for work that his involvement (or rather, lack thereof) did not warrant.

I explained my fear of my primary M.Sc. supervisor mishandling my results (based on a heated discussion I had with him over coffee where he asked me to omit information and change how my results would be presented to our funding board so that he could continue to get funding even though my results did not support the claims he wanted me to make). Again, the Director’s response was noncommittal as I repeated, “Am I allowed to publish my thesis without X as a co-author?” Leaving his office I was vaguely aware that no-one really knew what a student had to do. All I knew was that I would be breaking a “rule” that didn’t exist in writing and there would be consequences. At that point, I went ahead and submitted my paper to my top choice journal. By the time I got to my defense, revisions were invited.

Two hurdles remained:
  1. My secondary M.Sc. supervisor was much more supportive and I respected him as a scientist, researcher, and colleague. Based on conversations with him, I knew he didn’t feel he qualified as a co-author for my thesis, but I felt I owed him the same honesty and respect that he gave me.
  2. The funding board had strict guidelines about publishing work funded by them and they needed to know my thesis would be published very soon and not in the traditional way they may have been expecting.
With my labmate, we decided to tackle problem #2 first. In a heavily proofread email, I explained that I am about to publish my thesis in a top journal in my field. I then explained why my primary M.Sc. supervisor (one of two people who got funding for my work – the second being a man I never met or spoke to) wasn’t a co-author on it. I explained I wrote a very generous and considerate acknowledgements section clearly (and painfully) outlining in what ways every single person who has contributed to my work contributed.

Then, I explained my fears, which for anyone who knew my primary M.Sc. supervisor intimately, was well aware they were warranted: “I have yet to inform my [primary M.Sc.] supervisor of this decision as he controls my future and can make my life very difficult by taking away my funding or preventing me from graduating.” I asked that my decision be confidential as my primary M.Sc. supervisor could considerably modify my future. The person who handled publication related matters was understanding and assured me not to worry. Problem “solved”.

Problem #1 I didn’t have to face until three months after I defended my M.Sc. thesis. The publication was about to be released and I felt it was time to inform my secondary M.Sc. supervisor of my decision as he was beginning to offer his services in helping me get my thesis publication ready, if I so desired. I held my breath, and then sent him a painstakingly honest email that was well overdue.

I explained things from my perspective as follows: “I was a very independent student from the start; I often forged ahead and made decisions based on my knowledge of the circumstances. There was no denying that my work benefitted from [my secondary M.Sc. supervisor’s] input, however I did not find [my primary M.Sc. supervisor’s] contributions to be marginally more than the minimum required from a M.Sc. supervisor (namely, acquisition of funding).”

I continued: “From the very beginning, my work was statistically sound and my writing was clear. However, for that to occur I had to repeatedly ignore and overlook all of [my primary M.Sc. supervisor’s] comments concerning my work. At every junction I have had to challenge his judgement and his seniority, which quickly left me to make decisions without consulting him at all. Putting it bluntly, my work is solid despite [my primary M.Sc. supervisor]. My frustrations in having a [primary M.Sc.] supervisor so unknowledgeable about the biology, statistics, and the writing process required for a scientific paper in this field left me deeply concerned for my reputation as a scientist moving forward. I do not want his name professionally attached to my work in any way. Including [my primary M.Sc. supervisor] as a co-author would give him free reign to manipulate the results to suit his agenda. We have had many arguments where I have had to firmly put my foot down in response to him suggesting I could stretch the data to say something it did not, or worse, misrepresent the data to the [funding agency] (so he could obtain more funding). I refused and my being so disagreeable caused considerable friction in our relationship. I cannot allow [my primary M.Sc. supervisor] to get credit for work that he does not understand, cannot properly present, and has no right to call his own by simply having hired me. Obtaining funding is not justification enough to warrant co-authorship. Such practices do not promote better science.”

His reactions were mixed. True to his character, my secondary M.Sc. supervisor was supportive in that he himself generally made decisions that went against the grain, however he did not feel like “others” (my hitherto unnamed primary M.Sc. supervisor) would so readily agree. He expressed concern that I withheld this from both of them and that this could have serious repercussions for my future as a young scientist.

His concerns were warranted. However, my primary M.Sc. supervisor never contacted me. Former labmates told me about the smear campaign occurring in their meetings with my primary M.Sc. supervisor. They explained he would denounce my thesis and spend large parts of their meetings discussing how he felt my work was very poor and my thesis did not warrant my graduating at the top of my class.

Then things went quiet. This did not help settle my nerves. I knew him (my primary M.Sc. supervisor) and I knew to always expect the unexpected.

Three more months had passed post-publication and I was sitting with my mother checking my email after a “long” (read: four weekday) absence from internet. Mostly work related emails and then there was one for a faculty member who served on my M.Sc. thesis committee, someone I considered a mentor. I was on the other side of the country, but that email still found its way to me. My M.Sc. committee member explained that he had learnt about the paper I published “without authorization”. He explained his disappointment in me and expressed that he felt there were no grounds for such action. The label he used was “scientific misconduct”. He felt that our relationship was a mere sham - a ruse. Yet, in the same paragraph he wished me well and hoped my actions did not prove disastrous for my career and reputation. The message was clear: my primary M.Sc. supervisor was still upset. I had burned a bridge.

And, here I am now. Seven months post M.Sc. defense. Some hopeful higher level summer jobs fell through. I can’t shake the feeling that it may be due in part to potential employers in my field reaching out to my old M.Sc. supervisors, but I will never know (I did receive three summer job offers one month later).

My M.Sc. defense is a distant, but haunting memory. I am about to start my Ph.D. at a different university - just about as far away as I could get from my old university - and I still hold my breath anytime new emails arrive in my M.Sc. inbox.

Of course I can’t have my primary M.Sc. supervisor provide me with letters of recommendation anymore. It’s an obvious consequence of my actions. But, that suggests I needed a letter from him to begin with. As with the publication issue, I quickly realized my primary M.Sc. supervisor would not be a suitable a reference for my future job or graduate applications. Similar to other female students in the lab, we all avoided being openly affiliated with him. He did not hide how he felt about women in the sciences from his female M.Sc. students in the privacy of his office and I could not risk giving him the opportunity to express how ill suited he felt women were for fieldwork and intellectual challenges. However, I still needed letters for my job and Ph.D. applications. I had planned for that.

From the moment I realized I couldn’t rely on my primary M.Sc. supervisor to be an advocate for me and my abilities, I worked diligently on making connections with other professors, colleagues, and coworkers. I stayed active in the volunteer community throughout my M.Sc. degree, I collaborated with people outside of the lab I worked in, and I gained respect and made relationships in a less traditional way.

I did burn a bridge, but I had a boat waiting. This boat (other connections, relationships, future careers) has helped me continue to progress forward in my career. Collaborators still agree to work with me and I am not proving to be the pariah my primary M.Sc. supervisor is making me out to be. The only catch, as of now, is that it appears I am now only working with like minded people. So, I can’t say anyone will be giving me a gift-authorship anytime soon. But, that I can live with.

Maybe I would have handled matters differently under other circumstances, but that theory cannot be tested. What I do know is that I do not believe such practices (gift authorship) promote better science. The best I can, and continue to, hope for is that people respect my decision as it was not made lightly, nor is it a highly socially acceptable one either.