February 23, 2024 at 7:47 pm

When A Professor Tried To Steal Her Work, She Got Him Fired And Publicly Shamed

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Reddit/AITA

The world of academia is so foreign to most of us. Even if we’ve heard “publish or perish” or have family or friends caught in the rat race, it can be hard to grasp the true pressure from the outside.

Also, the way the people who are supposed to mentor you will just rip off your work instead.

OP was the low man on the totem pole, but his friend had been working for a year on a research project/paper.

I used to be in what in my college we call “Seeder”, an investigation group created by students that want to produce scientific articles (In this case, Psychology) and normally directed by a professor.

I had just started college, didn’t know how things worked but thanks to a friend I was able to enter one of the most exclusive seeders of our faculty.

They were developing at the time 5 articles, and I was assigned to the newest one, a simple case review. But this story is not about me or my project.

This story is about Rebecca, the friend that helped me before.

Like me, Rebecca was a psychology major, doing her final year of college and she was one of the lead investigators in the “crown project” of the seeder at the moment, a meta-analysis on conductual behavior therapy in schizophrenic patients around Latin-American.

This was not easy, she had spent a year and a half working on it and when I joined the group it was already in its final stages.

When they needed approval from a professor, he forced them to take a guy from his department on instead.

Then the drama begun. Well, it had actually started mid-way project, when the first drafts were sent to the Publications Office.

In my college, the publications office can be your best friend or your worst enemy as an investigator, and their “suggestions” are basically orders.

Because the article dealt with a psychiatric pathology, they said it must have the support of our College’s Meds-School Psychiatry Department.

The head of the department, who I will call Dr. Trash, put the condition that one of his residents had to be on the project.

It was kind of rude to force them to include some random guy, but in the end she and her group. accepted. Enter Julian, the human incarnation of laziness.

In a team of 5 individuals (Rebecca, Julian and 3 other psychology students) Julian barely did any job and whatever he made, had to be checked and corrected by one of the others.

Sometimes Rebecca doubted he even knew what the article was about from some of his comments.

Of course, the guy did nothing – but the prof wanted the credit for himself and his underling anyway.

Fast forward again to the finish line of the project. It was basically done and only needed the approval of Dr. Trash. And this is where things went to pot.

For those who don’t know…psychiatrists and psychologists aren’t always in the best terms and this hidden feud can sometimes cause troubles when we interact.

In this case, as Rebecca learned from one of the “good” psychiatry residents, the problem was that Dr. Trash didn’t believe psychology should exist and thought of us as glorified life coaches.

You see where this is going?

With the project already done, he refused to approve it unless those credited as main authors where himself (reasonable to a point, department heads were always considered main investigators), our seeder director and Julian.

The others could only put their name as investigation assistants on the ” Acknowledgement” section.

This was a total slap in the face. Even when she tried to argue that she was the one that designed the project in the first place and that Julian did the minimum, the man called her a liar, said her basic idea had needed a lot of corrections (false) and that he knew Julian had written most of the paper as there was no way she could have done it (Remember, he saw us as Life coaches).

Julian, being the douchebag he had been all year, didn’t correct him and let the others drown while he was praised.

In her last peaceful attempt, Rebecca asked why they could not put the names of all as authors and Dr. Trash said that a bunch of unknown student names would only rest credibility to the thing and refused the proposal.

Lastly, he said that they could accept his terms, or quit the project and live him total control of the article.

So, his friend went nuclear, even knowing it would probably blowback on herself.

You may be thinking this is impossible, this man is literally stealing the work from another person. Sadly, this is how investigation works sometimes and is not uncommon that well-established investigators steal the work of unknown ones because in the he said you said, they are most likely to win.

Even with evidence like mails and drafts they can get their way. Rebecca and her friends were devastated, but even the director of the seeder refused to give them his support (“The important thing is that the article is published, not who takes the credit” was his reasoning)

That’s when Rebecca decided to go full suicide bomber. When she told her friends of her idea, warning them it would be the best if they leaved the project before things escalated, they decided to stay and help her.

The plan was to sabotage the article by modifying the statistical analysis they had made previously, basically the core of it all.

The conclusion you got with the new results was the same as before, but anyone who read the thing thoroughly and checked the sources would see the data had been tampered, making it look that they had forged the results to their convenience.

This was a tricky move, because they had to make the modifications in between the last revisions with enough subtlety that Dr. Trash would not notice it when he corrected other parts of the text.

They were extremely lucky he never checked the statistical component, partly because that was the seeders director responsibility and he had already given them the thumbs up.

Finally, the article was completed, and the work was sent to the Publications Office. Then it was just waiting until it finally made boom.

The lazy/thieving professor played right into her hands.

About a month after summiting the project, all the implicated where cited to a meeting with the publications office, including Dr. Trash. The office had seen the altered results, and that meant they had to investigate the group for fraud.

To the students and the resident, it could mean expulsion, for the director and Dr. Trash, they would be forbidden to publish again under the university’s name and in the worst case scenario, they could be fired.

And that is when Dr. Trash saw he had condemned himself. Because Rebecca and the others were just “assistants”, it meant that most of the responsibility was on himself and the other main authors.

Blaming the students would give away the fact that they were way more involved in the process, admitting he had taken away the credit and that he had not checked the paper properly.

In the end, he didn’t have to decide how he wanted to be hanged, because the seeder director spilled the beans in order to save his own neck.

There were consequences for everyone.

With the director’s confession, Rebecca and the others could tell the truth and showed the Publications Office the real results and told them about the sabotage. The aftermath of this is very bittersweet:

The office started an investigation on Dr. Trash articles and those he sponsored, finding he had done this way too many times. He was fired after the news spread around and as far as we know, he has not done any more publishing in indexed literature because no serious magazine will accept his submissions.

Because of all the drama, Rebecca’s article was deemed too compromised by personal interests and was not accepted for publishing. So that year’s hard work went directly to the trash

Seeder Director had to surrender his job as an investigator and the seeder disbanded because there was no other professor available or willing to direct it. (My little project died in here sadly)

Julian was put on probation by the medical faculty.

Rebecca and the others were banned from participating in other investigation projects or studies that were not related to their final thesis, but no more disciplinary actions were taken against them.

Thanks for reading guy, sorry for the long post.

PD: Rebecca gave me permission to post this

The students felt it was worth it – does Reddit? Let’s find out!

The top comment says it was rough but hopefully they saved some future students the pain.

Source: Reddit/AITA

This person wishes they could have salvaged the research, though.

Source: Reddit/AITA

But those who have worked in academia get it, sadly.

Source: Reddit/AITA

They say the revenge was really impressive.

Source: Reddit/AITA

The men in charge definitely deserved what they got.

Source: Reddit/AITA

I hate that the students had to go to these lengths.

But I’m glad they were brave enough to do it.

Want to read another story where somebody got satisfying revenge? Check out this post about a woman who tracked down a contractor who tried to vanish without a trace.