Bullying

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Claudia

Gender: Female / Current Role: Associate Professor

WHO WAS INVOLVED?

Former boss, a famous big male professor.

WHAT HAPPENED?

He took me off a paper I co-authored after the first rejection by a 4* journal. Neither he nor the first author told me.

I found out by chance that the paper had been accepted, when speaking to colleague who was not involved but still working at this professor's lab. This was during a visit to my former lab following the invitation of the same professor to give a talk and train his new PhD student as an external collaborator. I gave my talk earlier in the day before I heard about the acceptance of the paper. I worked with the student and we both returned to the professor's office afterwards. I enquired about the acceptance, and as he spoke about it as if I was not part of that project. I said that I was pleased to hear about our success and he raised his eyebrows. I said well isn't that the paper I coauthored? I was feeling extremely anxious, and when he said no you are not a co-author anymore because you did not contribute enough, I had to leave to not break down in front of him. I only managed to squeeze out good bye, and broke down in the lab. The PhD student followed but he did not ask anything, just stayed around. We left together. Later in the evening, the prof wrote saying that he took the decision because he asked the first author why i was a coauthor and understood that I only gave some materials to her when i was a postdoc there. This was not enough for coauthorship. But if I feel I contributed more, I should tell him and he can speak to the editor to reinstate me as coauthor. I did this because I had so much to show and I knew he was pretending he did not know how I was involved when it was agreed with him that I would collaborate with the first author who was his PhD student. I decided I had to fight for it, I could not afford to turn away or to pick an open fight.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID YOU DO TO TRY TO RESOLVE IT?

I replied by email to the professor laying out my contributions, our agreement for me to collaborate and that I was included as co-author which acknowledged my contributions. I said nobody had talked to me before or after his decision to take me of the paper. The paper was one I returned in REF 2014, and has been important for my career.

WHO, IF ANYONE, DID YOU GO TO FOR HELP? (INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL TO YOUR ORGANISATION)

Nobody, this happened out of the blue. I talked to my friend, at that time a postdoc with this prof who also had experienced a big injustice that the prof covered up and only partially remedied.

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE TO THIS?

He said I should let go, do my thing since I had just got onto my first faculty position. He did not think it would be good to open up a fight, and thought it's a lost case I should give up on to preserve myself. I agreed and was devastated, this was before next day I received the prof's email.

HOW LONG AGO DID THIS HAPPEN?

12 years ago. 

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Tania

Gender: Female / Current Role: Research Assistant

WHO WAS INVOLVED?

CPD Trainer, manager.

WHAT HAPPENED?

I have been repeatedly singled out for being a part time worker, even though this is not a choice (I am told there is not enough funding for my post hours to be increased). This has included repeated jokes made at my expense, calling me a "part timer", "lazy', being asked why I can't be bothered to come in to work. During a mandatory training session the trainer also repeatedly made jokes at my expense about my part time status, inviting the rest of the group to laugh at me. I had to leave the session early as it was so uncomfortable.

HOW DID YOU FEEL AT THE TIME?

Upset, humiliated.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID YOU DO TO TRY TO RESOLVE IT?

I reported the trainer but was told I should seek to resolve the matter with him directly which I did not feel comfortable to do. I have repeatedly challenged my manager about the treatment I receive, but nothing has changed. This is perceived as a sense of humour deficit on my part.

WHO, IF ANYONE, DID YOU GO TO FOR HELP? (INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL TO YOUR ORGANISATION)

HR.

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE TO THIS?

I was advised to try to resolve the matter myself.

HOW LONG AGO DID THIS HAPPEN?

One year ago/ongoing.

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Paola

Gender: Female / Current Role: Associate Professor

WHO WAS INVOLVED?

A younger male faculty in my research centre, which is a subdivision of my department.

WHAT HAPPENED?

I was invited to be on an internal cross-disciplinary PhD studentship selection panel of my university. I served for few years some time ago, and when they asked I assumed that this younger colleague could not do it as it was very short notice and he was not around since his paternity leave. Essentially it was a 1 week notice, unexpected. I said yes. Then he was around, I spoke to the head of the research centre asking for advice as I was not aware whether he had returned etc. We agreed I’d talk to him which I did immediately. I explained what happened and he was not aware which surprised me since he was copied in the emails. I said I don’t need to do this so he could go ahead. He left it very late to clarify with the panel who explained why they included me but were okay to have him. All sorted I thought but then he asked for the meeting to be moved because he could not work on the weekend to read through the 45 applications and rank them but also because of an appointment he had. This was after 5 days of knowing about it and with the weekend left. They said the date could not be moved due to other processes. Then he asked me to do it if I could. I have family too but agreed, as senior and founding member of our centre I knew it was important to be involved. I spent the weekend doing this, went along to the long and tense meeting. He was one of the applicants with a project proposal as was I. I did not rank mine as per rules. None mine or his made it above the cut. A week later I get an email from him accusing me of disadvantaging him in my scoring. He went into the folders which he had access to but so others that could not participate in the selection. The scoring was one step in the decision-making and all scorers were at the meeting and we went through and worked more to reach a consensus. I replied saying that I could reassure him that I scored every project consistently and proposed to meet to discuss the issue. He replied in an even more aggressive tone and accusing. I repeated we should meet, perhaps with a third person in the room. Again aggressive and accusing reply rejecting the idea to talk.

HOW DID YOU FEEL AT THE TIME?

I felt bad, had insomnia and panic attacks. I felt assaulted and that my integrity and experience were undermined. I felt this was misogynistic as I do not believe he would done this so openly if I was a man and not a foreigner.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID YOU DO TO TRY TO RESOLVE IT?

I respectfully replied although I was in total shock and disbelief how he abused his position in his own interest, expecting me to be unfair and favour his project over others. 

WHO, IF ANYONE, DID YOU GO TO FOR HELP? (INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL TO YOUR ORGANISATION)

I wrote to the head of my research centre.

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE TO THIS?

He advised me how to respond calmly, as the guy refused to meet, he promised he'd talk to him. But he has not. He says the guy would have done the same to him. I have a meeting scheduled with the head soon to remind him he needs to tackle this because the panel will resume work this summer. The guy has abused his position and cannot be on it. I informed the panel chair but said I would not disclose the name because my manager was handling it informally. I suggested to take off the score sheers and think about who is given access to what. He agreed and took down the scorings.

HOW LONG AGO DID THIS HAPPEN?

8 months ago.

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