Conference paper Open Access

How to handle abuse of power by PhD supervisors: A workshop on early career researcher's needs.

Martin R. Holst

This rapid, ongoing culture change in science, combined with the inherent dependence of PhD students from their supervisors, provides a lot of potential for conflicts. The brief report presented here is the result of a workshop that was held at the Berlin Early Career Researchers Conference ‘(In)Credible Research – for Credibility, Integrity and Reproducibility of Research’ on 29 October 2020. In the workshop, 9 early career researchers from different Berlin universities (who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic) discussed with the author about possible conflicts that can arise with supervisors. While the workshop slides focused especially on scientific conflicts, like supervisors asking PhD students to do p-hacking, not allowing them to share protocols, data, or preregister their study, or data fabrication, most of the discussion with the participants revolved around more general abuse of power, like the pressure to publish from their supervisors. The workshop aimed at providing tips and hands-on guidance how to handle these conflicts, but also what kind of system participants would wish for that provided them with tools and ability to prevent or to better handle the conflicts.

The original Google Doc that was created for this purpose, as well as the workshop slides, are available at – in this report, the participants’ needs, wishes, and general comments regarding a better system and culture are summarised.

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