Your work, but his name

The following anecdote is from Female Science Professor.  It could be a variation on the “in meetings no one notices my remark, but when a male says it, it is taken seriously.”  The story below in fact sounds very much like what John Dovidio recounts happens to people seen as outsiders; insiders don’t remember them and what they say

I’m wondering if there are other variations you would like to share.  If you’ve already put one on the What Is it Like blog, then do realize the tale probably bears repeating.

Not long ago, a Great Man of Science came to my department, gave some talks, and met with faculty, students, and researchers. I have met him before, most recently ~ 6 months ago, but we do not know each other well at all.

I expected him to be familiar with only one part of my research; i.e., research on topic X, as it was in the context of my work on X that we most recently met. Therefore, during my individual meeting with him in my office, I was amazed to hear him say:

My good friend, Other Great Man of Science, is doing some really interesting work on X right now. In fact, he is transforming the way we think about X, and has some recent results that are very exciting.

I was stunned when he said this, and sought clarification. I thought maybe I heard him wrong or somehow misunderstood.

I was stunned because he was talking about my research group’s work on X.

The interesting ideas and results have not been generated by my collaborator, Other Great Man of Science, who is at another university. In fact, the exciting results are primarily the work of one of my recent PhD students, as part of her doctoral thesis work.

Other Great Man of Science was a collaborator on the NSF grant that funded this work, but he has not been the most active member of the group and has not been a driving force behind the research. In fact, although I enjoy working with Other Great Man, his part of the project has been lagging.

My PhD student (now graduated) has been the most visible person doing this research and making the interesting discoveries and interpretations. Great Man also met her 6 months ago and saw her present her research results, at length. Yet Great Man erased her from his perception of the collaboration as well. In his mind, the only person worth remembering or mentioning is Other Great Man of Science.

It was surreal to have my group’s research described to me by someone else and attributed to a colleague, as if my student and I did not exist.

My ego, which is generally healthy but not too huge on most days, was wounded, but not mortally so, as I am dealing with the situation by wallowing in outrage and contempt for this particular Great Man of Science (as a person, not as a scientist).

I hasten to say that Other Great Man of Science is not responsible fo r this situation…It is Great Man of Science’s perception of the research that is the problem. He sees his famous friend; the rest of us either don’t exist or can’t possibly be important.

I’ll start adding other examples with a really odd example (I think):   Prof. X responded at a conference  to a paper of mine which had a fairly distinctive thesis; next year X published a paper arguing against that thesis.  No mention of me, or anyone else.  It was a “someone might think, but that would be wrong” paper.   It felt very strange, and indeed irritating,  to read it.