An arch nemesis just moved into a subfield in which I have been working for years.

This is a very bad person whom I’ve been very lucky to mostly avoid thus far, since we’ve been in mostly nonoverlapping subfields. Until now. Now he’s encroaching on my  terrain— it’s not mine, obviously, as subfields don’t belong to anyone, but between him and me, I was definitely here first by many years and many papers, and I definitely didn’t mind not having a$$holes of his caliber in it.

The thing is, I am not a vindictive prick. I just got his paper to handle as an editor and I sent it out to competent people in the field, as I always do. He’ll get good, thorough reviews. I do NOT believe for a second that he’d do the same in my position.

I know this person and I do not want any of my stuff reviewed or handled by him in any way, because he’s mean and petty and an a$$hole and just overall an awful human being. He’s the kind of guy who climbs up the rectum of those he perceives as bigwigs but is dismissive and sometimes downright abusive to unaccompanied students and postdocs giving talks at conferences, to staff in charge of registration or A/V, to waiters at restaurants… Basically, a narcissist who is just terrible to anyone whom he doesn’t perceive as directly beneficial to him.

I guess another blacklisted reviewer for NSF panels.

I know this is irrational, but I feel really threatened by this development. It makes me want to abandon this body of work and flee. I won’t do it, but that’s definitely what my gut would choose if it had a say in the matter.

Thoughts? Shouts and murmurs? 


  1. Sorry to hear. The apt term for such people is “asymmetric asshole”. i.e. only an asshole to those subordinate to them / or to folks who cannot help them advance. The other category of course are the “spherical bastards” – a term attributed to Fritz Zwicky. He called them thus because any way you looked at them, they were bastards..

    Definitely do not flee!

  2. Ugh. Sorry. One bad apple can really spoil a whole field. I wouldn’t desert it just yet — he might dabble and then move on. And depending on how big the field is, you might not have to interact with him much. I’ve got an arch nemesis in my field that I can’t stand, but he works in another country and nobody else can stand him either so I haven’t had to interact with him much (nobody else wants him on organizing committees or review panels or editorial boards either). Here’s hoping he leaves as quickly as he arrived!

  3. a1b1: Wonderful. I’m working over the mental image of a “cone-shaped” asshole now.

  4. I’m now really curious how this person achieved arch-nemesis status. Clearly he must have further claims to the title than being an asshole.

  5. RFon, he’s not exclusively my arch nemesis; I think quite a few people think of him that way. In interactions with me, he’s never been anything but rude, dismissive, and condescending. He acts as if I am the $hit on his shoe. He’s like that to many people of his seniority or junior, also staff etc., but generally not to older faculty. Just a nasty piece of work.

  6. Your title says it all. UGH. What an unfortunate development. I think your desire to flee is understandable. Jerks like this can really poison things. It isn’t quite the same, but I have a short list of people I will never, ever work with again: If I’m working some place that wants to hire them, I will inform people I’ll leave if they hire that person. And I’ll follow through.

  7. We had a big name guy come into our dept who did very overlapping work to me (I was about 3yrs into my first appt). He was arrogant and narcissistic – told me that he had data that I was welcome to write up for him (wtf? I had my own research program). Fortunately he only lasted 3 years (which was what was expected, given his track record) – and his reputation began to precede him. He had tenure revoked at our institution and has not been hired elsewhere since. Officially “retired” – from lack of people wanting to deal with his crap. I can completely empathize with the “intrusion” into your area… hopefully your interactions with the person will be minimal!

  8. That really sucks, but the feeling of destroying someone that doesn’t deserve their praise is really awesome. They’re the newbie with no street cred and politics aside you have the ability to lap the person. I haven’t had to do this yet, but my old adviser took a tactic of teaming up with a superior person in the field and they made an Avengers-esque team that beat him to every punch. It was pretty great to see from an outsider’s perspective. It was so dirty but so satisfying

  9. Wonderful. An asshole story. I have one for you. A colleague wrote a paper for the research that I started with a student. Then built on it (i.e. did some experiments) and now has written the paper with being the senior author.

    How convenient to take ideas and a foundation of work and then build on it with petty experiments and then claim senior authorship. bitch !

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