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After a series of discussions about the level of dependency of a research student on his advisor in this link and this link, a question comes to mind that when the person is graduated and leaves the university; even he is now working independently in a company or he is a faculty member of a university; as far as most of the researches he is going to do may be based on his PhD dissertation;

  • Until when should this person contact his supervisor about the researches he is doing?

  • Should he ethically acknowledge that his researches is roots of his PhD project under his advisor's supervision?

  • If, based on his dissertation, he works on a research project; should he talk about it to his supervisor and he should be aware on every single after-PhD project? Just because the base of the publication and research is the PhD dissertation which is done under his supervision?

  • To put in a nutshell, as a matter of academic ethics, what are exact rights of a supervisor in projects done based on his student's supervision (after graduation of the person)? What are the rights of the university from which the student is graduated?

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3 Answers 3

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(I think... as a mathematician...) such situations are very field-dependent, and context-dependent. If, on one hand, one's advisor is an eminent master in the field, and one has inherited/acquired/learned some amazing riffs from them, then it would be fair to acknowledge this, although co-authorship is essentially ridiculously not called-for. If, on another hand, one's thesis advisor has been no more than a funded drivers'-training instructor, then, no, do not acknowledge them every time you drive to work and do something worthwhile.

:)

And, yes, there are (at least) two things to be distinguished: formal/practical dependency, and genuine scientific dependency. Money and knowledge are often confused in academe, unfortunately. Yet, yes, money and staying alive by being able to buy groceries at the end of the work-day are real things.

An example resolution of the question: if one's advisor did no more than provide a stipend, and sign papers, then that should be appreciated, and acknowledged, but don't over-interpret it.

If, on the opposite hand, one's advisor has shaped one's outlook on the whole enterprise, this, too, should be admitted whenever relevant. But that does not entail co-authorship. And one should hope that one's advisor will not be in the state of needing to pump their stats... (Not good to have an advisor who's still in that state, in the first place.)

General guideline: be real.

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I am currently returning now to a thread of work that I started as a PhD student many years ago, but have not had opportunity to work on since then. I will not be including my advisors as authors on the new papers that result, because the work goes beyond anything that we worked on or discussed during that project. So there's no direct overlap there, and thus they have no intellectual investment in the project.

I would argue that you would continue to include the advisors if they are actively collaborating with you on the current work that you're publishing—or if the original work that you're publishing was done while you were under their supervision.

Of course, you do need to cite the previous work that you've done on the topic as part of placing the work in its appropriate context within the larger experience. You should also be notifying your advisors of your recent work because it's the smart thing to do—you should always keep mentors apprised of your ongoing research activities!

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What about the universities? Because I know that they hold all the rights of the projects their students and professors do; specially the PhD and MSc project. –  Enthusiastic Student Jul 3 at 6:23
    
Those rights don't apply when you're not enrolled. If your advisor wouldn't have rights, neither would the university. –  aeismail Jul 3 at 11:23

Until when should this person contact his supervisor about the researches he is doing?

Until this person chooses not to collaborate with their former supervisor. (Which, if the student wants to develop an independent reputation, should be about five minutes after the thesis is signed.)

Should he ethically acknowledge that his researches is roots of his PhD project under his advisor's supervision?

Of course. You should cite all prior work that your research is based on. Whether that prior work is part of your thesis is immaterial; if you build on it, cite it.

To put in a nutshell, as a matter of academic ethics, what are exact rights of a supervisor in projects done based on his student's supervision (after graduation of the person)?

Exactly the same rights as they have to work done in collaboration with any other colleague; no more and no less. They have the right to authorship on any future paper to which they have contributed (or are contributing) significant intellectual content, and other rights and responsibilities that go with authorship such as approval of the final manuscript,

However, these rights have nothing to do with their former position as an advisor/supervisor. In particular, funding, signatures on theses, and recommendation letters are not intellectual contributions.

What are the rights of the university from which the student is graduated?

Exactly the same rights that the university would have to the work of the former supervisor with any other colleague; no more and no less. If you are neither employed nor enrolled, the university has no special rights to your work.

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(Basic theories are produced in his PhD + project/paper idea was reached after his graduation from the university + no discussions between him and his adviser about the paper --> The university and his adviser have no rights on his project/paper) is this conclusion correct? –  Enthusiastic Student Jul 14 at 9:15
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It's simpler than that. No discussion with X + no use of X's resources -> X has no rights to the work. The fact that X is a former advisor is completely irrelevant. –  JeffE Jul 14 at 12:30
    
I think it is a good idea to add your comment to your answer, it directly answers my question. –  Enthusiastic Student Jul 14 at 12:33
    
I'm often surprised how often phd students think that simply having discussed an issue with the advisor automatically means that the supervisor has "contributed" to a paper. Perhaps it would also be worthwhile somewhere to have an explicit discussion about what exactly constitutes a "contribution". –  shane Jul 19 at 16:13
    
@shane I search this site for the term contribution and found many useful results about it (some of which answered my questions too); but I am not sure those results answer yours too or not. –  Enthusiastic Student Jul 21 at 9:06

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