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If a PhD student is working on a research project which is neither related to his thesis topic, nor supported by the university in which he is studying or a faculty member; Does he have the right to use his academic affiliation and contact email?

There are two points here,

  • If the student is using the university facilities, he may acknowledge that support in the Acknowledgement section of his paper not by using the university affiliation.
  • The university in which the student is studying in doesn't necessarily want to be associated with whatever research he does in his free hours.

P.S.: Does this consideration apply to the researchers who work in a research institute or company?

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The more general version of this question has been asked and answered. I believe this may be a duplicate. – ff524 Jul 20 '14 at 22:43
To comment on your PS. A researcher in a company would almost certainly not be permitted to use the company name as affiliation for research that is not endorsed by the company. – Peter Jansson Jul 20 '14 at 22:46
The question is "what are criterion for including affiliation," and the accepted answer detailed when you must and when you may include an affiliation. – ff524 Jul 20 '14 at 22:50
If this is legitimate research, and you used university resources of any kind, couldn't the university actually require you to use their affiliation. They can certainly require you to give them a share in any patent rights. – Peter Shor Jul 21 '14 at 2:17
If the student has a graduate assistantship, then it would be normal for the student to use the sponsoring university as her affiliation. – Oswald Veblen Jul 21 '14 at 13:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted


The affiliation serves two purposes: acknowledgement and identification.

Even if it is not part of your thesis research, if you are receiving resources of any kind from your institution, you should list them as your affiliation. These resources include money (whether directly related to your research or not), computing equipment, internet access, printer access, electricity, phones, faculty and student colleagues (whether coauthors or not), library access (either physical or electronic), whiteboards, local coffee shops/bars, and the general intellectual atmosphere that encourages you to do research in the first place. You can afford to be generous.

Also, the affiliation helps identify you as an author, especially if you have a common name, or you publish other papers with the same affiliation.

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My PhD advisor, most of my former PhD students, and I all published papers as students without any faculty member's contribution. This is not only completely, utterly, absolutely normal and accepted practice in my field, but strongly encouraged practice, at every one of the 11 institutions (7 in the US, 4 in Europe) where I have been affiliated, as a student, postdoc, faculty, or sabbatical visitor. Researchers should be allowed to submit their research for publication without interference from their university. Whether they are faculty, students, or janitors is utterly irrelevant. – JeffE Jul 22 '14 at 3:13

First step: Ask your (1) advisor or (2) the department head or (3) both. Since you are not faculty, you may have to get permission to use the departmental affiliation for something that is outside your project. As long as this involves ethical and legitimate research I am sure it is not a problem. The department or university may have guidelines for publishing ethics which you may want to check as well. So, although there may not even be a problem, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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you may have to get permission — What?? – JeffE Jul 21 '14 at 12:59
@JeffE In some places there is such law (e.g. in mine). Usually it is a formality (I guess to protect themselves against people publishing substandard things). – Piotr Migdal Jul 21 '14 at 14:47
I must say that I am learning from these answers how shabbily graduate students are treated in some parts of the world. Also the protection from substandard work ought to be the refereeing process, not some university regulations! This makes me sad... – Pete L. Clark Jul 21 '14 at 23:09

It can just be published as "unsponsored research". If they value their relationships highly though, they should dialog with their professors.

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One could be doing research outside of work hours, then the university would not be sponsoring that research. – Davidmh Jul 21 '14 at 13:59
@Davidmh: that may depend on the field somewhat, but in my field of math it would be bizarre to try to separate "work hours" from other hours - research happens on its own schedule. Perhaps a laboratory scientist could separate time in the lab from time at home, but then how would they do research at home? – Oswald Veblen Jul 21 '14 at 14:21
@Davidmh As soon as you once download a paper from a paid website or use a paid search service, you are sponsored by the university. – yo' Jul 21 '14 at 17:27
@Davidmh: that's not how academic research works; faculty don't separate "paid" research and "unpaid" research - e.g. summer research, even if "unpaid", is still affiliated with the institution. (Also, the typical faculty workload according to many studies is about 55 hours per week, much more than 39.) This is one reason that the premise underlying the OP's question is hard to understand - assuming you have only one job, and the job is at a university, that university is normally the affiliation for all your academic work. – Oswald Veblen Jul 21 '14 at 17:41
@MarkJ Affiliation has nothing to do with "sponsorship". – JeffE Jul 22 '14 at 3:23

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