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About 5 years ago, I did a Masters of Research (MRes) part of which was a supervised research project. Because of time constraints (Masters degrees are only one year in the UK) I was unable to gather enough data to generate any publishable material (though I did produce a thesis which I believe is in the university library probably gathering dust).

Fast forward to today, and after a lengthy break from academia I'm now doing a PhD at a completely different university at the other end of the country, but in the same field. I would like to (workload permitting) try and finish what I started and publish a paper from it using the expertise and equipment I have available. My concern is because this is a continuation of research started a long time ago at another university, whether this would present any issues or barriers to publication or even conducting the research itself.

Regarding my previous supervisor, I am intending to inform him of my intentions at least as a courtesy, and I honestly can't imagine he'd have any objection, but if he did, would I have trouble publishing any work from it? Would the university itself have any grievances? Some of the work he did on the project concerned a novel sensor design which was mostly unrelated to the main scope of the project, I will not be including this work in my publication, would this be a problem?

I'm also wondering how to credit him. Since I'll be writing a new paper from scratch, I'm not sure if I should include him as a co-author. I would at least like to include him in the acknowledgements if it's appropriate.

My current supervisor is happy for me to do this as a side project, so there are no issues there.

P.S. Before anyone asks, yes I have done due diligence and checked that my research is still novel (so I've not been "scooped" by someone else).

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    If I were you, I would suggest to your previous supervisor to make him a co-author if he gives some help in the redaction process of the new version of the paper. He did contribute to generating the data of the previous work (or at least supervised you while you were doing this). This way he will be informed of the process and there are few reason he would refuse such an offer. If he refuses he will most likely just go ahead and offer your to write it on your own without his name. – BlaB Dec 12 '17 at 18:52
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There should be no problem whatsoever, but it would be correct to both inform your previous supervisor and make him/her a co-author. Importantly, they should read and be allowed to suggest edits to your manuscript which may both enhance it scientifically and its chances of success at review. It's a win-win approach in my experience since you both benefit. In no way does this dilute the level of your 'ownership' of the paper or your intellectual input, and indeed, if your supervisor is well known in their field, you may also benefit from the association.

  • Thanks. My previous supervisor is from a physics background though he did teach robotics classes. He originally wanted to put in details about a novel sensor in a paper along with my research, which was something else entirely. I personally thought this was a bad idea, not that his idea was bad, but that it belonged in a separate paper. I honestly think any paper that combined the two would be rejected on the basis that the two topics in the paper are unrelated. I suspect he's probably already published his findings on that, so I hope he's not going to try and add it in to this one. – Crazymoomin Dec 18 '17 at 11:18
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When I first started my Master's degree, my research design class had an assignment that required students to discuss topics like this with their advisor. I can't speak for the UK, but in my case at an American university, my research was funded by a grant my advisor received, so the university technically owns the data (along with the outside group that funded my particular project). Just because I worked on the project does not mean I have a legal right to use the data as I wish. So unless you can unequivocally state that you have a legal right to the data, I would strongly suggest clearing it with your former advisor before trying to do anything with it.

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    My masters was not funded, I paid for it myself. – Crazymoomin Dec 19 '17 at 8:27
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    Talk to your old supervisor, say what you have in mind and try to come to an agreement regarding the nature of your proposed paper. Collaboration and cooperation are so important in research and forging links the key to success in future. – OldDoc Dec 19 '17 at 15:03

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