I am doing a PhD with the aim of publishing about 3 papers. One is already submitted, with my supervisor being listed as a co-author. My second paper will be submitted soon. However, the subject I am treating now is beyond its scope, so he cannot help, except on improving the writing to make the paper more understandable. Recently, I spent an hour to present and explain him the entire concept of my research plus some details on calculations. He hasn't really said anything, nor provided advises.

Now, I'm worried. I would like to submit the paper without his name on it. However, I have perhaps 2 problems:

  • the last time me and my supervisor talked about publications, he told me something like "... I don't do research anymore, I rely on my PhDs for that...and publishing...", plus adding that he really wanted his name on my manuscripts. However, this is in conflict with a course I got about ethical principles in research at my university, which stipulated that one should not publish with someone that has not provided any input (reviewing being set apart).

  • my research aims at making assessment of natural resources (at the Earth scale), that will potentially be reviewed by worldwide experts in my discipline. I have faith in what I'm doing, and am pretty confident, but would a journal accept this type of work from a "simple" PhD candidate?

  • 1
    Is it the same paper as the one you are asking about here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/92906/… ? I don't really get how you can do a complete PhD on a topic that your supervisor apparently doesn't know anything about. Are you sure he isn't helping you? It's not that he needs to sit next to you when writing some code, supervisors most often help through discussions and commenting on manuscripts.
    – Mark
    Mar 21, 2018 at 9:18

1 Answer 1

  1. It is usually (I'd guess it depends on the institution, but I haven't encountered any that doesn't adhere) the case that advising a student is sufficient ground for co-authorship. Depending on different fields and individuals, there are cases when the adviser encourages or even insists on students publishing at least something by themselves (I observed it usually in theoretical fields).
  2. If the work passes the peer review, the journal will accept it. It doesn't matter whether you are a "simple PhD candidate" or a part of a team of researchers. There are even double-blind peer reviews, where the reviewers don't know your identity.

All that being said, it is often the case that you, as a student, are more familiar with the narrow thematic of your PhD research than your adviser (perhaps more than anyone in the world) and that is part of the PhD. However, your adviser guided you and it is partly due to his experience that you are able to publish something let alone to work on original research by yourself.

You said that he "hasn't really said anything, nor provided advises", could that be an indicator that you are on a good track and that he only intends to intervene if he feels you are sidetracked?

Further, I don't know any details about your research, but I can assume that you used your adviser's lab. Perhaps you were funded by his grants or worked on his projects?

Advising PhD students is a hard job and your whole PhD experience largely depended on your adviser. If you don't want to include your adviser, I would think very hard if that is merited. You could even discuss it with him. The ethical thing for your adviser is to insist on you publishing by yourself, if he feels that this is your independent work. If he does not, however, due to the lack of experience and perspective, you might not agree. At that point, it is really up to you and (the preservation of) your relationship, but I would definitely err on the side of caution and trust in my adviser's judgment (after all, he got me so far, didn't he).

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    Advising a student being grounds for co-authorship is definitely a field dependent thing. In math, it would be unheard of for that to suffice. Mar 21, 2018 at 11:42

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