I'm doing a PhD with a professor with serious funding problems. He invited me to prepare a presentation for a conference, making it clear that he wouldn't pay for my travel expenses. I, in turn, replied that I didn't have the money to travel to that conference. He offered that another student go present my research because that student, unlike me, is ready to pay for the travel expenses.

My professor claims it to be common practice, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a student who didn't contribute the slightest bit to my research will be presenting my results. Is it really common practice? What do you think about that offer?

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    It is not so uncommon to see people presenting on behalf of others (mostly because of visa or funding issues). The main point here is to clearly state during the other student's presentation (and also in the proceedings) that you are the author.
    – Jose Leon
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 6:16
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    It isn't necessary unusual for others to present your work if funding is the problem. Equally well, your supervisor can present your work as well. As long as you are named as the author I don't see a problem.
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 6:42
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    Please note that many conferences have some kind of hardship fund aimed at those who would like to attend but could not otherwise afford to go. It would be worth investigating this if you have not done so already. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 10:19
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    Reminder to everyone: answer in answers, not in comments. Comments don't have the quality assurance mechanisms that answers do.
    – user8283
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 3:32
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    A common requirement for conferences in CS/ES/CPS is that the presenter is listed on the paper as an author. Does the professor also require that the presenter would become a co-author? I would personally find that unacceptable.
    – Joost
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 9:11

8 Answers 8


In my experience, it is very common for one person to present someone else's conference talk. I know this happens because at about 5% of talks speaker announces they are doing it at the beginning of the talk. The reason for this occurring is not usually given. I would guess the most common reason is that the original speaker changed jobs or graduated, and is no longer able to attend. I suspect that some speakers wish to give more talks (usually there is a limit of one or two per speaker), so they ask their students who are not able to attend to submit talks for them, and then change the speaker at the last minute.

Personally, I have given talks for colleagues twice. The first time, the colleague was having a baby (it's mysterious why he didn't know this until a month before the conference) and I gave his talk. In the second case, the colleague quit science altogether well before the conference. We asked the conference to remove his abstract and put a new one, with a new author list, in its place. I made the talk from scratch, with limited content about his work.

I think your professor's proposal is reasonable, but that it would also be reasonable to refuse or to specify how you would like to be credited. But in my field, conference talks have near zero prestige. Computer scientists see things differently.

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    Computer scientists see things differently. Even in CS, what is important is being an author of a paper that appears in the conference proceedings. Who gives the talk is of less importance I would say, as long as it does not conflict with the rules set by the conference (and perhaps does not differ much in prestige from other fields). Of course attending conferences can be important for other reasons, (say, networking).
    – user53923
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 14:00
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    It is a normal thing that during pregnancy, the pregnant party may experience events or emotions that cause the non-pregnant partner to make significant changes to existing plans. Perhaps you were joking at not being able to figure out a reason?
    – iheanyi
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 14:18
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    @iheanyi ... or even just had highly unrealistic expectations of what his free time as a parent of a newborn would look like. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:17
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    @iheanyi You are right that pregnancies can have unexpected complications, but apparently the event was the baby's due date. I thought people usually figured that out a bit further in advance. I didn't feel a need to ask him about it. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 8:57
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    @AnonymousPhysicist due dates are not an exact science unless you're doing an induction, in which case you will induce labor at a date you choose within a particular window. Even then, there's no guarantee the baby won't come early. Essentially, even if you know the exact date of conception and get assigned a due date 40 weeks out, there's still +/- 2 weeks around that, especially on first births, where the baby could actually arrive (that would still be normal). Given that many (unless diligently "trying") don't know the conception date, due dates can have an additional week or so of error.
    – iheanyi
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 14:20

"What do you think about that offer?"

I would accept the offer.

TDLR; I would see it is a good way to maximize the impact of my work.

Indeed, the more people talk about your work the better it is. In the end of the day, it is the paper which is cited and not the talk. In particular, if this is your work, you'll probably be (first) author. Furthermore, I'd be happy to know that there will be one more person who knows how to the use tools I'm creating. Also, if the person presenting the work gets nice contacts/collaborations thanks to the talk, you may get involved you as well. In any case, it is better than nothing.


That is a common practice, and actually a very bad practice in many ways.

First, the replacement will generally know less than you do for your work, and also will be reluctant to present it others.

Second, you will miss the opportunity to get to know more people related to your research interests, it is actually all about conferences, otherwise, in my eyes, meaningless. If your replacement is related to your research, s/he will unintentionally steal your prospective milieu with your work. That is a bitter reality.

Third, it is actually a wonderful experience to present your work to a foreign but relevant crowd. You will miss that too.

Well authorship is actually not important in similar circumstances, I had a poster presentation with my and other Ph.D. student's authorship, another irrelevant one "presented" it and only said that " no one was interested in topic" and everyone admitted that "oh it is normal, poster presentations are like that". If you are unable to sell it, of course it would be so.

It will still fill your resume if you put authorship, but it would be better to postpone it and search for travel grants.


I would be very concerned about maintaining authorship of the work, especially in fields like computer science where conferences are taken really seriously. There may be some work-around -- for example, letting the other student present it "on your behalf" with you as first author. In your case, though, it sounds like this other student doesn't even deserve to be listed as an author.

Note, this may vary a bit by field. I did my PhD in particle physics, where our whole experiment shared data, and our (large) group shared code, results, etc. In such cases, all our names went on all the reports, even ones we weren't personally involved in. Results from many different studies would frequently be amalgamated into one talk with one speaker. Having one student present another's work would be unusual, but not unthinkable -- in this field, it was the group's work, not the individual. I believe this is unusual, however.

  • 2
    especially in fields like computer science where conferences are taken really seriously — Again: It isn't the conference talk that's taken seriously, but the paper in the conference proceedings. And authorship of the paper is unaffected by the identity of the speaker, even if the speaker tries to claim credit during the talk.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 4:41
  • Indeed, I've seen it in plenty of times at NLP conferences, people presenting on work that they are not on the author list at all. (and that is not to mention the very common case of the 2nd or 3rd author presenting) Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 4:43

It depends on the field as to whether this is common practice. I have been to a number of conferences where a presentation/paper has been delivered on behalf of another person.

On each occasion, the slides were done the same as if it were the author delivering the presentation. On most of the occasions, the proxy presenter was also presenting their own paper in addition to that of the colleague who, for whatever reason, were unable to attend and present their work themself. I have only occasionally seen a conference attendee present a paper on behalf of someone else when they were not also presenting their own work. But in all cases the conference guide/abstracts booklet showed Title, Author with sometimes a presented by ... note.


I do recall some papers presented on proxy during conferences I attended during undergrad. There were also some other presentations that were presented by the researchers themselves on Skype. If someone is presenting your research paper on your behalf, it is no harm in asking for the session to be videoed real time for you with due credits to your name in the introduction and the conclusion.

These could be two options you could explore. You could also proactively come up with arrangements for answering questions if there is a question and answer round after.


I admit to little experience with this, having not missed an opportunity to present or presented on someone else's behalf. In my field (which is not a scientific area of academia,) this would not be a big deal. But it is fairly uncommon, just because remote appearance is now so easy. It is routine for a presenter to appear via video uplink (generally with at least one other person in the room to take over the presentation if technical glitches make that necessary).

I do not know if it is common practice in your area. As to what I think of the offer - it seems legit, provided you can submit your own paper (with pride of authorship) to the proceedings, and direct the presentation. It might be appropriate for you to actually construct any visual aids or presentation materials (and put your name all over them, if you are concerned about attribution). Put an acknowledgement somewhere public, if you like ("I am grateful to Joe Dokes for presenting my paper and findings at the 2018 Schmoochuckers Conference, which I regrettably was unable to attend.") On your own or the project website, put in some detail about it ("Joe Dokes, who is not normally a member of the project team, will present my paper and findings at the 2018 Schmoochuckers Conference. Please attend if you are able, and if not or if you would like to learn more about our work, please connect with the principal author, Starmare.") If your findings are significant, and it appears your advisor believes them to be, that is very good news! Congratulations, and take the opportunity to get the word out.


Since you are doing a PhD it is likely that you are considering a potential future as TT faculty or researcher? A job in which your expertise on a particular field is your Intellectual Property and recognition of which is part of the basis for gaining funding for grants and facilitating authorship in peer-reviewed journals that lead to your ability to gain tenure and access to better jobs? Then consider carefully the importance of protecting your own hard work and IP and do not sacrifice it to another PhD student (effectively your competition, whether you are friends or not). Of course they are willing to present on someone else's work and gain that recognition -- they would put it on their CV, right? -- without putting in the effort that goes behind it! You should be able to politely and respectfully decline this request. And if the faculty you are working with pressures or threatens you despite misgivings you might have, that is sketch. They are looking out for their own interests, not yours, and if it continues to be a problem consider take it to a higher power (your university ombudsperson might be able to offer suggestions) or finding someone else to work with if you are early in your PhD program. Now, it does not appear to apply in this case, but if you both are working on the same project and the other student is presenting on content that they have worked on and covering some topics that you are working on as well (with proper attribution), that is a different matter altogether.

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