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My situation: I have finished university more than 10 years ago. I work for company X. I also own a small startup company called Y (no employees). I am in the process of publishing a paper and I was asked to provide an affiliation. Not providing one is not an option, in the sense it's a mandatory field on the form. I asked X and X said no, as I worked on the paper in my spare time.

Does it make sense to use Y as my affiliation (which is 100% true though not necessarily relevant)? The other option would be to try with something like "Independent researcher" and hope the journal is fine with it (idea came from here; example).

Relevant questions:

  1. Does one need to be affiliated with a university to publish papers?
  2. Using home address when submitting an article with no affiliation?
  • 3
    Yes it's fine. I think the questions you linked answer this one. – Cape Code Sep 24 '18 at 10:38
  • Note ... the address you include in the paper should be somewhere you can be contacted in the future. Perhaps years in the future. – GEdgar Sep 24 '18 at 10:46
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    @GEdgar that's a good idea in principle, but in practice a significant fraction of scientists are postdocs or PhD students with short-term contracts and no idea where they will be in 3 years. – fqq Sep 24 '18 at 10:52
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    @GEdgar There's been no mention of an address – user2768 Sep 24 '18 at 11:42
  • There was a guy, who noted the address of a jail as an address for correspondence in a research paper. If an in-mate can do this and it's obviously Ok, you are fine anyway. – Oleg Lobachev Sep 27 '18 at 22:14
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I was asked to provide an affiliation [for a paper]. Not providing one is not an option, in the sense it's a mandatory field on the form.

You could write N/A or unaffiliated, since this seems like the most relevant answer.

Does it make sense to use [my startup] as my affiliation (which is 100% true though not necessarily relevant)?

Just like your employer decided that they didn't want their company name on your paper, you should consider whether you want your startup name on your paper.


On an aside, I wonder whether an employer (generally) has the right to deny an employee of listing the employer as their affiliation. (Some employers -- especially those in R&D -- will explicitly define contractual conditions, but generally they will not.)

  • Extrapolating from that an employer can "set free" an invention the employee makes (at least that's how things work over here in Germany), I'd think they should be able to do the same with a paper. – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 24 '18 at 15:33
  • @cbeleites An employer can make many things happen, but I'd like to consider the general case. (To my knowledge, inventions are always owned by inventors, not employers. But, contractual clauses can be defined to enable sale of inventions to employers.) – user2768 Sep 24 '18 at 17:55
  • that depends a lot on legislation. Here in Germany, this is the general case in the sense that the legal default for both inventions and copyright-relevant IP is that as soon as it is relevant to the employer's business, it is theirs to exploit (including software written in the employee's free time!). The employment contract can assign these rights to the employee (highly non-standard), or the employer can declare on a case-by-case basis they don't want it. (In case of inventions: 3 weeks to decide) And there has to be fair compensation... – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 24 '18 at 19:12
  • ... But if the employer says they don't want to have anything to do with it, I don't see how the employer can be affiliation for the paper. The fact that the inventor/author will always stay inventor/author is "bound" to the person, not to their employer in any case. – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 24 '18 at 19:14
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    I've asked a question how much of a connection between paper and institution an affiliation implies: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/117429/… – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 25 '18 at 11:34
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It sounds like the actual subject of your paper has nothing to do with your work on startup Y. In that case, I think it‘s more accurate to report your affiliation as “independent researcher”, “no affiliation”, or “N/A”. Readers of the journal simply aren’t going to care about your connection to the startup in a completely unrelated context; why distract them with irrelevant information?

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I would use Y as my affiliation just to advertise my startup (this reason was not mentioned in the other answers).

I think readers do not care one way or another what the affiliation is - I certainly don't. No need to overthink this, it is also fine to add Independent researcher or No affiliation.

  • Using Y for advertising might backfire, as I mentioned "Just like your employer decided that they didn't want their company name on your paper, you should consider whether you want your startup name on your paper." – user2768 Sep 28 '18 at 7:03
  • @user2768 What specific form will the backfiring take? Would some reader of the paper think less of the firm Y because it is the author's affiliation? Will someone Googling for firm Y and finding it as an affiliation on the paper think negatively of Y? – Sander Heinsalu Sep 29 '18 at 3:47
  • Numerous backfires are possible. One backfire tied to this particular instance is that readers might question why the startup owner is working on something completely irrelevant to the startup. Company owners should consider what they want associated with their name and only associate such material. – user2768 Oct 1 '18 at 7:23

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