Earlier this year I started writing my first article with a former professor of mine. The article is almost done, but until now he hasn't written a single sentence or provided any data. It has been all my work. We have met about 10 times where each meeting lasted about 90 minutes to discuss the progress of the article, and I have to recognize that during these meetings his advice shaped some of my ideas , especially regarding the research question. I know he has spent his time in this work, but I don't think that qualifies as authorship on the article, and I'm not sure what to do about this. I appreciate any advice you can give me on how to act on this issue.

So in general:

If a professor meets with you a few times to assist you in writing a paper but does not do any actual writing, is this sufficient to justify him being an author?

  • What did he say when you asked him. He knows more about authorship than you. – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 10 '18 at 20:56
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    You can check what's the common practice among your peers. In my experience what you describe is fairly common in my field. If you feel that's not a fair collaboration, just evade this person next time. – Scientist Oct 10 '18 at 21:08
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    Your specific field can influence what is typical for authorship. – Bryan Krause Oct 10 '18 at 22:12
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    just to clarify: 10 * 90 minute meetings or 10 * 9 minute meetings? – Jeromy Anglim Oct 11 '18 at 0:56
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    Assuming it is 10*90: that's 15 hours. In my experience, that's quite a lot of time for a faculty member to spend on a research project with a student. "I have to recognize that during these meetings his advice shaped some of my ideas, especially regarding the research question." To me, this seems to somewhat underplay the help you must have gotten in order to schedule so many 90 minute meetings. Obviously what was said matters much more than how much time was spent, but I think a coauthorship claim deserves some consideration. – Pete L. Clark Oct 11 '18 at 3:18

The content of those meetings is largely going to be the answer to your question, and we can't really know the content of those meetings. There's a case to be made that those discussions helped form things, and he doesn't sound otherwise problematic, so I think it's likely worth just making him an author and moving on.

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    Indeed. In 10 90-minute meetings likely a lot got discussed that ended up in the paper. Not to mention whatever else happened before work on the paper ever started. At worst the professor will decline to be an author. – Jon Custer Oct 10 '18 at 20:48

Actually, you should ask him what are his expectations and follow his advice. Certainly he has contributed, probably substantially, to the work. The writing isn't everything. The ideas that it embodies are.

If he wants to be your co-author, do that. You didn't say anything in your question about his expectations. But also, think of the future. If his continued guidance is helpful to you then you should be happy to co-author papers with him. But if you can carry on alone, you can do that too.

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    If he is generous and mentoring he'll say "it's yours" when you ask. In which case thank him with a generous footnote. – Ethan Bolker Oct 11 '18 at 0:56