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My B.Sc. thesis advisor did nothing regarding my B.Sc. thesis. I chose the topic, I have done everything on my own. He didn't even read the work or provided me with any guidance or any advice. Just passive aggression is all I gained from him. However. I want to try to publish it. But since he didn't contribute even the slightest I don't want to put his name upon it. Also, the work I submitted at the university has some minor mistakes. So if I considered publishing it, I will change some minor details. So is it ethical or it will get me into troubles?

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    How did he grade your thesis if he didn't read it? Anyway, is it common in your field that a bacherlor's thesis is sufficient material for a publication? Because in my field it usually isn't. It's pretty much impossible to publish successfully without guidance if you don't have experience. – Roland Jan 24 at 12:08
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    Who formulated the problem that is solved in your thesis? – Dmitry Savostyanov Jan 24 at 12:20
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    Unfortunately this is becoming increasingly common. False advisors who provide a couple signatures, play dead while standing in the way for years and demand lifelong reverence in return. Problem is, modern academia is more about politics than ethics or science. Decide carefully based on your next steps and how much you need this person to advance. – Scientist Jan 24 at 13:09
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    @Scientist "Unfortunately false generalisations become increasingly common". Sorry to hear that you had bad experiences, all of us had them, but it does not mean that this is worse or better than in the past. There are very nasty people, or very nice ones, and you find them all; a tour through history of science will show that to you. Academia always has been about politics in addition (sometimes to the detriment of) science. – Captain Emacs Jan 24 at 18:34
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    Why did you pick this advisor? Or was he allocated to you? – Captain Emacs Jan 24 at 18:35
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The basic rule is that you can publish your own work without limitation. You can also correct previous versions, such as drafts, or even work submitted for class or a degree.

However, there are two considerations.

The first, is that in some fields, questions can be raised about "contributions". In a chemistry lab, that is grant funded and has a lot of participants and a PI who wrote and manages the grant, it is considered proper to include many (all) of those participants, often as co-author. If you are in such a field, and depended on such things, then you need to consider the contributions that made your work possible, even if the contributions were indirect.

The second consideration is purely political, but not ethical or legal. An advisor who likes you and your work can do you a lot of good in the future, especially if you want to aim for an academic career. In such cases either an acknowledgement (even if unearned) of an advisor, or even including him/her as a co-author, might just do yourself some good in the future. An adversarial relationship with an advisor, especially when you need them for letters and such is a career killer. Having a faculty member, advisor or not, who dislikes you, whether validly or not, won't help you and could hurt.

But the advisor needs to weigh in on whether s/he wants to be a co-author. It is improper to include someone who hasn't agreed. You don't need permission for an acknowledgement, however.

My approach would be to tell the advisor that you want to publish an updated version of the work. Ask for advice in doing this. You don't need to offer co-authorship, but if it is requested, my advice would be to submit. If nothing more, the name, assuming the person has a good reputation generally, will add a bit of weight to the paper, since you are a novice at this. It can be an introduction to the bigger world.

If the advisor agrees that it can/should be published, you can ask if s/he wants to participate in improving it or if you should just go on your own. The answer you get should be instructive.

One danger here is that some people will try to take it over. Before you start on improvements, make sure that you know how authorship will work. Do this at the beginning, and keep a record of the interchange so that misunderstandings don't occur later. This is one sort of transaction where (saved) emails can be a good thing.

If you get advice not to publish it you will need to explore the reasons. It may be that the work isn't "ripe" enough for publication, even if it was fine for the degree.

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I’d tread lightly. If the advisor truly did not contribute or read it then you can try to broach the topic very diplomatically. Say something like: I want to get this project published and I think I have some valuable results. I’d really LOVE you to get involved with the project so we can submit it to a good venue. If not I completely understand and would like a chance at submitting this work myself.

If the advisor was truly uninvolved they won’t care enough to bother. In addition they may offer valuable contributions still in terms of polishing the writing (I don’t know you but I’ve never met anyone who was able to write a good paper alone on their first attempt). They can also help pick a venue, guide the literature review etc. if they haven’t already done do.

I will also advise that contributing to a paper can come in many forms. Somehow I can’t believe that the advisor contributed literally nothing of value to the paper.

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    "Somehow I can’t believe that the advisor contributed literally nothing of value to the paper." Maybe. But I would say the standard for an advisor is somehow much lower than for labmates. Have often seen advisors with low to zero contribution added as last author and more senior students who did a fair amount of mentoring and suggestion on the project not attributed at all unless they did physical work. – guest Jan 24 at 18:29
  • Somehow I can’t believe that the advisor contributed literally nothing of value to the paper. — I can easily believe that the advisor contributed nothing of sufficient value to justify co-authorship. – JeffE Jan 25 at 4:49
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You could consider to just send it in on your own. It might be a bit of an FU move. But if you are going to go that path, probably you are better off with a fait accompli versus asking for permission or making it easier for him to dispute something.

In theory everyone on a paper should have a significant contribution. But bottom line in our culture is that advisors (at least in the experimental sciences) commonly add their names to papers where they did none of the work, were just administrators. You have to decide if you want to fight city hall on that or not.

I would think for a bachelor's thesis it might be even easier given that you weren't funded, etc. Also perhaps you have minimal plans to play the academic politics game.

Finally, you should consider if you really have a publishable result and are capable of writing it up well enough for a journal. It does affect how much you want to get into a potential fight or if you even need the prof to help you some.

  • There is also the opposite: students who don't realize how much help they've had. Spending a lot of time on Academia.SE I've seen a lot of people come through who start off with "my advisor did nothing" and then on further prodding it turns out that "nothing" included suggesting the research question, giving suggestions on the approach, providing resources, etc. and the person asking the question turns out to just either not understand how research works or have expected their advisor to do their work for them. Without knowing the situation it's hard for us to judge hearing one side. – Bryan Krause Jan 24 at 20:10
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    Providing resources is not actual science work by most journals. It's funding. I would also contest "suggested the topic" as significant contribution. Somehow this only applies to Ph.D. advisors, not labmates or external parties. (I could suggest a long list of good studies, but that doesn't mean I should be coauthor. – guest Jan 24 at 20:40
  • Of COURSE the individual circumstances vary. But I maintain that many advisor names go on papers where they would not absent the funding and power structure and tribal customs. It's OK. Just how the world works. – guest Jan 24 at 20:41
  • Standards for authorship vary by field, but often knowing what to study and how to approach it is more of an intellectual contribution than actually completing the work. By resources I didn't mean simply financial resources but other things like data and software, the collection and writing of which can be a substantial contribution to a work. – Bryan Krause Jan 25 at 17:13

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