Papers published from an academic project (MSc or PhD) usually have two authors; the first author is the student who mainly conducted the research, and the second author is the professor who supervised the projects.

The corresponding author is the one who take the responsibility of a paper, and thus, some believe that students are not yet prepared to take this responsibility.

Ideally, who should be corresponding author for papers published by MSc or PhD projects?

I understand that it mainly depends on personal agreements and preferences, but I want to know which case is more reasonable from academic logic?

  • 2
    If students are not yet prepared, how can they ever prepare unless they're going to be corresponding author?
    – gerrit
    Sep 3, 2013 at 22:12
  • 9
    “Papers published from an academic project usually have two authors”sometimes, but not usually
    – F'x
    Sep 3, 2013 at 22:19
  • 1
    @F'x I wanted to define a simplified example.
    – Googlebot
    Sep 3, 2013 at 22:24
  • 2
    @fedja: So then why are some answers talking about people still being around 5-10 years later?
    – JeffE
    Sep 5, 2013 at 2:19
  • 3
    corresponding author is responsible to answer questions of both editors and readers — Weird. In my field, that's the responsibility of all authors.
    – JeffE
    Sep 24, 2013 at 13:40

9 Answers 9


Since the ordering of authors differs between fields the meaning and usefulness of a corresponding author also varies. In fields I am familiar with, the corresponding author is usually the same as the "first author" (quotes because it may not be literally the first). Many journals therefore do not explicitly identify a first author unless different from the "first". There are then several cases where the corresponding author may need to be identified. One example is when a person lacking a permanent academic address is first author. Then the supervisor may take on the responsibility for the paper and be corresponding author. This can be important since it can be near impossible to track down someone who has left academia and so the supervisor stands for continuity in terms of contact. There are many variants on this and in some cases, a person heading a project or who by legal obligations carries responsibility for a project may be identified as corresponding author. This could be the case with some governmental organisations where communications are funnelled through hierarchies for bureaucratic reasons. I am sure there are lots of examples good and bad but the main purpose of identifying corresponding author, unless first, is so that anyone requiring more information can go directly to the main source for such.

So based on this background and the field you are in you may find a good way to determine corresponding author. In most cases, I would say it is the person who has done the most work, or the one who "owns" the project. It is not clear in some cases whether it is the student or the advisor who should be corresponding author. One also has to weigh in the intellectual work behind the project as a whole and from that perspective the person who has done the work, perhaps a detail in a much bigger perspective, may not be the appropriate person for details although that person has done most of the work for the paper in question. So in some cases the question is definitely harder to answer. Not being corresponding author, does not necessarily detract much from being first author since such details are not visible in literature searches and CVs.


"The corresponding author is the one who take the responsibility of a paper". I've never heard this before. For example: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2010_04_16/caredit.a1000039 says "The corresponding author is the point of contact for editors, readers, and outside researchers who have questions about the contents of the paper. Often, the corresponding author is also the last author, but she or he may be listed first or even in the middle of the author list."

All authors take responsibility for the paper (or should). The point of the corresponding author is who to contact if you want to correspond about the paper. If this were someone who was likely to move institution (because they are finishing, or have finished their study), they are going to be hard to contact, so make it someone who's likely to hang around for a while. I've never seen anyone take any notice of who the corresponding author is.

  • 6
    They can give their permanent contact addresses not their current affiliation that they will change soon. That's why some people put their Gmail or yahoo mail addresses in their papers!
    – sajjadG
    Sep 24, 2013 at 13:13

I was always the corresponding author; my advisor(s) thought it was good for me, and they had other things to do than to fiddle around with LaTeX...

So, to answer your question, I think it is good for phd students to be the corresponding author; besides, if there is any trouble, you have always your advisor/coauthor to ask.

  • I think this conflates the author who is doing the actual submission process (almost always the trainee) with the person with email address listed on the paper (in my experience, often the supervisor even if the trainee went through the forms).
    – AJK
    Jan 2, 2017 at 0:45

It varies widely, not only on your field's customs, but also on individual research groups. In the research groups I have worked in, and worked with, in chemical engineering, the corresponding author is usually the most “perennial” researcher, i.e. usually the PI/professor. The idea is to ensure that the corresponding author is a faculty member, meaning he is the person most likely to still be around in 5 to 10 years' time to answer questions about the work. (In that time, PhD students and post-docs may change field completely, exit academia, etc.)

Also, the PI is usually the one who gets to keep the archives (raw data, lab notebooks, etc.) in the long term, so it makes sense that way.


I think it mostly depends upon the mutual understanding between the supervisor(PI) and the student. I had a similar case with my PhD colleague. She wanted to be a corresponding author but the adviser of the study group (a large scale multidisciplinary study) denied which could be due to the factors mentioned above such as: the PI will be staying there at least for few years however the student might leave the institute or even academia.

In my opinion, it is very helpful for a PhD student be the corresponding author because being a corresponding author will improve some skills: experience in answering critiques from the reviewers, writing, giving reasonable explanations and so on. More importantly, it is the student who did most of the work for the publication and will be able to give answers to most of the queries from the reviewers.


This is something that ought to be agreed on in discussion between the student and supervising professor. Ideally, this decision should be made from the start of the research.

In my own situation, when I was completing my PhD, the 4 papers published had me as both the first author and corresponding author. My advisor told me that part of the research process would be to field any and all questions, concerns and queries that come from the paper.

Edited (in response to question edit): From an academic point of view, it can be argued that the student is the primary researcher, hence expert in that specific topic, hence would be the only one who can completely answer any questions.


I'm (as the postgrad and lead author) the corresponding author on a paper, rather than my supervisor, which is common here. I've had a few queries on the experiment and equipment, which realistically, as I did the work, and I'm not so busy as my supervisor I'm better placed to deal with.


When I was working as senior resident,the department head was the first author and also the corresponding author in all the scientific papers written by me. I thought that a senior person is better placed to answer any outside researcher's question easily and be available for years instead of a student who is likely to leave the institution once study period is completed. But once the internet facility has come, the point of being permanent or regular has become irrelevant and anybody can be contacted anywhere over E-mail.I feel that only those with maximum involvement in the scientific work should be the corresponding author as he only knows well about the work and can give reply on his own to any outside researcher's question regarding the contents of the paper.


Most of the time students never know how, what and where to write,they purely depends upon their supervisor,who is directly involved in this exercise.Paying regards is another factor that is also linked and making a segregation in teacher and taught is a good practice.Supervising any task is not easy,it requires complete involvement in form of legal, responsibilities & other issues as well.Therefore CA deserve proper place with dignity in research papers as it also carries a message.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .