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I recently got acceptance in an SCI journal, and my professor has told me that he will be a corresponding author (CA) even though I have done almost all the work.

Does not being the corresponding author hurt my chances, as I am looking to start an academic career very soon. Should I ask my professor to be the CA instead?

My professor is a real nice guy and has taught me a lot, but I am concerned in this case. Any suggestions?

Edit: My field is Electrical Engineering and Computer Networks specifically.

  • 9
    You are going to be the first author, right? and it is always customary that the supervisor would be the correspondent, the most important thing is to make sure you are the first author. – user103209 Jul 4 at 10:40
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    No, nobody will get that impression. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 4 at 11:11
  • 49
    What field are you in? In my field, "corresponding author" means literally "The person who filled in the web form to submit the paper" and is a completely pointless vestige of days gone by. – David Richerby Jul 4 at 19:21
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    Please edit your question and tell us your field because this sort of things varies enormously between fields. In biology, for example, what you describe is absolutely standard: the 1st author is the one who did all the work and the corresponding author (the last author) is the PI/professor/supervisor etc. – terdon Jul 4 at 19:25
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    Hmmm .. in addition to being the person who filled out the web form the corresponding author is the one to whom the editors will direct reviewer responses and forward any correspondence they receive for the authors. It is usual to pick someone whose addresses can be expected to be fairly permanent. – dmckee Jul 5 at 15:39
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First, take time to read this question to understand what does the Corresponding Author mean for different publishers. The definitions vary, but in principle CA is the author who can be contacted about the paper results after the publication, including the long-term period (10+ years). Perhaps, you are the best person to act as a CA for this paper? Do ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How certain is that you will be working in academia in the next 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? What about your Professor?
  2. If you provide your current contact details (address, email) as a CA, how likely is that your correspondence will reach you at this address in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? What about your Professor?
  3. A CA may receive some specific questions about the study, but also broader questions about possible ways how it can be changed, adapted for a new problem, applied to a particular area in another discipline. There may be questions on how the methods used in the study compare to what other groups were doing or are planning to do. Are you fully prepared to answer these questions? What about your Professor?

If based on the answers, you decide that you are the best person to act as a CA, simply initiate a discussion with your Professor, using your answers as key points of your proposal.

  • In general the first author is the student and the last is the professor. A student or post doc is mostly judged on first-author papers. A professor is mostly judged by last author papers. Middle authors are less important, and represent minor contributors. How this fits in with CA I am not sure, maybe ask the journal? – Kevin Kostlan Jul 5 at 4:29
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    @KevinKostlan: Might be true for your field. Alphabetic sorting is common in other field. And in some field the professor is always first author and the student doing all the work is the last (like sorting by academic rank). – usr1234567 Jul 5 at 7:42
  • I also thought the corresponding author in some cases had to be the academic who was member. At least back when I was at university there were several professors who were CAs merely because they were members of that association - and the setup worked like a merit gateway (CA's first judge if it has merit, then apply) – Stian Yttervik Jul 5 at 11:26
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    @StianYttervik I think that used to be more common when things like "Journal of the <Society>" or "Proceedings of the <Society>" were taken more literally. The journals were strictly for <Society> members, and thus in order to submit an article there, you needed to be a member of <Society>. -- However, many journals these days (even "Journal/Proceedings of the" ones) have moved to a more open submission format, and no longer require membership to submit articles. – R.M. Jul 5 at 19:23
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It is not a problem for your career not to be the corresponding author on this paper, and there is no reason to problematise it. But you should be the first author on the author list, given what you've said about the distribution of work.

  • 1
    ...assuming you're in a field that orders authors by contribution, rather than alphabetically. – JeffE Jul 7 at 5:42
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Some journals will allow multiple corresponding authors if you request it of the editor. It might be a decent compromise if your professor is ok with it.

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It's the norm. Arguably it should not be the norm (like advisors tacking on to papers where they did zero work). But it is the norm. The idea is grad students are little mayflies and the prof has corporate memory. So roll with it. First author is still more important. Also, make sure you get to publicize the work at conferences, etc.

I like the spirit though. Keep looking out for number one.

  • 8
    "First author is still more important" - that is field specific. – Martin Bonner Jul 5 at 8:15
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    "it should not be the norm" - this depends entirely on what "corresponding author" means. – O. R. Mapper Jul 5 at 17:46

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