My paper, that is part of my thesis, has been accepted to a conference as a part of the poster session. In the paper, I have mentioned my gratitutes to my supervisors. In fact, an unofficial supervisor of mine who works at the same place with me, acted and helped me more than my actual supervisor deserves all the credits in this thesis. (My main supervisor lives in another city so that we met only 2-3 times, but the unofficial supervisor I mentioned helped me enormously as my official one advised me to work with her, no need to mention, she's not a faculty member but holds an associate professorship..) So it's a basically an unresponsive thesis advisor issue.

In the submission of my final version of the thesis for the conference, I want to make her my co-author if she accepts. But as there is literally no input from my actual supervisor, I do not want to put his name. (He also said to me once that you made all the work by yourself without me or if she (the 2nd person I work on my thesis, who is not officially assigned for my advisorship) accepts what you did then I'm fine, so he does not care at all what's going on such that I doubt if he reads the final draft of the work I sent.

So would it be okay to not to include his name? What do you suggest? thanks in advance!

  • 2
    Do you mean "ethically ok" or "politically ok"? They may not be the same. Would you be kicking a sleeping bear? That is usually unwise.
    – Buffy
    Jul 11, 2019 at 18:57
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    @Buffy I know he may not be happy when he sees it, but he confesses it as "you were all alone did a good job without me" etc.. But you are right, admittedly.
    – usergrad
    Jul 11, 2019 at 19:01
  • If he holds power over your completion - beware. There is little worse for a grad student than advisor who wants to end your academic career.
    – Buffy
    Jul 11, 2019 at 19:07
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    There are so very many times in life where you will want to tell someone to stuff it and "thanks for nothing, jerk!" - but in all my life so far, I have yet to encounter a time when it was actually a good idea to do so. It seems paradoxical, to possess a natural urge to do something one should rarely if ever do; I consider it one of the mysteries of human existence.
    – BrianH
    Jul 12, 2019 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


This is a common dilemma in academia that can quickly escalate to sorrow. My advice is short and straightforward: once the manuscript is ready from your side, politely approach your both supervisors and ask them directly about their expectations concerning authorship. I understand the situation may feel uncomfortable and you'd prefer to make this decision relying on everyone's best judgement, but most of the times supervisors are overly touchy regarding merit and authorships.

Thread carefully there and be frank with your superiors. Good luck!


This is a "safety first" suggestion. While there is probably no ethical constraint here, I strongly suggest that you do what is expected and traditional in your field and location. You won't be in such a situation forever, provided that you graduate, and then you can choose according to more personal standards.

At a minimum, however, you should acknowledge the other professor for her help.

You might also, provided that it seems safe, ask your main advisor for advice in this. "I would like to include Y as a co-author, if she agrees, to acknowledge her help. What do you suggest?".

If your advisor provides funding, but not advice, or a lab in which to do the work, then he would normally be co-author in many fields. But if you go against the traditions of your field it could come back to your disadvantage.

Think long term. This won't be your last paper, nor your best, if you stay in Academia. Don't step in front of trains unnecessarily.

Riskier solutions may be psychologically satisfying in the short term, but don't sacrifice the long term for the short.


If your de jure advisor, does not mind to omit the co-authorship, than go ahead. As for the de facto advisor, please take care of her!

If the de jure advisor expects the co-authorship, than give it to him. (In theory, co-authorship reflects an actual scientific contribution. But in practice, these are often given to the PI who just procured funding. They even have to show them, expect to show them, to continue to get funding. So go with tribal practiced reality, not hypocritical unpracticed theory.)

The one case in which I would consider to omit the de jure advisor is if he wants to be a pain about editing the document, where he is not even a real contributor. In that case, you need to show a little mettle and tell him that you did the work and will lead the paper, that he can go along or leave (gentler words, but in effect...go along or leave.) Sometimes these profs feel like this is how they show they are needed.

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