For some context, I am enrolled in a PhD in applied mathematics.

There is a recent work where I, my thesis adviser and a friend of his in industry have worked together, with at least half of the work done by me, I even tutored the colleague to help him start at the beginning.

This work got presented by the two of them at different conferences. Each time I wasn't cited at the presentations (except just once when my adviser decided to put my name in the first slide, but the colleague then uploaded an identical version without my name). My adviser still gives me credit whenever he exchanges with attendants or other academics, and yes I got my name on the paper, but two things still bother me:

  • the colleague never mentions me, he remorselessly talks about the work as being his and my adviser's only (he can't easily get rid of my adviser since he's well known, but at least he can get rid of me and no one would notice), the damage is beyond just talk as he also writes that in his updates to his network;
  • being a PhD student or not, and even if my name is on the paper, removing it from the presentations is unfair and damaging and just feeds the idea that maybe my name is on the paper just because I did secondary work or scripting/plotting.

This kept happening for a few months now and will keep going if this issue is not addressed as my adviser and his colleague keep submitting the work to future conferences. Some might see me as overreacting but this is impacting me in a lot of ways and the feeling of betrayal is hitting hard, I even stopped working with my adviser's colleague altogether without notice and started pursuing some of my own research goals alone without notifying anyone of my progress.

I just started my PhD half a year ago, so surely I may be lacking experience with regards to these issues of authorship and citation, but is it common practice to assume that a PhD student should just be content with his name being in a paper, but not expect to be cited when the work is presented in conferences, even if he put more than half of all the combined work? What would be the motivation of keeping me out during conferences ? Better to split the cake in two rather than three ? Should I bring this up with my thesis adviser even though the one who is clearly dishonest here is a friend of his?

  • 2
    Your advisor is supposed to be on your side - there's no need to walk on eggshells around them. I'd just politely - and casually - ask if they would mention your name on the slides. Probably it was just an oversight. If they do react badly, this is a sign of a terrible advisor. Nov 17, 2019 at 4:42

4 Answers 4


It definitely sucks when you feel like you're not getting credit for your work, and in applied math, it is certainly not standard practice to omit mention of PhD students' contributions. In fact, I've seen many presentations where professors and industry leaders show group pictures of their entire lab, and they're proud of the team effort.

However, passive aggression is almost never effective at helping you achieve what you want.

You seem to be on better footing with your supervisor than with his colleague, so I would start there. Once you've cooled off a bit, schedule a meeting with him and mention how you've noticed your name is absent from presentations on your work. Be honest (and respectful) about how this hurts you, and leave room for your advisor to explain. It could just be an honest oversight, it may be intentional-- the fact is, you don't have anything but speculation until he explains. Mention that you've noticed the same happens with his colleague's presentations, and ask if he could talk to the guy about it. Again, try not to assume the worst. There isn't any real motivation for omitting someone's name when they've made serious contributions, especially in industry, where large author counts are the norm and papers don't matter nearly as much as they do in academia.


I think you should first meet your advisor,and maybe in second time the other colleague. I would not tell him directly the problem but instead asking a question like "I don't get why I am not mentioned for this work. Is it usual ? Didn't I work enough on the problem ?". And if his answer does not convince you, request that your name appears everytime needed like "I would like to be mentioned, I think it is not fair otherwise."

  • OP is cited, just not mentioned in presentations. That's very different from an ethical perspective.
    – Spark
    Nov 14, 2019 at 15:24

CS/AI perspective: the name on the presentation matters far less than the name on the paper. You are listed as a coauthor on a paper less than 6 months into your PhD, that's a big deal I think. In other words - while not being mentioned during the presentation is annoying and hurtful, I don't think it actually hurts you as much as you think it does.

That said, this line is a red flag:

[...] my adviser decided to put my name in the first slide, but the colleague then uploaded an identical version without my name.

This sounds like a (borderline unethical), willful omission of your name as a contributor which needs to be addressed.

I can only guess as to the motivation of this colleague: they might feel that your contribution is not as great as you think it is (doesn't make this ok, but this could be their passive-aggressive way of dealing), or that they want to present themselves as more independent than what they really are.

That said, quoting Hanlon's razor -

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Could be that it was a simple error/omission (say, they use beamer to typeset slides and their configuration is weird when listing authors).

This brings us to your last question - should you talk to your advisor? Absolutely! Willful or not, your colleague's behavior is not okay, and you should be credited.

I would reference the specific instance where they omitted your name. Take a polite tone and don't be accusatory. How about this - "hey Prof. Advisor, Dr. Colleague uploaded slides but forgot to add my name, did you notice? I'm just starting my PhD and it's really important for me to get my name out there, would it be okay if you let them know about this? I'd really appreciate it!"

See what their response is, and take it from there.


Your concern seems quite reasonable to me, so I would suggest you raise it directly with your supervisor. If you have indeed contributed substantially to the project then it is not appropriate for anyone in the group to discuss the project in a way that misleads their audience about your contribution, whether that is by leaving your name off the slides, or taking full verbal credit for the research.

Tell your advisor exactly how you are feeling, and don't pull any punches. Don't speculate on motive of the other party; just state the facts and explain how it has negatively affected you. Have in mind an outcome you want that will satisfy your concerns, and tell your supervisor what this is. This is something where your advisor is in a good position to fix the problem by communicating directly with the other party. (Your decision not to work with that person anymore also sounds like a good decision, but keep if open to reconsideration if they fix the problem you are having.)

It is highly likely that a simple conversation will solve this problem. In the unlikely event that your supervisor and the other author are unwilling to fix the problem, it will be possible for you to escalate this as a formal complaint to your university. Failing to properly stipulate the authors of a project in public presentations of work is a form of plagiarism, and can amount to academic misconduct (albeit of the milder variety).

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