For my doctoral programme, I have 2 supervisors: 1 academic (i.e. a professor) and the other an industrial.

Over the past few years I've found that my industrial supervisor isn't really able to contribute to my research that much. It's not that he isn't smart or anything like that, its just that he doesn't seem interested in me producing actual research and would rather I just implement existing literature or settle for something that doesn't fulfill my research aims.

I don't really want to go into too much detail but essentially my industrial supervisor has a low opinion of me because from their perspective it seems like I just do whatever my academic supervisor tells me. This isn't true at all.

Before knowing this (he told me himself in no uncertain terms) I felt like I could respect my industrial supervisor and talk to him about my work but now I don't really want to talk to him unless I have to.

What is the best way to deal with my situation?

For context, the current contact arrangements are that I speak/video call my industrial supervisor every weekday. With my academic supervisor its a back and forth email chain with a video call when we can't express things in an email. Prior to COVID, I would work at my industrial supervisor's company everyday and have to arrange skype calls from the office to my academic supervisor. This was difficult to do, so I only really spoke to him once a month and saw him in person every other month (its a 600km round trip).

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    There is always a conflict between academic blue sky type research and industry research, where there is a problem that requires a solution 'immediately'. Your academic supervisor needs to discuss the expectation of your research with the industry supervisor. Your industry supervisor needs to understand what is academic research, and that you won't get a PhD from doing industry work; i.e., you are not a low paying staff member he/she can exploit to get things done. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 22:58
  • What is being discussed on these every-day calls with the industry advisor? That seems excessive. I'm used to hearing people on this site struggle to speak with their advisor as much as once a month. Especially if the industry advisor is not usefully interfacing with your research, then what's the point of those daily meetings? Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 0:57
  • I could be really snarky about it but I don't want to out myself by accident. He just wants to keep tabs on us. We don't get anything productive done in these daily meetings. Its a "What are you going to do today?" sort of meeting. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


While there are lots of ways to go about this, one is to have your primary (academic) advisor intervene in some way with the other person. The industrial person needs to understand that your doctoral research comes first and shouldn't be compromised.

But, this assumes a few things that might not be true. First is that the industrial person can't put a veto on your work somehow. But better that the two "senior" people have a discussion about priorities than you fighting with a more senior person.

But analyze the situation before taking any advice, including this one. It is you that is at risk.

And, for what it's worth, your preference for the academic advisor is certainly appropriate.

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    This does seem to be the right thing to do. The only concern I have is that I could lose a significant portion of my stipend if the industrial leaves. Aside from that, I don't think they can veto anything or prevent me from graduating. The industrial person needs to understand that your doctoral research comes first and shouldn't be compromised My director of studies has had to do this already for a different yet related reason. I'll speak to them to let them know what has happened recently so if things get worse it won't be a surprise. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 22:12

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