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So we are all fans of some professor at some stage of academia.

If I see one in an upcoming conference/workshop, should I ask them to sign a paper that they wrote as it's also one of my favorite papers? (I'm sure I'm not the only one who brings a paper that someone else wrote when I know they will come for the conference/workshop).

How would you respond if you were the Prof asked to sign the paper?

Has anyone done the same before?

  • 5
    I've never heard of anyone asking for a paper to be autographed. Usually one would just offer verbal compliments on the paper and perhaps have a quick discussion of the latest research in that area. But that's just my experience. – David Z Dec 29 '13 at 6:16
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    Does he wrote any books? In the past I asked several people to sign me copies of their books, and the response I had ranged from neutral to very positive. – iliasfl Jan 11 '14 at 22:00
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    Honestly I don't get the whole idea of having "anyone"'s signature ! what is it good for ? So what ? I can understand for pop culture celebrities there is a hype from ordinary people to get a something signed by them, but not for an educated person. If you really like that celebrity professor, collaborate with him. Try to have your name along side his\her on a joint work. This has true value. – NeoN Jan 22 '14 at 23:30
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    @NeoN there is a hype from ordinary people. Academics are also human, thus ordinary people. – scaaahu Jan 23 '14 at 4:26
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    I am but a mere mortal descended upon the world of Natural Language Processing. For it is in the earthly language I speakth twarth thee. – alvas May 3 '14 at 20:25
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+50

Just ask! In the past, before electronic publishing, one had to ask for physical reprints from authors. They usually signed them with a nice greeting, sometimes a signature, and occasionally nothing. I have sent reprints to other upon request and always with a signed greeting because I appreciate the request. I have a hard time seeing anyone being offended by it although an eyebrow may be raised by the request since it is now quite unusual. But it is a good way to strike up a conversation and contact the person. Personally I would try to approach the person away from an "audience" in order to not interrupt and have a real chance to state why you admire the work (person). I am sure some might say no but I would not be offended if someone asked me, not that I see it happening to me any-time soon.

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    Aww you never know, Peter! – user7130 Dec 28 '13 at 21:19
  • Off topic comment - maybe they will ask for a selfie! – The Guy Apr 17 '16 at 20:45
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Should you go and ask, you probably don't run a big risk of anything really unpleasant happening, as other answers point out (except in the context of @Anonymous' answer!).

However, I would feel uncomfortable asking such a thing and here is why. By asking for an autograph, you are in effect behaving as a fanboy/fangirl rather than a peer (a colleague and possible coworker). I don't see that this is the way you want to bring your existence to light to an admired professor.

So, sure, if your goal is to get a professor to sign her name on a paper, go ahead and ask. But if you considered this mostly as an opportunity to establish contact with the said professor, I'm sure there are other ways which do not involve humbling yourself before someone you would likely rather impress.

15

I knew a friend who approached Dr. X, the author of a notoriously challenging math book with a huge number of difficult exercises. He asked Dr. X to sign his copy of the book.

Dr. X took and inspected the copy. The spine was undamaged, the pages were pristine, the book was in like new condition. Dr. X smiled and returned the book. "Read it first, then come ask me again!"

  • Do you mind telling us Dr.X is alive today? (I want to have an idea who Dr.X is) – scaaahu May 4 '14 at 12:06
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    Yes, Dr. X is still alive. – Anonymous May 4 '14 at 12:08
  • Not the math pirate, then? – Patrick Collins May 6 '14 at 7:06
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    If this had happened to me, my inclination would be that the person had bought a brand new copy for the purpose of the signature, because the first copy was tarnished by wear and tear, notes in the book, etc. – Sverre May 6 '14 at 17:04
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While I think @Ri49 mostly hit the nail on the head, I just wanted to add: I think I would find it a little discomfiting to be on the receiving end of such a request. Maybe the prof in question has gotten used to being a celebrity, but if you don't know him or her, then it will be hard to judge how such a request will seem to them. When you set up an interaction in this way, not only are you not engaging with them as a professional, you're making it harder for them to engage with you as a professional. I think it would be much better to tell them that you've learned a lot from their work, and ask an intelligent followup question, or say something about how your work has followed up on theirs.

2

I would do that. It's no harm and most professors would be happy to sign it for you. But if you could go with his most representative book as well, that would be perfect. After all, signing a published book is quite normal and formal activity than signing on a self-printed paper.

1

I have signed a lot of copies of my books to the point some of colleagues used to joke about "having rare unsigned copies." If someone has bothered to buy a copy, why not sign it? This is particularly so now that illegal downloads are widely available.

I have never been asked to sign a copy of my one of my papers and I would think it a bit odd.

I was asked just for an autograph and I just said "no, I don't do autographs." I thought it strange.

(for context, I am well-known in financial mathematics but not outside of it.)

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