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I have noticed that in some fields, it is common to indicate in your CV (with italics, asterisks, or other symbols) if a coauthor is an undergraduate student. I have even seen similar practices for indicating grad student coauthors. I can imagine three reasons for doing this:

  1. Emphasize one's own contribution by suggesting that an undergrad or graduate coauthor did not contribute as much to the paper.
  2. Emphasize the undergrad/grad student's impressive feat of contributing to a paper so early in their career.
  3. Emphasize one's own dedication to mentorship and involving students in research.

Personally, (1.) is not something I would wish to convey on my CV, while (2.) and (3.) are points that I would like to convey on my CV.

In my field (mathematics), I have seen some CVs that indicate when a coauthor is an undergraduate, but it doesn't seem to be as common as in other fields. Perhaps one reason for this is that authors are frequently listed alphabetically in mathematics.

Question: In mathematics, would indicating which coauthors are undergraduates convey a positive message about the undergraduate's contribution to research, as well as my involvement of undergraduates in research? Or would this downplay the undergraduate's contribution?

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  • It may be a better solution to have a separate section on your CV where you talk about mentoring students. However, this is opinion-based so I am voting to close.
    – Louic
    Oct 15 '20 at 18:08
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    This does not seem opinion-based. It is asking a specific question about the conventions followed in a specific field.
    – GoodDeeds
    Oct 15 '20 at 18:24
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    My guess for the primary reason this is done more often in mathematics is that it is so much more significant and rare in mathematics for an undergraduate to be involved in publishable research, and thus for the vast majority of mathematics academics, this reflects more positively on their teaching and mentorship skills than it would in many other fields. Oct 16 '20 at 6:44
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    Indicating undergraduate coauthors on a CV doesn't seem to be common practice in math. I have seen it occasionally, but not as often as I have seen it in other fields. I would hope that it would reflect positively on my coauthors (as well as on my teaching and mentoring), but I'm not sure how this would actually be perceived since it doesn't seem to be common practice. Oct 17 '20 at 13:59
  • I'm not in math, but I would understand that as #3 completely. Nov 2 '20 at 16:23
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What I have come to understand is that in research your position, your affiliation, your status must not matter. The quality of your work cannot be overpowered and overshadowed by what or who you are.

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In terms of the question you ask at the end of your post, I would say that the annotating of undergraduate authors in your CV would generally be seen as a positive and not a negative remark on the contributions of the undergraduate. This is, of course, a guess as to the opinion of the hypothetical readers of your CV.

However, I think it is worth taking a minute to explain why someone might be noting undergraduate authors. Based on my experience working as a professor at selective liberal arts colleges (SLACs) in the United States, it usually is your suggestion (3) -- that someone is trying to show how they can have productive research collaborations with undergraduate students. In many SLACs it often viewed very positively, if not expected, that a professor can involve undergraduates in the their research. When reviewing candidate CVs, I frequently encountered such annotations and would almost always have an interview question about how the candidate might involve undergraduates in their research.

Personally, I would not expect that someone would make these annotations to either indicated the quality of an undergraduate [(2) in your question], nor would it be related to any sort of author ordering. And while I can imagine the attitude of people seeking to highlight their contributions to a paper [(1) from your question], I cannot imagine those individuals calling out undergraduate co-authors in their CV. More likely, they would either fight to keep them off of the author list during publication or simply list the publication in their CV without an author list.

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  • It's unethical to "list the publication in their CV without an author list." It amounts to falsely claiming to be the sole author. Jun 17 at 23:46
  • @AndreasBlass - Agreed. My hypothetical CV writer that is trying to denigrate the accomplishments of their undergraduate co-authors is not a great model for ethical behavior. :-D Jun 21 at 16:28

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