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I am a last year PhD international student in engineering. I have written so far 3 drafts that I need feedback + approval to submit them for publication. I delivered the first draft almost 2 years ago. My advisor is a really nice person, but he/she is lazy and he/she won't review my papers. I am close to graduate and I don't have any publications because he/she won't let me publish until he/she gives me feedback, which it seems that it's not going to happen.

I don't know what to do about this situation. I have tried many different ways. Asking politely, having "interventions" here we tell him/her how bad this is for our careers(because my other lab mates are in the same situation), sending constant emails texts or calls, and he/she always responds "I know I have been bad, but we are going to get it done soon" and then nothing happens.

I am getting depressed here, I already lost all the motivation. I have no idea what am I going to do when I graduate because who is going to give me a job/postdoc without any papers ( I actually have one paper from undergrad, but it is very basic), and since I am international it is even worse.

I would like to know if anyone has any advice, if maybe someone went through something similar and were able to move on. I am starting to consider to just finish my PhD ASAP, move on and start a new career on something else.

Thanks for reading.

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    Has your advisor made a contribution to these papers that warrants co-authorship (according to the guidelines provided by the journal and/or by your professional association on what contributions warrant co-authorship)? If not, then (depending exactly what contracts you've signed with your university) you may not need his/her permission to publish. Jan 19, 2021 at 17:16
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    "Lazy" is a judgement, "disorganised" another, "overworked" another still. When seeking support from other faculty be carefully how you word it unless you want the criticism to stand out more than the need to get something done ("always too busy" or "never has time" might be sufficiently diplomatic to start with).
    – Chris H
    Jan 20, 2021 at 15:23
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    Does this answer your question? Is it normal for a PhD advisor not to read a student's thesis? Jan 20, 2021 at 21:20
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    A very common problem. You can get a postdoc with no papers published if you have written the papers and they are good. Expect an employer to check. Jan 20, 2021 at 21:22

2 Answers 2

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This seems like a case in which a delegation from your group should ask for an intervention from a higher level. If it is a general problem in your research group then department heads and deans need to be aware of it.

You may not get the feedback you need, other than from each other, but the "permission to publish" needs to get resolved, perhaps as a demand from above.

It might also be possible, depending on the overall organization, for other faculty to intervene on your behalf.

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Yes, some academics do not realise that students need to move on very soon and the student's future depends on the supervisor's pulling their finger out. It is all too common.

In extremis you can submit these papers anyway. Now your supervisor may be funny about you including their name on the author list, and / or they may be funny about you leaving their name off. So choose one, as you are equally likely to be in trouble no matter what you do.

Now - if your papers are actually any good, they may be accepted, maybe in a second instance after making changes suggested by the referees. The point of acceptance is a good point to ask your supervisor if they want their name on it or not. Their answer will tell you a lot about their professional ethics, but no matter, just do whatever they say they want at this point.

If your supervisor is a real piece of work, s/he will email the editor and demand that the paper not be published. Since you have described them as primarily lazy I am assuming that they are not that horrible.

"It is always better to ask for forgiveness then to ask for permission."

"Nobody remembers the nice guy."

These adagia apply.

Finally - it could be that you are actually a crank and your papers are proving that Einstein was wrong and your supervisor does not know what to do with you. Please do not be a crank. You will only hurt yourself in the long run.

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  • Sone astonishingly bad advice in your answer ...
    – Roland
    Mar 16, 2021 at 18:57

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