16

I am a Ph.D. student enrolled in one of the top universities. I was working on a research problem. And, it turns out that my results are not of as high quality as one would expect from a student from my university. I am planning to submit the paper to a low-tier conference and if submitted, this would bring a bad name to my university. Therefore, I do not want to mention my affiliation in my research paper. Is is acceptable to do so?


By "not good quality results" I mean that "just so-so work", that is done well but not seemingly very interesting right now.

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment, and beware that we can only move comments to chat once. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 26 at 6:32
  • 2
    Do you mean a "bad name", or a "worse name"? There's a difference between "this place is absolute, objective garbage" and "this place is maybe marginally less ultra-amazing and super-elite than previously thought". – zibadawa timmy Feb 27 at 1:43
77

You're trying to solve the wrong problem: either your work is a decent contribution and then it's worth publishing with your affiliation, or it's not and then it shouldn't be published at all (and anyway it's likely to get rejected in respectable venues).

So the real problem here is whether this work is a decent contribution. However you might not be able to make the call yourself:

  • You are a PhD student so you might not have enough experience to judge, and especially to judge your own work.
  • You also seem to assume that researchers in your university never produce any mediocre work, although this is very unlikely even for a top university.
  • The fact that you talk so negatively about your work might be a sign of impostor syndrom, a bias which frequently affects researchers (and not only them). The competitive environment of a top institution is a fertile ground for this kind of psychological bias.

But the solution is very simple: you just ask your PhD advisor their advice. It's precisely their job to teach you what is a decent contribution and what is not. If they tell you not to submit the work, then it's not even worth submitting. If they tell you to submit, then it was actually better than you thought and it means that you should revise your criteria.

You can even ask them about your idea to submit without the affiliation if you want. But be aware that they might laugh at the idea, it's not something academics do anywhere.

1
  • 2
    Intimate familiarity with a concept or a field can also make one think it is well known outside of your own circle. – CramerTV Feb 26 at 18:56
36

If the paper is bad enough that it will give your university a bad reputation, then it will also give you a bad reputation - in fact a much worse one, since you are the author of the paper and the person who made the decision to write and submit it. So if you’re thinking of hiding the university name, to be consistent you should also hide your own name and publish anonymously or under a pseudonym.

Which makes one wonder, what is the point really...

7
  • 17
    Yes, this. I'm amazed that anyone would care more about their university's reputation than their own reputation. – Roland Feb 26 at 6:06
  • 1
    And, beside the point of reputation, there is also the fact that a PhD student can only be a PhD student within a university. So splitting the name and the affiliation also means denying the role behind the name, and demonstrates that you are passing content from your institutional role to your hobbistic occupations. Imagine if that content turns out to be very useful one day... not done! – XavierStuvw Feb 26 at 7:05
  • 1
    A student who has decided they are not going to continue in academia but needs to publish to graduate might not care about their own academic reputation at all. It's not clear why such a student would care about their university's reputation so much, but it's not wholly implausible -- perhaps they are afraid that "giving the university a bad name," as they see it, might in itself harm their chances of graduation. – Charles Staats Feb 26 at 16:07
  • 5
    @CharlesStaats a university that forces students to publish bad papers in order to graduate deserves to have a bad reputation. – Dan Romik Feb 26 at 16:53
  • 1
    @Truk Or both, perhaps in different form. I was once in a situation where the publication procedure stretched beyond my academic affiliation proper, so I was employed at a company and guest researcher at the university. I put the current employer as 'present address' in a note. Of course, if the employer gives you hours to work on the publication, you ought to mention both on equal terms: this is not uncommon. – XavierStuvw Mar 1 at 13:38
21

If you do not work under supervision or funded by a project awarded via the university or a prof at the university, you might be able to hide the affiliation (but read the clauses of your university about copyright and acknowledgments, to make sure).

However, if it is worth publishing, it is worth mentioning your and the university's name.

Don't litter. That is true for grass verges, public transport as well as the scientific discourse.

5

Firstly, I agree with others here that you should seek advice from a senior person in your department prior to making any decision on this matter.

Look, your work must have addressed questions not answered until now - otherwise you would not have been allowed proceed with it. You used relevant techniques, organized your work well, reported your data honestly, interpreted your results fairly and drew reasonable conclusions in the context of that field of research.

That is all that any honest PhD candidate can do, whichever university they go to. With hindsight, you may feel that another approach or even topic might have yielded more "exciting" results. As you suggest, more "exciting" conclusions can help a paper to be published more quickly or in a more prestigious journal; some PhD derived papers have even made their way into the annual proceedings of the Royal Society. But that is in the hands of fortune. The main thing is not the "exciting" nature of our work but its validity. What you regard as humdrum work may well be relied on by future researchers who would otherwise have sought the same answers as you did: with your findings published, they can include or exclude various other hypotheses, save time and money and redirect their work towards other related but as-yet unmined questions.

There is no sense in being ashamed of our honest work, still less of feeling you haven't maintained the accustomed standard of your department or research group. The noisies in a team are seldom the most valuable. And excess humility does show a lack of pride in honest endeavor. The university provided a major share of the support for this project. It is reasonable for them to be listed as the affiliated organization. In fact it may well be that you would have no chance of being published in many journals without detailing your affiliation, however exciting your conclusions would be.

I think that you have to submit your work for journal publication and that you must not do so anonymously. The conference submission is another thing. At conferences there's often an unhealthy group dynamic and people with no interest in certain papers at a session nonetheless remain there exuding their boredom. The "exciting" papers of course seem to get all the attention. On the one hand, I could understand you wanting out of this; on the other, non-attendance resigns you to miss meeting other honest triers - some of whom will be today research managers and potential employers. But please revert to more experienced people - not solely your supervisor and HoD - for their opinions on this.

2

No, you cannot publish anything without putting your affiliation down. That's the point of having an affiliation. They pay you money to work for and represent them and you will put your name out there on a piece of work, then people will read it and see that it was produced by someone at such-and-such University / research institute / state laboratory / company.

0

The place you do the work at may have a formal rule about it. Thus, you may be obligated, under either the terms of your contract, or some general rule set for academic work at your location, to report your name and affiliation in a certain fashion, but conversely there may also be a formal rule that grants you more leeway than you think you got. Whether formal rules apply to you at work, there may also be institutional tradition that could cast you in potentially bad light - or, conversely, provide some guidance as to when it's appropriate to do what you are contemplating.

After all, how people perceive your actions is rooted in tradition to an extent, and will have a definite effect on the quality of your work environment. It'd be unwise to self-ostracize, and what potential actions of yours would lead to that is a matter that you may have to inquire about in the context of your institution - ask someone you could trust, or perhaps there's some confidential support structure in place for answering similar questions, perhaps some employee ombudsman position?

It is also not immediately clear that your reverence for your institution is reciprocal. There certainly are institutions that treat their students and employees extremely well and it'd be considered at least polite to think of the institution's reputation to the extent you do. In no case, though, it'd be wise to think of any institution's reputation ahead of your own.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy