I’m starting my PhD this September in an Interdisciplinary degree that would fall in the realm of “resource economics” + “mathematical biology”. FWIW, I chose the interdisciplinary route because I want to carve out my own niche in the bioeconomics literature and my undergrad was in economics / math, my masters in renewable resource economics.

Speaking to my two supervisors, I was told I can bring a third advisor on that is not necessarily at my institution - and this offered a world of options to approach authors who’s works have encouraged me. However, while there’s so much benefit for me to have a third committee member from, say, the United States (my PhD is in Canada), it’s not clear to me what value there is for the third member. One of my supervisors is an established mathematical biologist, the other is an economist with a similar interest in bioeconomic modelling.

So I’d be curious to know, from an academic’s POV, if they were to be approached with something like this, where would the potential value proposition be for you? Keeping in mind that everything would be mostly virtual, and maybe at best case I could do a visiting appointment to work on collaborations.

2 Answers 2


I suggest two things. First, most important, is that you don't make the pitch. Let one or both of your advisors do so, perhaps to a person you suggest. You might even give them a couple of suggestions and get their feedback.

It is harder to turn down an invitation from a peer than from an unknown student. The email, if that is the communication mechanism, will be read and likely not ignored.

Second make sure you lay out the responsibilities of the advisor early on so they are comfortable with the task they are taking on.

  • 1
    This is my suggestion too. I had a committee member who was a subject-matter expert from an outside university, and my chair handled the initial communication. Over the course of the dissertation I did generally leaned a little more on the two members from my own department, but it worked out well.
    – Jeff
    Mar 6, 2021 at 22:48
  • Yes! One other consideration is that the committee members will need to communicate well with whoever the outside person is (and vice versa). Having them make the pitch establishes that baseline of communication. Mar 9, 2021 at 13:40

Academics are ego driven and getting asked to be an outside committee member is a nice boost to the old "people have heard of me" ego.

Plus someone's advisor is gonna owe me a favor, which means letter of support for a grant or maybe a letter supporting my promotion.

  • Interesting take. Excited to see what others say! Mar 6, 2021 at 22:08
  • To be clear, this is the "what's the value" answer - Buffy has a good answer for how you should go about luring someone into your committee.
    – user133933
    Mar 6, 2021 at 23:45

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