I have submitted a three paper PhD thesis. At my university, there is no defense. Instead, four referees read, make a decision, and may ask for revisions, similar to a paper review process. My supervisor has recruited three local referees and the remaining one needs to be international. He suggested the biggest professor in the field, an expert on the very specific dissertation topic. Is there a benefit to having a big name refereeing my thesis?

These works have been reviewed by dozens of referees at over 10 international conferences, and the journals in which the papers were published are the best ones in my field. I'm worried that someone like that will be very opinionated and I wonder what there is to gain here.

  • 2
    The gain is to get accurate, specific feedback on the quality of the work.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 3, 2021 at 18:44
  • Does your advisor know this superstar personally? If not, and the person turns out to be unnecessarily negative, can your advisor save you from failure?
    – Buffy
    Sep 3, 2021 at 18:50
  • #Buffy and #jon I'm not worried about failure but excessive work without benefit deep into my postdoc when I need to promote my career. Every work can be improved, even Nobel papers. Including conference proceedings each paper was reviewed by 10 referees each. My view is I don't need the best reviewer in the world unless there is something to gain. Is there any prestige associated with that? I'm not native and if a paper would have to go through 10 instead of 2-3 referees even some amazing papers would never get published. Sep 3, 2021 at 19:11
  • 2
    You seem confident that your work is good. If so, one advantage of a 'big name' refereed is that they will be impressed and that can open up postdoc opportunities. It's not about prestige, but about networking.
    – JenB
    Sep 3, 2021 at 19:27
  • 4
    Why do you think that stellar expert has time and willingness to nitpick on already-reviewed papers? In my experience, this does happen, but only if their "glory days" are long past. For an expert who does not "need to prove themselves" and is actively working, glancing over the entire thing and offering possibly-overlooked deep cut insights is far more common. That is valuable. You also are not obliged to agree with every critique they have, but having those insights - provided you can get them - is about the best you could wish for for this specific research.
    – Lodinn
    Sep 3, 2021 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


Yes, there is the benefit that he will know you. If your work is of "marginally better than acceptable" quality, or your answer to his remarks are spot-on, he may consider you for a PostDoc position that he urgently needs to fill because he did not yet open up to the world (since he is the big name in the field, form the moment he opens a position he has to evaluate tons of applications ... where tons may be just 20, but it is still more time than he has).

You can go to the top 5 conference next year and you can only dream of having more than 12 minutes of attention from the biggest name, and maybe to get a remark from him at the end of your talk (remark where he will subtly promote his work while barely touching yours), now you have the chance to have his attention and 2-3 iterations with him ... what else do you want from your PhD non-defense :D ?

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