I have two papers. In the acknowledgment of the first one I thanked my adviser for his mentorship and there was no problem. When I finished my second paper and I sent it to him to review, he replied back with bunch of comments, mostly reasonable. But one of the comments was that he asked to be removed from acknowledgments where I thanked him again for his mentorship. He wrote, "I am not happy that you never listen to advice! please remove this", where by "this," he meant the part in which I thanked him. Why would he do that? What is the meaning of this? What are the possible reasons for such a comment? After several years of hard work and collaboration I am somewhat hurt by this, please help me to get better perspective.

  • 29
    I don't think any of us can know based on a single sentence. Why don't you just ask your adviser? Sep 27, 2021 at 22:27
  • 52
    I'd guess, from the fact that he said, literally, that you never listen to advice, that he feels that you never listen to his advice... In particular, that paper may not be compatible with his viewpoints/opinions on things, so he'd not want to be associated with it. "Fair enough..." Sep 27, 2021 at 22:30
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    Well, it could just mean your supervisor is having a bad day, or that after so many comments or revisions, you are still making the same mistakes. I would ignore him/her. I'm also aware that students 'ignore' my advice some times because they have no idea what I am talking about. Maybe your supervisor does not know this. Then again, you could be intentionally ignoring his/her advice. Sep 28, 2021 at 2:32
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    I believe that usr1234567 is right: the remark about never listening to advice might refer directly to removing the ACK. Generally, I think such an acknowledgment is really weird and I would definitely want it to be removed! I think the advisor told you to do so when revising the first paper, but you forgot about it, or the advisor forgot to tell you, but thinks he did.
    – ciamej
    Sep 28, 2021 at 13:34
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    @Szabolcs - this question has 4 close votes, so it may yet be closed. We wouldn't mod-hammer something this borderline, but you can open a post on meta if you want to discuss with the community at large. I think the tricky thing with these questions is that there is an answerable part (what are the possible reasons one wouldn't want to be acknowledged in a paper), an unanswerable part (is my advisor mad at me), and a borderline part (how should I approach this conversation with my advisor).
    – cag51
    Sep 28, 2021 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


The meaning seems pretty clear as far as it goes: he thinks that you do not listen to the advice he gives you on your papers. If you are a student and you acknowledge your advisor, that makes it look like the advisor has "endorsed" or "signed off" on the results of the paper. It seems that your advisor thinks that the version of the paper you will submit is not one that he would have endorsed in this way.

This sounds like a nontrivial breakdown of the student/advisor relationship, so I suggest that you meet with your advisor in person and try to smooth things out. If applicable, tell him that you thought you were pretty receptive to his advice, and ask for specific avenues for improvement.

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    And, thinking more, it could be that your advisor "bit his tongue" (meaning didn't make a criticism) for a long time, hoping that you'd "catch on", or, "finally hear him". So his reaction might be a delayed one, finally exploding, after waiting/hoping for a long time that you'd "finally" change something in line with his remarks. The manifestations of continuous phenomena are not necessarily continuous (cf. "catastrophe theory"). Sep 27, 2021 at 22:41
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    Not sure I agree with the suggestion that the OP should “tell him that you thought you were pretty receptive to his advice”. Maybe I missed that in what the OP posted.
    – Ed V
    Sep 27, 2021 at 22:42
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    I was my (chemistry) department’s grad program director for three stints, so my advice in things like this is have a face-to-face talk with your advisor. For what it is worth, I had a grad student who usually ignored my advice. It annoyed the hell out of me until I decided to just go with the flow. That worked fine in the end. So just talk in person and best of success!
    – Ed V
    Sep 27, 2021 at 23:28
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    @EdV Air cleaning talks are best had in person or, at least per video conferencing. Email is dangerous, unless you are an excellent email writer who can convey precisely the right message. Sep 28, 2021 at 0:14
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    @CaptainEmacs I fully agree. No way I would recommend e-mail: nothing, in my opinion, beats looking people in the eyes, seeing their body language, etc.
    – Ed V
    Sep 28, 2021 at 0:24

Ask the advisor. I could image different things:

  • He is angry with you, as you might have published stuff with his name attached and he did not consent.
  • He might think that he asked you to remove the acknowledgement last time (I would always do so, so I would assume similar in such a situation) but it remained.
  • He thinks that the acknowledgement section is not the right spot to have a general thank you for your advisor. I would share this view. Either he has contributed enough to become a co-author or he is out.
  • It was meant as a joke you are just not getting it.

Make sure to clarify this, as it might be or become a strain to your relationship.

  • 1
    the first point is highly unlikely, since OP states "and I sent it to him to review", but the second point and the third are spot on. OP, please clarify regarding the first point.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 28, 2021 at 14:14
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    very much disagree with the third point. It is normal to thank reviewers in the acknowledgement section, and they did pretty much the same thing the supervisor did in this case - offer (hopefully) constructive criticism. Sep 28, 2021 at 16:01
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    i thought it was a joke too! but if it were a joke then it would be pretty unclear and a tiny bit unprofessional i think
    – BCLC
    Sep 29, 2021 at 10:36
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    @DikranMarsupial Might be a cultural or field-specific thing. In Maths, Physics, and Computer Science I never saw the author acknowledging the supervisor. For reviewers it happens, but like 1/10 of the papers.
    – usr1234567
    Sep 29, 2021 at 12:07
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    @usr1234567 I think the reason it rarely happens is that PhD students rarely publish a paper where the supervisor is not an author (I work in CS). I would have thought there is something a bit amiss if there is too little contribution from the supervisor not to warrant co-authorship. There is something even more amiss if their contribution doesn't even warrant an acknowledgement! Sep 29, 2021 at 12:40

Edit and disclaimer: As was explained to me in the comments, the practices described below are not acceptable in the math community.

Why are you not listing your PhD supervisor as the last author of your paper? I am in physics, and last authorship is a big thing. The last author is traditionally designated for the supervisor or the group leader.

The number of last author publications is also separately tracked and plays an important role in obtaining tenure, permanent positions etc. as it is a measure of how well you have supervised your students. Even second-last authors are tracked by our library system, often daily advisors are listed as second-last authors.

If you had any serious discussions with your supervisor about the content of the paper at all, he should be in the author list. Maybe the math community has different standards, but a PhD student putting their supervisor into the acknowledgements would be considered something between a faux pas and an insult in my community.

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    Math has wildly different standards here. First, in pure math at least, all publishing is alphabetical and there's no notion of first author or last author. Second, most students are funded not by their advisor but by teaching. Third, the traditional convention (which may be changing somewhat, and which I think should change), is that advisors do not coauthor their students PhD work (even if they contributed enough to merit coauthorship!) unless the student failed to contribute meaningfully towards the project. Sep 28, 2021 at 15:07
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    Thanks, I considered deleting my answer, but I think a disclaimer is sufficient and keeps this discussion online.
    – terri
    Sep 28, 2021 at 15:54
  • @terri They wouldn't be apt in Linguistics either.
    – user96809
    Sep 29, 2021 at 18:53

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