2

I'm currently doing my master's degree in earth science or remote sensing at an Indian university. I am working on publishing my master thesis as a paper.

When I talked with my guide/ professor about this, he said, if you want to publish in some reputed journals (Scientific Reports or any similar impact journal) the first author has to be him. The reason for that according to him is, If a professor is the first author then the paper has a high chance of acceptance and will be subjected to less scrutiny. Though he did not insist much, he is saying to be the first author and me to be the second author.

The idea of the project of my master thesis is mine and I am doing all most all the work. Also, I will be writing the draft. His contribution is only to proofread. Is this is a common practice and ethical?

I have no publication before and the professor is well-reputed and has more than 40 publications. My future plan is to do a Ph.D. in a similar field as my master's thesis.

4
  • 2
    Sounds a bit stinky. How many of those 40 papers were written by students?
    – Buffy
    Dec 12 '21 at 15:02
  • He is not 1st author in about 70% of the paper.
    – Badal
    Dec 12 '21 at 15:03
  • Hmmm, so did students write the others, or most of them? That would be really stinky.
    – Buffy
    Dec 12 '21 at 16:00
  • 2
    Actually, most of his papers are based on collaboration with other professors or scientists of other organizations.
    – Badal
    Dec 12 '21 at 16:15
3

This is advice that you might not be able to take, but I worry about such an attitude by an advisor. I certainly hope and expect that quality journals base their acceptance on the strength of the paper itself and not the reputation of the (first) author. That would be unethical in my view, though I'm an optimist in such things.

Ethically, the paper is yours and you should be able to submit and publish it, giving proper acknowledgement to your advisor. Sometimes that ethically includes some sort of authorship, but not first authorship unless it was a paper in which you were helping them, rather than the other way around.

But, it is seldom a good career move to fight with your advisor over such things as they have too much power over you and some are willing, even happy, to abuse it. Often, students need to yield to such things just to get on with their lives.

No single paper is going to make or break your career. Think long term, but in the long term think about collaborations with ethical people.

For what it's worth, I would never be on a paper with any of my students. The work was theirs, no matter how much assistance I gave. I was just a guide. The same was true of my own advisor (math) way back when. If the work stands up to professional review it should be published, otherwise not.

4
  • 1
    Your advice on thinking long-term is very wise. Thank you for this. One doubt though, even if the guide is the first author, would I be able to say that this is my work while I apply for any Ph.D. position or mail any other professor about the same? I am not intending to do a Ph.D. under same faculty or in the same university.
    – Badal
    Dec 12 '21 at 16:20
  • 2
    It is hard to judge, given the advisor's claim. If they would back it up in a letter of recommendation then yes, but then you wouldn't need to say it if they will.
    – Buffy
    Dec 12 '21 at 16:24
  • I agree with what you want to say. However, there is the possibility of a field-dependent misunderstanding: In certain fields, the final position in the author list is the most important/prestigious one, so being offered this position would be rewarding. Not sure if that is true in earth science, though. The 'sound' of the question does not seem to imply this. Dec 12 '21 at 18:57
  • 1
    @Snijderfrey, yes, things differ, but the advisor seems to be demanding the "prime" position, wherever it is.
    – Buffy
    Dec 12 '21 at 19:02

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.