I am a first-year PhD student in computer science and caught in a political dilemma.
My master thesis project was supervised by a researcher at my university, let us call him Dr. Anderson. There is currently a paper written by us under review on this topic. After I finished the master’s project, I started a PhD on a different topic at the same university under Assistant Prof. Bergman. Additionally, Prof. Candela (a more senior faculty member) serves as my secondary advisor. During my first six months, I have published one paper together with Prof. Bergman, and we are now working on a second paper.
Recently, Dr. Anderson told me that he is planning to write a new paper partially based on my master thesis work, and asked if I would like to be listed as a co-author again. I am glad that he recognizes my contributions, and from my perspective the more publications I have the better. Therefore I said yes.
However, when I later mentioned this to Prof. Candela, he promptly advised me to change my decision. According to him, publishing a paper during my PhD without Prof. Bergman would be bad for my relationship with her. She might think that I am spending my time working with Dr. Anderson instead of on the project she is paying me for. He also said that it would be bad for my career to become too associated to Dr. Anderson’s topic since it is less impactful than my PhD topic. His suggestion was to ask to be mentioned in an acknowledgment instead of being listed as a co-author.
I was surprised to hear Prof. Candela’s response. I think it sounds silly that Prof. Bergman would be so upset by this publication. Of course I would not spend much of my time on it, aside from reading through the manuscript and maybe providing some comments. Instead, it feels like this is part of some political game between faculty members.
If I decide to remain, I would be one of many authors on Dr. Anderson’s paper, which will be submitted to a lower tier conference. So in the end, it would not make a significant difference on my CV. To avoid any potential drama, it would be easiest to follow Prof. Candela’s advice. However, I still feel proud of the work I did with Dr. Anderson and would like to be properly recognized for it.
Would it be foolish to disregard Prof. Candela’s advice, and remain as a co-author? How can I talk to my main advisor Prof. Bergman about this without causing trouble?