I have been working as a research engineer with Professor X, who specializes in data mining, for almost past ten months. During this time, we have produced an AI publication. However, my contract with Professor X is scheduled to end in mid-April, as he does not have the resources to extend it further. Despite this, our work together is not complete, and we are aiming to submit another paper to NIPS, with the deadline falling around mid-May (usually).

Fortunately, I have been able to secure an offer from Professor Y, who works in computer vision at the same university, to join as a research engineer starting mid-April for the next six months. Professor Y expects at least one significant publication during this period. However, he has expressed concern that since my work with Professor X is ongoing, I may only be able to dedicate limited energy to his projects during the period between mid-April and mid-May.

I understand Professor Y's concern, as maintaining focus on both projects simultaneously could be challenging. During discussions with Professor Y, I sensed that he would be open to the idea of co-authoring the NIPS submission with Professor X, which could help alleviate some of these concerns.

Given this context, I am seeking guidance on the ethical way to request Professor X to invite Professor Y as a contributor to our second paper. One possibility is for Professor Y to provide some data (images) for us to use as motivation or application examples for my algorithm, which would strengthen the collaboration between Professor X and Professor Y. Alternatively, Professor Y could assist with proofreading and ensuring the clarity of the article.

The whole point of this exercise to make sure that Professor Y hires me and I don't have to side hustle (and hence take extra stress) for the NIPS submission. I am sure many people would have gone through such kind of situation in academia.

To provide more context, I plan to obtain one recommendation letter from Professor X and one from Professor Y for my PhD applications. Therefore, I need to ensure that they are both satisfied and willing to write these letters.

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    What do you see as the ethical aspect of this being? It sounds like a matter of diplomacy in which three adults gain something. Commented Feb 24 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


Personally, I would meet face to face with X and first talk about your situation and the dilemma. Then instead of proposing collaboration directly, ask X about the advisability of this step. You can (should) say that it will help you greatly with the funding you need to continue working.

Don't forget to discuss Y's reservations, nor your desire to continue with X on their project. It is truly a dilemma and there may be other options that X can devise and that you don't know of. Posing it as a question rather than an "ask" might get them thinking broadly rather than focusing too much on one option.

Presumably X and Y know one another. You may not know of their relationship, however. There are some people who can't/won't work with certain individuals.

You will also need to have a corresponding discussion with Y.

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