I am preparing an independent research paper to publish in an open access peer-reviewed journal.

Independent means: my PhD supervisor doesn't have any contribution in this. Since my supervisor doesn't have any contribution in it, I cannot request him to cover the expenses for this paper.

What should be the standard procedure for covering the expense in the case of independent research publications for a PhD student?

N.B. Last time, when I sent an email to the dean's office inquiring about funding a GPU-enabled laptop, they forwarded that email straight to my supervisor. So, this time, I am not sending any emails to them.


4 Answers 4


To me, the obvious direct answer is: choose a journal with a green or diamond open-access route, then there won't be any fees to cover and you won't have this dilemma.

(And if you're at an early stage of your PhD, reflect carefully on whether you really have good reason to distrust your advisor this badly, and if so change advisors quickly: the longer you leave it, the harder it will become.)

  • reflect carefully on whether you really have good reason to distrust your advisor this badly --- Supervisors are mortal human beings, not heavenly angels. So, it is natural that they will have vices. There is nothing unusual about that. I have seen PhD students' lives destroyed by their PhD supervisors. So, your assumption seems to be utopian.
    – user366312
    Mar 28 at 18:14
  • and if so change advisors quickly: the longer you leave it, the harder it will become --- I cannot change supervisors because, simply, there is no supervisor left in the faculty. The faculty is close-knit, and no one will take the risk of taking me as a student. There is another faculty that is just beside my faculty and they do similar research. My supervisor has close relationships with them, too.
    – user366312
    Mar 28 at 18:18
  • 2
    @user366312 When you say you distrust your advisor, people are going to assume you mean something much stronger than "having a healthy recognition that humans are imperfect". You're talking about not speaking to them about matters that are explicitly a matter between students and advisors. That's unhealthy and not normal. Not everyone's supervisor destroys them, most have the same goals as the student. Even if they are totally selfish it looks good for an advisor to have successful students, so someone acting against their student is willing to hurt themselves to do it.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 29 at 12:34

The SOP is to go through the chain of command, one link at a time. First speak with your advisor. If they say no, then ask your advisor if it would be OK to ask the dean. If the dean says no, then to the research office (or "development" office, or whatever). Then to the Provost's, etc. Your university may have funds to pay for publication fees.

From the comments, I gather that you don't have a good relationship with your advisor. That's never a good thing. So keep in mind that even if you get funding from the university administration, they will probably ask your advisor to sign off, and if the advisor refuses to sign, then you will get no money. Unless your advisor has a reputation for being vindictive and/or unfair, in which case the admin might override him/her. But this would be an exceptional case.

If all else fails, you can ask the journal for a fee waiver. It's not uncommon.

What you did with your previous request is considered bad manners, often referred as "going over my head" from the perspective of the advisor. The dean replied appropriately by routing it down to your advisor. Higher-ups do this to discourage students from just sending all requests to the top without first going through the appropriate channels.

  • 16
    @user366312 If you don't trust your supervisor that means the relationship is bad. It can be bad in different ways and to different degrees but lack of trust definitely counts as a form of a bad relationship.
    – quarague
    Mar 28 at 10:06
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    @user366312 It may not be your fault, but it's certainly your problem (also, nobody said that it's your fault to start with).
    – xLeitix
    Mar 28 at 11:52
  • 1
    Somewhere before going up the chain of command I'd also check if the university library might have some agreement with the publisher/journal for discounts or covered fees.
    – Anyon
    Mar 28 at 15:07
  • 1
    "Every university has funds to pay for publication fees." Citation needed. Mar 28 at 17:01
  • 6
    @DanielHatton It's not an idea, it's how things work in a bureaucracy. Deans and provosts are inundated with student complaints about homework and other minor things. Those complaints are always bumped down. You can't create a culture of "I want to speak with the manager". Now, if your supervisor is harassing you, you don't go ask them permission to complain to next level up, but for everything else, and that very much includes funding requests, you are in for a learnin' if you try to go over your supervisor.
    – Cheery
    Mar 28 at 17:43
  • A publication doesn't need to be OA to be useful for your CV or for the profession as a whole.

The standard procedure "should be" that the university, or at least the department, have a stated policy on paying fees for doctoral student publications. If they insist that you need publications for the degree then they should be willing to pay the costs of that.

Open access fees are another matter, however, since they are high. While the principle above still applies, I doubt that many places would pay the full fees for student publications, whether "independent" or not.

A typical faculty member will seek grants that provide funds for publications under the grant. Some faculty members will have funds for publication that are more broadly based and less restricted.

But the choice to go open access is yours. You understand the costs involved. If you aren't willing to ask the professor directly or indirectly then you are probably stuck with those costs.

I'd actually recommend, in your situation, that you publish in a more traditional venue. There might still be page charges, but much less than open access and with a higher likelihood that either the university will absorb the cost (a good policy) or that the journal will forgive the fees due to the fact that you are a student (independent or not). That is fairly common in publishing, or was when I was still active.

Save OA publishing for later in your career when you have the opportunity to develop funding sources for such things.

  • In some cases the funder can even have a stated policy (in places where funding a studentship from a single source is common and where they consider open access is desirable).
    – origimbo
    Mar 28 at 12:39

Based on your question and replies, fixing your relationship with your advisor should be your top priority, before being concerned about publishing. Your advisor will have to support you in order for you to finish the program. If you can't trust him to help you publish then you certainly can't trust him to help you successfully finish the program. With that said, whatever work you are doing should be a part of your dissertation, so by design nothing you do should be independent of your advisor. If you are doing independent work you are undermining your success in a PhD program. Doing your proposed dissertation work shouldn't leave room for pet projects, especially any that don't include your advisor.

  • "your advisor will have to support you in order for you to finish the program" may be location-dependent. Mar 28 at 17:13
  • @DanielHatton In what location would that not be the case? Mar 29 at 0:10
  • If you don't mind personal anecdotes: my PhD supervisor phoned me a couple of days before my viva to advise me that, having talked to the examiners, he thought I was going to fail and that I should withdraw my thesis and resubmit at a later date. I didn't withdraw, and I didn't fail. That was in the UK. Mar 29 at 12:18
  • 1
    @DanielHatton Although I am happy it worked out for you, I wouldn't suggest anyone make a decision based on your personal anecdote. Your advisor is suppose to help you, so having a poor relationship with them is counterproductive. In general a student's access to funding, supplies, instrumentation, and collaborators is severely limited outside of their advisor. The OP's dilemma demonstrates that. They may not be almighty but the support and advocacy of your advisor is irreplaceable. Mar 29 at 21:17
  • Absolutely, very much an observation not a recommended way forward. (Although we didn't have a particularly bad relationship, he just panicked in a moment of stress after hearing the examiners taking an unfavourable view of my thesis. I didn't join him in panicking, because I knew the (severe) flaws in my thesis very well and had a plan to fix them which I could set out in the viva.) Mar 31 at 14:13

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