My advisor gave me a published approach (algorithm) used to solve some type of numerical optimization problems (however, it is old and ditched compared to better algorithms that came out after it). His idea was to implement this approach, do numerical experiments and compare with other existing algorithms. And publish in a mediocre conference or journal if we got better results, and graduate early.

Along the way, I got an original idea and told him about it that could potentially revive this algorithm, he was unconvinced and underestimated me. I worked on it for two years independently on my own. He never asks about my progess and I don't visit him because he adds nothing to me.

He was convinced that I'd do nothing in my degree. Now, I finished everything, done my experiments, have results that my idea worked. And I want to submit my work to a journal and I feel it is unfair to put his name on my paper. I sent him it 4 months ago, and never gave me feedback. He told me to submit the fully finished completed thesis.

Now, is not it fair to publish it on my own? Should I ask him? But if I do, he might think I am naive and then tells me to put his name on it when he did nothing given that he has power over me, I might not have options.

I am looking for what is ethical to do here. If I went to a conference for example, I could have been guided to this published paper but this doesn't mean that I put the presenter in this conference as a co-author.

Sadly, I am in not top university in a 3rd world country where it is not common for grad students to be 1st authors. This could put me in a difficult situation, the advisor might lie and say I did my work with him and proceeded to publish without him.

  • "I sent him it 4 months ago, and never gave me feedback." Please clarify - what did you sent him? Did you already sent him the paper by email and he did not reply? Did you not talk about it any further? Also: is this your first paper? Commented May 11 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


If he did no work on the paper then he should not be a coauthor.

That said, it may not be in your best interest to insist on the ethical course of action. At this point in your career you do not want to jeopardize your degree.

Your question suggests that the material in this paper is in fact your thesis. If so, you can do what he asks for and "submit the fully finished completed thesis." If that suffices for your degree then after it's official you can submit the paper.

If the paper is required for the degree, you can politely suggest to your advisor that single authorship seems appropriate to you. If the tradition at your institution is that advisors are coauthors of papers from their labs (presumably for general support of their students' work) then list him even if it feels uncomfortable.


Is it fair to put his name: perhaps not.

Can you get away not putting his name? Best way to find out: tell him you want to submit, ask him if he wants to be a co-author. Second best way: send him a draft without his name on it, ask for his opinion, see if he complains.

But honestly, think about yourself first. Having a senior co-author could help with getting your work published, as you remarked. It won't get you an enemy and perhaps will even get you a friend! So, here's my opinion: who cares if it's fair? It's just a paper! Put his name there, send him the draft, ask for his opinion, get published, and move on.

Just a word on the ethical question: by your description, and since he's your supervisor, he seems to me to have a claim on co-authorship. If I were him I would probably relinquish this claim, but that's on him.

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