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I sent my supervisor a manuscript, he did not have time to read it, gave me no feedback, and told me to put his name in the acknowledgements. I worked all by myself and one month later, my supervisor replied to me that the paper looks to be in a much better shape and he wants to be a co-author and could start edit it later.

I feel frustrated. My supervisor should have helped me to shape the paper into a good shape rather than just participate when the work is already in a good shape.

I asked him to list his contribution and his timeline to finish the editing. He has not replied to me. I told him I planned to submit it in the next two weeks. If he does not reply by then, I still submit the paper anyway.

My concern is whether the journal will contact my supervisor without me knowing. He will not be a co-author, and I would not expect him to pay any publication fees (if any), but it would be easy for the journal to look online, find that he is my advisor, and get his contact info.

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    – cag51
    May 17 at 17:50

2 Answers 2

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Direct answer to the question (and neglecting the advisor-student relationship - for this see R1NaNo's answer):

The journal is not likely to contact your supervisor

When journals receive papers they generally assume that all authors consent to be listed on the manuscript, and there are no missing authors, no inappropriately-listed authors, etc. A very diligent journal might Google for author backgrounds, to see if anyone looks like a gift author (example). However even if they notice that you are a PhD student publishing without your supervisor, they are not likely to contact your supervisor, since it is not uncommon; in fact some supervisors require students to publish some research without them before graduation.

The journal will start getting worried if your supervisor contacts them and says they should've been an author. If that happens it becomes an authorship dispute which is in theory none of the journal's business, but they will in all likelihood halt publication while the authors figure it out.

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To answer your direct question. No your supervisor will not be notified by the journal, this is not how publishing works. However, your supervisor will find out once this gets published.

However, this is the least of your worries. What you have done is taken an adversarial approach towards your relationship with your supervisor. In a lot of STEM fields, publications tend to be team-based, rather than individual, student-driven.

You must think about what you want your relationship with your advisor to be. It seems to me you took a line of work, it didn't work out how your advisor wanted, and he lost interest; not great on his part, definitely poor advising, but we only know one side of the story as to how this relationship and dynamic unfolded. Either way, it was clearly not healthy because you were not getting what you wanted, and neither was your advisor. When you brought in a separate professor, especially if you cc'd your advisor on the email, given the conventions in physics, there was likely an assumption that your advisor was directly involved in the work..... now he had to be involved or admit to the other professor (most faculty at least loosely know, or know of each other) that he gave up on you and told you to just do it yourself; i.e. admit to poor supervising. So to save face, he's back on the project.

Altogether this is not a good situation because it arose out of poor communication and not dealing with frustrations about missed or miscommunicated expectations on both of your parts. You had two options, extend the olive branch and use this as an opportunity to repair the scenario with your advisor as you improve the manuscript further, or double down on the individuality and exclude your advisor (again in some fields it is encouraged, in others it is highly problematic; some areas of physics it is grey, but in chemistry, surface physics, materials science it is often even grounds for dismissal).

So now you have this situation. You know what you did will lead to ill feelings, and are on a website trying to justify it to strangers that your advisor is incompetent anyway so why should he deserve any credit. That may all be true, but it doesn't help your day to day. I would say once this paper comes out, your relationship with your advisor, whatever it was prior, is functionally over. Is this what you want? Because what is the point of them advising you if you act fully independent, don't respect them (whether earned or not), and aren't willing to compromise towards an amicable solution/an investment towards the longer term.

Mentor/mentee relationships can be difficult because they involve humans, and these relationships, much like marriages often do take some work to be healthy.

So I guess, enjoy your paper if it gets published and move on. Can you graduate yet, or switch to another advisor?

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    "I will likely get lots of downvotes, so be it, the point is to give practical advice not grandstand and collect internet kudos" There is no need to delegitimate peoples' votes before they even happen. (No downvotes yet, and if they come, they may be about this bit in the first place.) May 15 at 16:10
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    +1 for a lot of good points, but re “now he had to be involved or admit to the other professor […] that he gave up on you and told you to just do it yourself; i.e. admit to poor supervising.” — surely there are plenty of face-saving ways the advisor could describe it: “STUDENT worked very independently on this paper”, etc. I realise this kind of independence for doctoral students is less usual in physics than in some other fields, but surely when it’s justified by a capable student, it would still be seen as a good thing not bad?
    – PLL
    May 15 at 22:59
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    @super_nova_Utah It doesn't look to me like you really listened to this answer. You're still trying to justify what you did to strangers and it still doesn't help your day to day.
    – Au101
    May 16 at 0:50
  • @super_nova_Utah It makes him look bad because it looks like he's not helping you with your work and outsourcing it to other people.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 16 at 1:14

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