I am a geology PhD student and would like to publish some writings to academia to improve my profile, I do not aim for high-impact journals. I would like to publish by myself only because my supervisor is a perfectionist (and doesn't care about my career) and I worry that I will remain invisible in academia. I would like some suggestions on what kind of articles or papers I can publish without the approval of my supervisor and without using the data he provided. I believe, this will help me get connected to a larger community (improve networking) without the aid of my supervisor.

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    Is your question about publishing "without aid" or "without approval" from your supervisor? Commented Jun 25 at 8:23
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    Depends on whether the supervisor contributed to the ideas. Commented Jun 25 at 9:10
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    Have you discussed this with your advisor?
    – TimRias
    Commented Jun 25 at 9:41
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    I think you need to reevaluate your stance. A perfectionist that doesn't care about your career while you just want to stack up low impact papers? Sounds like your advisor wants you to publish high quality research. Publishing a lot of worthless low impact papers for CV building is one of the things wrong with academia now. These papers add nothing other than increase the noise amongst the useful literature. Perhaps if you used your energy to conduct research towards those perfectionist level papers your advisor wants, and not low impact papers, you can build a strong CV.
    – R1NaNo
    Commented Jun 25 at 13:54
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    It's starting to feel like we need a CW question "How can I do thing X that I know my advisor is going to be upset about without consequences?".
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jun 26 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


Ethically, you can submit any work that your supervisor had no input in whatsoever without their approval.

What you can and cannot do (legally), depends a lot on your local situation. It can be that your supervisor is effectively also your line manager, in which case they may have a say in what you spend your (working) time on. It can also be that legally you are free to exactly as you please. We cannot answer this for you.

In any case, it is a good idea to discuss this with your supervisor. Your relationship with your supervisor is important. Keeping work hidden from them (especially if you do this because you think they would disapprove) is a major break of trust, and could irreparably harm your relationship. I certainly would be severely annoyed if one of my students would work one a paper without mentioning this to me. (I wouldn't need be involved, but I'd like to at least know about it.)

If your supervisor opposes that you work on something else independently, then regardless of whether you are in the right (legally/ethically) to ignore them, you may still be better off listening to them. (Unless you are willing to burn bridges.)

  • Any idea discussed so far has been criticized negatively, even if other professionals agree it to be beneficial, it has been turned down so i know this is impossible to discuss. I understand your view and i understand the importance of letting him know, thank you. Yes, I do not aim to do the opposite of his interest for sure. I will figure it out.
    – kc_nul
    Commented Jun 27 at 13:56
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    Another important consideration may be any funding that you receive: if you are being paid to work on a specific topic, then (most of) your time needs to be spent working on things connected to that topic.
    – avid
    Commented Jul 1 at 9:31

There are a lot of things to untangle in this question.

  1. It seems like you and your advisor are not an ideal match. That doesn't immediately mean that the situation is unworkable, but it does mean that you need to have a conversation about expectations, responsibilities and overall work ethic (including direction of the project, who contributes what etc.). You at least need to understand where the other person is coming from. Ideally, you reach a point where your views align and you find a way forward. Alternatively, you adapt to your supervisor's view on how they run their lab, given that you are a PhD student who is still in training and who needs a coach/mentor to develop and mature as a scientist.

  2. How publishing independently is seen differs per field. Probably the quality of an independent publication also differs per field. But don't get hung up on trying to publish a paper by yourself to proof yourself or establish a name. You are directing your energy towards a deliverable whereas the only thing that really counts in academia is your reputation and how solid your science is. Could your advisor be an over the top perfectionist who stops you from publishing? Maybe. Could they also be a seasoned scientist who knows the field and what is best for the science coming out of their lab? Probably.

Without knowing anything more, it is impossible to give spot on advise about your current situation - we don't know about your local environment, the lab (group size)/university/field, what year of your PhD you are in, whether your position is funded by your supervisor, etc.

In general though, I think you're better of with asking why you are in academia and what kind of scientist you want to be than with blindly focusing on getting a single author paper out. Try to learn from your advisor, not work against them. And ask yourself what you think of their research. Is it solid? Do you want to be associated with their work and their reputation? If not, then find a different supervisor. If you do, then work with them to build a network and a record of solid work. That will be worth more in academia than a lower quality publication. And if you leave academia nobody will be looking at or counting papers anyway.

  • 1 I know he is a good researcher and I look up to gaining the knowledge he has, the only loop hole is that he believes to be the only person good at what he does so automatically, everyone else is wrong and No one is an ideal match. The only way to align is to blindly do what has been asked.
    – kc_nul
    Commented Jun 27 at 14:06
  • 2. Quality of publication is important so while i aim at publishing good papers, i do not aim strictly on high impact factor journals with the single author publication. however, this discussion has been helpful in reassessing the approach. I will seek other ways to build my career (it seems difficult without the guidance of supervisor) Just one person cannot stir my choice to be in academia so i will focus on building a network with him.
    – kc_nul
    Commented Jun 27 at 14:06

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