This question is related to my previous one. Basically, I'm working in the research project as the only PhD student, other members are post-doc and lecturers. After discussing with my supervisor and other investigators, it is clear that there is no funding left for me even though they want to. My supervisor wants me to continue working but lets me decide if it is what I want or not.

Personally, I want to continue working because:

  • It's nice to mention about working in the funded project in my CV.
  • I have an opportunity to work with many senior researchers and lecturers who can write reference letters for me.

However, since I'm only in charge of performing experiments to test/evaluate ideas of others, there is no chance for me to be the first author of any papers produced by the project. For all the papers that I help writing, I only write the experiment section, while other sections are written by more senior members.

So, I want to ask if it helps for my career path in academia if I work in a project with no chance to be the first author of any papers produced by it.


  • My field is computer science in which the order of authors matters.
  • The project will take more than a year to finish, so I wonder if it's better if I focus all my time on my PhD and private life instead. Because at the moment, working in it is like doing a part time job without salary.
  • 6
    Yes, it helps you. It's better to be one of the authors of the paper than to not be. I find this rather self-evident, however, so I'm curious if you have something else in mind with your question?
    – Sverre
    May 30, 2014 at 15:08
  • 1
    The author order depends on your discipline (where authors are routinely alphabetically ordered, this question is less important). I assume yours is one of the disciplines where order does matter. And I would assume that potential postdoc supervisors would worry about a Ph.D. who does not have any first author publications to his name. This may again depend on your field. It may be helpful if you could edit your question to include this info. May 30, 2014 at 15:15
  • 7
    I guess its not so much a question of whether it is useful (it clearly doesn't hurt), but whether it is more useful than whatever else you could do with your time (other projects etc.). This will depend on lots of stuff only you know - what else is available, how much time the project will take, etc.
    – nivag
    May 30, 2014 at 15:19
  • 1
    "My field is computer science in which the order of authors matters." Note that this is not true for all of CS. For example, in theoretical CS, almost all author lists are alphabetical May 10, 2015 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


Does working in a project without being a first author of any of its papers help my career path in academia

Yes, it helps, but first-author publications help more. Find a way to leverage your work on this project towards a first-author publication, talk to your advisor about switching projects, or find a new advisor.

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