I've already graduated. I wrote a paper related to my Master's thesis. I am planning on sending it to my adviser to ask if I should ethically include his name as an author. He seems to be ethical as far as I can tell, but in general is something like this dangerous to do?

Edit: I am wondering if showing your paper to other people before it is published is dangerous, I am worried about things like theft, even though he seems to be reputable, now that I am no longer connected to him academically.

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    What are you afraid he might do with it? – Bill Barth Jun 23 '14 at 18:31
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    Did he contribute enough to the development of the paper that would warrant co-authorship? – Brian P Jun 23 '14 at 18:33
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    As for worrying about sending unpublished work, my advice would be: take a leap of faith. You'll just have to trust your instinct and share with people you feel right. Note that there are probably more ethical and professional professors out there than the bad eggs. If very concerned, ask the professor kindly not to forward to anyone because it's not yet published. More subtly, you can add watermark to the document saying "DRAFT, DO NOT CITE." or "DRAFT, CONFIDENTIAL." He/she should get the hints. – Penguin_Knight Jun 23 '14 at 20:03
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    If you distrust your advisor enough to ask this question, why on earth did you agree to let him be your advisor in the first place? – JeffE Jun 24 '14 at 0:05
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    If that's your real question, you should edit your advisor out of the text (and the title). As written, it's sort of about people in general, but really about your advisor. ("He seems like a nice guy, but can I trust him, I mean people?") – JeffE Jun 24 '14 at 11:23

If you work in the US or Europe, intend to complete the paper and submit it for review somewhere soon, and have records that show the development work that you've done on the paper, there's little harm in showing it to people that you trust. If you don't trust your former supervisor, then I'd wait until you've submitted it or even have an acceptance in hand.

That being said, I'm wondering why you don't already know whether they should be a co-author and haven't already discussed the fact that you're writing a paper on which they might need to contribute. You should at least discuss this with them if there's any contribution of theirs in what you're writing up.

  • I'm not sure what you mean by a paper on which somebody "needs to contribute". Isn't contribution always voluntary? – David Richerby Jun 23 '14 at 20:25
  • I don't mean that the potential co-author had an obligation to contribute. What I was trying to convey was that perhaps they should have been allowed to have contributed already and now they need to or the paper should be killed or their contribution removed. It's not that hard to find yourself in such a situation. – Bill Barth Jun 23 '14 at 20:39
  • Good point -- the co-author question comes into play because the work on which this paper is derived was co-authored by him. I took it in a new direction. – horse hair Jun 23 '14 at 20:44
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    @horsehair That is not sufficient for a co-authorship on your paper. Just be sure to cite his earlier work. You may still want to send him your paper because he may have be able to improve your work. In this case you can put him as a co-author and publish a stronger paper. – Forever Mozart Jun 23 '16 at 20:44

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