If a PhD student is working on a research project which is neither related to his thesis topic, nor supported by the university in which he is studying or a faculty member; Does he have the right to use his academic affiliation and contact email?

There are two points here,

  • If the student is using the university facilities, he may acknowledge that support in the Acknowledgement section of his paper not by using the university affiliation.
  • The university in which the student is studying in doesn't necessarily want to be associated with whatever research he does in his free hours.

P.S.: Does this consideration apply to the researchers who work in a research institute or company?

  • 3
    The more general version of this question has been asked and answered. I believe this may be a duplicate.
    – ff524
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 22:43
  • 4
    To comment on your PS. A researcher in a company would almost certainly not be permitted to use the company name as affiliation for research that is not endorsed by the company. Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 22:46
  • 2
    I won't post this as an answer because it's not directly related to your question, but your University policy and/or your work contract may also restrict the work you are doing in addition to what you are paid for by your employer. Specifically, in your case, doing research for a collaboration or on your own could fall into the "additional work" category if it's not directly related to your Ph.D., and you should need your advisor/University agreement anyway.
    – strnk
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 22:56
  • 1
    If this is legitimate research, and you used university resources of any kind, couldn't the university actually require you to use their affiliation. They can certainly require you to give them a share in any patent rights. Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 2:17
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    If the student has a graduate assistantship, then it would be normal for the student to use the sponsoring university as her affiliation. Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:04

4 Answers 4



The affiliation serves two purposes: acknowledgement and identification.

Even if it is not part of your thesis research, if you are receiving resources of any kind from your institution, you should list them as your affiliation. These resources include money (whether directly related to your research or not), computing equipment, internet access, printer access, electricity, phones, faculty and student colleagues (whether coauthors or not), library access (either physical or electronic), whiteboards, local coffee shops/bars, and the general intellectual atmosphere that encourages you to do research in the first place. You can afford to be generous.

Also, the affiliation helps identify you as an author, especially if you have a common name, or you publish other papers with the same affiliation.

  • 3
    My PhD advisor, most of my former PhD students, and I all published papers as students without any faculty member's contribution. This is not only completely, utterly, absolutely normal and accepted practice in my field, but strongly encouraged practice, at every one of the 11 institutions (7 in the US, 4 in Europe) where I have been affiliated, as a student, postdoc, faculty, or sabbatical visitor. Researchers should be allowed to submit their research for publication without interference from their university. Whether they are faculty, students, or janitors is utterly irrelevant.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 3:13

First step: Ask your (1) advisor or (2) the department head or (3) both. Since you are not faculty, you may have to get permission to use the departmental affiliation for something that is outside your project. As long as this involves ethical and legitimate research I am sure it is not a problem. The department or university may have guidelines for publishing ethics which you may want to check as well. So, although there may not even be a problem, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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    you may have to get permission — What??
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 12:59
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    @JeffE In some places there is such law (e.g. in mine). Usually it is a formality (I guess to protect themselves against people publishing substandard things). Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 14:47
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    I must say that I am learning from these answers how shabbily graduate students are treated in some parts of the world. Also the protection from substandard work ought to be the refereeing process, not some university regulations! This makes me sad... Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 23:09

It can just be published as "unsponsored research". If they value their relationships highly though, they should dialog with their professors.

  • 1
    One could be doing research outside of work hours, then the university would not be sponsoring that research.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:59
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    @Davidmh: that may depend on the field somewhat, but in my field of math it would be bizarre to try to separate "work hours" from other hours - research happens on its own schedule. Perhaps a laboratory scientist could separate time in the lab from time at home, but then how would they do research at home? Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 14:21
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    @Davidmh As soon as you once download a paper from a paid website or use a paid search service, you are sponsored by the university.
    – yo'
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 17:27
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    @Davidmh: that's not how academic research works; faculty don't separate "paid" research and "unpaid" research - e.g. summer research, even if "unpaid", is still affiliated with the institution. (Also, the typical faculty workload according to many studies is about 55 hours per week, much more than 39.) This is one reason that the premise underlying the OP's question is hard to understand - assuming you have only one job, and the job is at a university, that university is normally the affiliation for all your academic work. Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 17:41
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    @MarkJ Affiliation has nothing to do with "sponsorship".
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 3:23

Sorry to revive old post, but here's one more perspective - consider not some abstract "right" of the student, but rather the political and practical aspect for somebody building a career. For argument's sake, OP, let's assume your paper was on a totally unrelated subject, using no university resources, i.e., typed up at home on a personally owned laptop. Even so, think about how your advisor will react when he is surprised to learn that you have been spending time and energy working on this significant outside project and didn't even tell him. PhD students in sciences receive a full stipend, and that is supposed to sponsor ALL your academic energy (regardless of day/night). After all, some of us do our best work at night and at home. The time it would take to conduct independent research and publish is easily like a moonlighting job, and this is usually frowned upon or explicitly forbidden. It is a distraction from your dissertation, and will likely slow down the research of your advisor who is paying your stipend. Finally and most importantly, the advisor has powerful influence over your professional future. When that advisor is writing the all-important recommendation letter, you want him to say you are dedicated, focused, and hard working, not that you are an irresponsible dilettante / rogue player. I know this may sound harsh, but it is the reality of the world. (I'm a full professor in the sciences at a top 10 US university, and I have advised 12 PhD students over 20 years.)

  • 4
    I'm afraid that you sound like a terrible person to have as an advisor.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 4:53
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    think about how your advisor will react — With proud congratulations. (I am also a full professor in the sciences at a top 10 university, and I have advised 9 PhD students over 17 years.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 13:15
  • I admire JeffE's principles, and I know I come across as harsh. I value my mentorship relationships greatly, it is in fact the main reason I'm in academia, and it is the only reason I posted the above opinion - for the protection of the student. The PhD program isn't a continuation of undergrad, when taking "electives" and extracurriculars were encouraged. IMHO when one reaches the PhD level, it is time to focus and devote all academic energy to that degree. At the least, before conducting a major side project, run it by your advisor to get his blessings. After all, you do value his advice?
    – Jolo
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 19:57

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