I have been working on a draft in the area of numerical mathematics for several months.

My PhD advisor recently discussed this draft with me. He wants to be mentioned as an author for (i) some discussions (ii) financing the research.

However, I am not sure about the authorship guidelines in my discipline. Numerical mathematics sits between pure mathematics, computer science, and the sciences, and it is comparatively young. So what is the appropriate norm on (i) choice and (ii) order of authors?

  • I would point out that including the advisor if he feels he deserves to be included is unlikely to hurt you, and not including him very well might sour your relationship.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 16:05
  • While it is true that PhD advisors usually well deserve to co-author any PhD thesis it is bad habit to deprive the student of the first paper he publishes by requiring to be mentioned as an author. I certainly would never do that. Sometimes it is bitter since the thesis might contain a brilliant idea which actually came from the advisor. So I can understand both sides. You can of course refuse the co-authorship but I suggest not to do that, unless it is clear that it is ALL your own work and ideas.
    – Rene
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 7:50

1 Answer 1



Being a researcher in numerical mathematics myself, I think that just "financing the research" is not a sufficient argument to include your advisor as co-author. The notion of "some discussion" is very imprecise and may mean that

  • the problem, the idea of the solution and the composition of the work belong to your supervisor, and your work is purely technical; or
  • your supervisor checked your manuscript briefly just once and made a couple of comments regarding your English.
Without knowing the level of involvement, it is impossible to judge whether or not you should include your supervisor as co-author. To answer this question, you may wish to read your journal's policy regarding the authorship. For example, the Elsevier's definition of authorship reads:

Authorship should be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution, or interpretation of the reported study. All those who have made significant contributions should be listed as co-authors. Where there are others who have participated in certain substantive aspects of the research project, they should be acknowledged or listed as contributors.

Order of authors

From my shoes, it seems that many researchers in the numerical mathematics prefer to list the authors alphabetically, i.e. the order of authors does not reflect their contribution. However, when I personally publish together with researchers in applied areas (like Chemistry and Physics) in journals like Phys Rev B, we prefer to follow their convention, where the first author is the "main" author, and the last one is the one who "finance" the research. This leads to a certain amount of confusion, when all these papers appear together on your CV. Arguably, a good decision is to describe the contribution of all co-authors in a special section at the end of your paper.

  • 2
    +1 for the specifying the contribution. If everybody did this, I feel there would be much less ugly politics.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 10:37

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