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I have co-authored one paper with Professor A, PhD student B and PhD student C. B left the best impression on me as the most friendly, productive and hard-working. Now, I want to do a joint paper again. Same as last time, the subject is not in A's area of expertise (nor B's or C's), though it's highly related, but I am hesitant to work with A as he tends to rush and push to publication before getting the paper to perfect (or very near perfect), and he is usually busy so I doubt that he will spend much time on it anyways. C is OK, but probably can't contribute much to the paper. Besides, I think two authors may suffice and be optimal.

Now, A is B's adviser (maybe C's too) and was my undergraduate mentor. I don't want to induce any hard feelings to A and C if they find out they, but not B, are left out of this joint venture. In the end, I did present my draft to A and gave glimpse of it in a presentation where A, B and C were present. Another reason why I choose to work with B who is a PhD student is (this may sound silly) because I think this will actually help her career, as opposed to working with a professor or working alone, as I don't intend to pursue an academic career and am just doing this for fun. Plus, the second author can act as a serious peer reviewer, so this will benefit my paper as well.

How should I do about this?

  • Yes! It is OK to only invite one of three co-authors of a previous joint paper to do another joint paper. – Enthusiastic Engineer Nov 8 '14 at 18:20
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    Replace "paper" with "dinner" and "coauthor" with "guest". Yes, it is perfectly fine to only invite one of them to dinner, even though all three were guests at your previous dinner. – JeffE Nov 8 '14 at 20:30
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It is absolutely fine to not work with A and C as long as

  1. all the work and ideas in your paper are yours (and B's).

  2. your preferences on who to work with are based on academic and research skills, Making decisions based on their race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. is discriminatory and hence unacceptable.

I feel it is dishonest to add A and C to the list of authors in your paper just to keep them happy.

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It indeed is perfectly fine to collaborate with only B on a specific topic/publication.

What you might want to keep in mind is that, depending on the field you are working in, it might be common to include the supervisor of a PhD student in the list of authors, as long as that supervisor contributed -even little- by advising his PhD student also on this topic. As you wrote "my undergraduate mentor", I assume you are a PhD student yourself. So if you have your own supervisor as last author for example, it could become a problem not to include A in general. I agree with not adding A as an author just to make him happy.

Keeping C out of that paper does not seem to be a problem, as long as you don't use research done by him. But you would want to communicate that to B as well.

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    I don't consider this too much a relevant, and it obviously quite depends on the culture. I have seen a lot of people being "written on the paper" without doing really much there. I'm sure that it was discussed here before that it is not uncommon for advisors to opt out from being authors of a paper if they only "were available" to the student for questions (about writing style and such), but didn't contribute with any ideas. And as well, they often realize that for the student, having a paper on his own is very valuable and they support it if it is appropriate. – yo' Nov 8 '14 at 15:27

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