I am a postdoc, and I understand that my work involves assisting undergrads and grad students with their projects. But sometimes things go beyond mere helping into more like supervising and explaining in detail some important aspects to undertake the work correctly. All I get at the end is a "thank you for your help" (which I really appreciate)! At some stage I even helped another postdoc by doing some calculations and some analysis of her work. I never have my name on any of their resulting publications.

I don't know how to approach this issue, it seems odd if I would say 'listen I won't help until you promise that I will be a co-author'.

Any advice?

  • 7
    If your contribution deserves co-authorship, it's unethical to drop you from the author list. If it doesn't, it's unethical to have you as a co-author. Of course, no one should promise to put your name on the next paper as a co-author when you haven't made enough contribution yet. Are your colleagues/coworkers systematically exploiting you by making you contribute to some extent but never enough to be a co-author? Or are you saying they put you in such a situation without realizing it? Or are they simply unethically dropping you from the author list? Jan 6, 2015 at 9:18
  • 1
    First, from the title it's unclear if by credit you mean coauthorship or something less. Second, from the question it's unclear that your help merits coauthorship. Explaining crucial known things in detail does not, though typically merits an acknowledgement.
    – Kimball
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:43
  • 9
    I think that the OP meant how to get anything out of all this time they invest into advising other students. PostDoc time is "Career preparation" time. So investing so much time should count somehow, like being allowed to write "co-supervised PhD student xy" on the CV or getting a "dean's certificate for excellence in keeping the department strong in research", which could - in turn - appear on the CV. In either case, he/she asks for some way of benefitting from all this work.
    – DCTLib
    Jan 6, 2015 at 14:14
  • @DCTLib: To me, from the last sentence of the first paragraph and the second paragraph, it looks like the OP might be focused on co-authorship.
    – Kimball
    Jan 7, 2015 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


If you wish to be a coauthor, you should definitely ask if that will happen before you start the work. Setting clear expectations is the best way to get people to do what you want. In those cases where you think you cannot become a coauthor, ask the person you are helping to tell your supervisor that you helped them. Keep a list of things you did and give it to your supervisor when you need letters of recommendation.

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