I have been told in no uncertain terms that papers published with your PhD advisor simply Do. Not. Count. when it comes to tenure. Quote: "Publications with your advisor will be crossed off the list."

An assertion that strong makes me insecure about collaborating with any senior researcher. Will these publications also be tossed out? How senior is senior? For instance, suppose I collaborate with junior faculty at another institution who was hired at roughly the same time. Will outcomes from that collaboration be deemed "more significant" than with, say, a full professor from that same institution? And what about the field? Am I "safer" publishing with senior people from a different field, because there will be an easier perception that I am "carrying my weight?" Or should I simply avoid collaboration altogether, and publish exclusively with my own grad students and postdocs? How do the real discussions go, from those who have actually been in the trenches?

Honestly, I would much rather just collaborate with the people I do the best work with. (Isn't that the best thing for the field anyway?) But I am terrified of having years of good work "crossed off the list" because I did not pick the right dance partner.

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    Honestly, standards differ so much that I don't think you'll be able to get useful advice here. Certainly not all institutions discount papers published with a PhD advisor as severely as you describe (or even at all). You need to put this question to people in your own department who have experience with tenure decisions. Apr 9, 2015 at 15:48
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    (1) Surely it varies widely depending on field and even within a field. So Nate is right: ask in your department. (2) "Isn't that the best thing for the field?" ... maybe, maybe not. But worry about that only after you are tenured.
    – GEdgar
    Apr 9, 2015 at 15:51
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    Collaborating with senior people is a good thing. The case of your advisor is different in that he or she has an interest in seeing you succeed, and may end up contributing much more than the usual share of a joint paper. A collaboration with other senior people is seen quite differently, as it means that your research quality is good enough to have attracted them.
    – Jim Conant
    Apr 9, 2015 at 16:29
  • I strongly endorse @NateEldredge's comment. That said, I believe a common attitude is that some of your papers (including some of your best papers) should be solo or joint with only junior people.
    – Anonymous
    Apr 9, 2015 at 16:56
  • I can confirm that this (unofficial?) policy does exist in the field of life sciences in several institutions. I was also shocked when I heard about this the first time.
    – Bitwise
    Apr 9, 2015 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


I can't speak for your field or institution, so take anything I say with that in mind.

That being said, in my experience (in computer science, at a well-ranked private university) what matters is not so much who you collaborate with, but that you have a research agenda that is strongly identified with you (as opposed to your senior coauthors). If all of your papers are coauthored with the same senior researcher, this can look bad, because it can be difficult to disentangle your research agenda from his or hers. But if your papers have a cohesive theme, and are coauthored with a variety of other people (even if many are senior), this is great.

So in summary, in the parts of academia I have seen, you should collaborate with whoever you want to, but make sure you have your own research problems and are not just working on your coauthor's problems.


As others have mentioned, the details vary by field and department. But essentially, your publication record as a faculty member needs to demonstrate that you are an intellectually independent PI making your own unique and novel contributions to your discipline. If your collaborations with previous advisors create the appearance that your work is merely an intellectual extension of your advisor's work, or that your research program is significantly dependent on that of your advisor (or others), then it will not be looked on favorably, whether or not those papers are "officially" counted.

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