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I am currently a summer student working on a project suggested by my supervisor. While the project will not directly result in any publication, it will open up avenues for further research for the group. I have completed the main objective for the project ahead of schedule.

When I originally started working with my supervisor, I expressed that two of my goals for the summer were to (1) contribute to the group in a meaningful way and (2) the possibility of publication. I feel that (1) will be satisfied by my current work, but (2) will not. I have one more month left on my research term.

I originally agreed to my supervisor's project suggestion on faith; I didn't understand the scope or scale of the other possibilities and I trusted that it would satisfy both of our goals.

Would it be too forward of me to ask to contribute to something that will result in publication (considering that I am an undergraduate and given that there is only one month left)? I would like to work on a publishable result, but I also don't want to mooch off of the hard work of my group members.

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    I don't know if a month is enough time to really make publishable contributions to something you're brand new to, but it's definitely worth mentioning again that you had hoped to start building your publication record and to ask if there is anything you could do. Perhaps there is something publishable in the work you've already done? Worst thing you can do is not ask. – marcman Jun 24 '15 at 16:55
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Is it acceptable for an undergraduate researcher to ask to work on a project that will yield publishable results?

Yes, of course! There is nothing wrong with expressing your goals for the research project to your supervisor, and I think any reasonable research supervisor would appreciate that sort of honesty from their mentees.

When I originally started working with my supervisor, I expressed that two of my goals for the summer were to (1) contribute to the group in a meaningful way and (2) the possibility of publication.

Sounds like a reasonable list of goals to me. But, for your 2nd goal, the possibility of a publication coming out of your work is only that: a "possibility." As you may be relatively new to research, it is probably a good idea for you to keep in mind that not all research projects result in publishable results (as this question highlights).

Would it be too forward of me to ask to contribute to something that will result in publication (considering that I am an undergraduate and given that there is only one month left)?

This is where it gets a bit trickier. You only have one month left on the project, and it may be difficult for your supervisor to find something meaningful, and publishable, to work on in that relatively short amount of time.

On top of that, there may be other factors working "against" you. For example, suppose that there is a gap your group is looking to fill, but you do not have the background necessary to make a meaningful contribution. What are they to do in this case? Drop everything they are doing to get you up to speed? I think you can see that this may be an unreasonable request.

For all I know, you are an extremely bright student who is more than capable of making a breakthrough on a tight deadline. But, if there are gaps in your knowledge, and it would take someone a nontrivial amount of effort to get you up to speed, then that could be problematic. There are other researchers in the group, and depending on the group dynamics, it may be difficult (or easy) for them to make accommodations for you on such short notice.

In the end, I think you should definitely have a chat with your supervisor, give them the lowdown on what you'd like to accomplish in your last month. Then, listen.

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Nothing wrong with asking. If your data is OK, it is conceivable that the data could be included in a published work. Gaining authorship on this paper is another story that I wouldn't count on given you are only around for another month.

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