In the question Is it common to review papers assigned to your supervisor?, it is answered that it is not uncommon for the advisor to ask a student to review a paper.

I was ok with it during my PhD program. But now my PhD is finished, and even though I keep working with my advisor on some research papers related to my thesis, he sent me a new request to review a paper on his behalf.

I really would not like to review this paper, as it was not assigned directly to me and I'm not a PhD student anymore. On the other hand, I don't want to sound rude and, in the future, I plan to work as a teacher on the same university, so I wouldn't like to burn any bridges.

How should I answer to this?

  • 6
    What do you mean by "on his behalf"? Why does it matter to you whether it was assigned directly to you or not? The work is the same, and so is the credit you get for it. If you think it'll help your career to review it, then of course you should. It's just a review. Why "I'm not a Ph.D. student anymore"? Reviewing is not a grad student thing. Professors review way more papers than grad students do.
    – Sverre
    Aug 30, 2015 at 8:34
  • 3
    @Sverre the credit you get is not the same. Journals and conferences publish lists of reviewers, which you are not on if you just get papers delegated to you. Whether or not this is important is another matter, but it is not entirely irrelevant. Aug 30, 2015 at 8:35
  • 3
    @MarcClaesen That depends on what the OP means by "on his behalf". I've had professors give papers to me to review, but then the journals transferred the assignment from them to me.
    – Sverre
    Aug 30, 2015 at 8:37
  • 2
    @Sverre I see your point. Maybe I jumped the gun thinking "on his behalf" immediately implies "without anyone knowing it wasn't the prof" (though I think this is what the OP meant). OP: can you clarify? Aug 30, 2015 at 8:39
  • 2
    Guys, I think the OP is really not interested in a discussion of the practice in general. Can we please answer the actual question whether one should still do reviews for the professor after graduation?
    – xLeitix
    Aug 30, 2015 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


I think this dilemma can be best understood by separating it into two sub-questions:

  1. To what extent should you be doing reviews after graduation?
  2. Assuming you are doing reviews, does it matter whether they are sub-review requests coming from your former advisor?

For the first question, there are already good answers on this site about number of reviews and about whether reviewing is mandatory. Both essentially say that reviewing is good community service but never required, and it's better to not review than to give a poor quality or resentful review. Considering this, if this paper came as a direct review request to you from a journal / conference rather than a sub-review request from your former advisor, would you be willing to review it? If the answer is no (which I think it might be given what you wrote in your question), then the fact that it came from your former advisor is beside the point; you can politely decline just like you would if you had been asked directly.

Now, if you would be willing to review if asked directly, but not when asked as a sub-reviewer by your former advisor, you need to ask yourself why this is, and frame your response accordingly. For example:

  • If you are concerned about getting credit for your service and the review request is from a journal, then you can tell your former advisor you're wanting to build relationships with journals and ask them to have the journal transfer the review request (conferences may be unwilling to transfer, depending on how they manage their program committee).

  • If you're feeling resentful because you want to "leave the nest" and the way that you were asked makes you feel your advisor is still treating you like a student, then you might respond by saying you are very busy in your current position (no doubt true) and suggesting that your former advisor send this to one of their current students instead of you.

Other reasons may have other responses, but these are the main ones that I could think of, and I think may cover the most likely possibilities.

  • Yes, this is the answer I need. It's a mix of the two reasons you wrote, and I'm going to base my response according to this. Thanks.
    – Chaotic
    Aug 30, 2015 at 23:03

I assume you mean to review a paper for a journal. When a paper is assigned for review, it is supposed to be reviewed by the assignee, and not given to a student. So you should politely but firmly decline.

  • 5
    That answer misses the point entirely.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 30, 2015 at 10:50

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