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I see that most professors list their former Ph.D students and their current positions on their web page. Is it a kind of advertisement? If so, why? If not, why not?

  • I am not familiar with that practice, at least if it is exactly as you describe: Is it really professors listing the current positions of their alumni on their web page, or is it alumni who list their current positions on their former department's website? – O. R. Mapper Sep 3 '15 at 8:19
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    It's a pure advertisement of how good leader the prof is if his students are so successful. – yo' Sep 3 '15 at 11:29
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    Professors want to show that their students have not only graduated, but gone on to find good jobs. This is important for new students who are considering working with them. – Morgan Rodgers Sep 3 '15 at 19:37
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    @O.R.Mapper Yes, it's exactly as described: some professors, on their own page, have a list of their former PhD students; if a student is still in academia, there'll often be a statement of their current affiliation and/or a link to their homepage. – David Richerby Sep 4 '15 at 8:17
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In my case at least, I provide this information mostly for the purpose of recruiting future graduate students. By demonstrating that all of my former PhD students and postdocs have landed in desirable positions (be they in academia or in industry), I am able to make a strong case for the value of a PhD obtained as a member of my group.

In my opinion, this is extremely important information for a student when choosing a graduate program and choosing a specific research group. What has happened to previous students? How many have finished? Of those who finished, where are they now? Unfortunately, this information can be quite difficult to obtain unless the professor is willing to provide it. And one needs to know what happened to all of the students--knowing that a couple of students are now successful is not that useful unless you know how many others went through the group as well.

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    Shouldn't the former students provide consent for this? – Massimo Ortolano Sep 3 '15 at 7:58
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    Frankly, I never thought to ask. They all have academic web pages or public LinkedIn pages that provide this information. But I suppose that, particularly for my students now in industry, it might be polite to ask. I can see no legal reason not to, however. Their PhD degrees under my supervision are a matter of (public) academic record, and there is no legal obstacle to saying "John Smith is a chief scientist with StartupCo" so long as it is true. – Corvus Sep 3 '15 at 8:00
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    "I can see no legal reason not to" - that will depend on the legislation, of course. For instance, while I cannot find any explicit statements now, there are at least various clues that in Germany, federal privacy laws require employers to remove any profile-like information of their former employees once those employees quit their job. (That notwithstanding, it is common practice in German ... – O. R. Mapper Sep 3 '15 at 9:54
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    Note that in some jurisdictions, students are allowed to mark some or all aspects of their academic profiles/information as confidential and faculty/staff are legally(?) obliged to obey that confidentiality (in fact, if a student marks their entire profile as confidential, faculty/staff can't even say that that information is confidential if someone asks, they have to act like they have no information on the student at all). – JAB Sep 3 '15 at 13:30
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    this can also be misleading as a generalization. I know some labs that only post their successful alumni, for the reasons you state. But that is not about showing 'all students' – user-2147482637 Sep 3 '15 at 13:52

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