I did my PhD four years back. I was funded from my home country and I have done all the work. I started writing papers before submitting my thesis.

I am sending my supervisor drafts every year until now. Altogether I have now done 32 drafts. Since last year alone, I have rewritten my paper 12 times but he still is not happy to submit it and not willing to make any changes by himself. He is even not letting me to show it to the reviewers.

My supervisor is a lecturer and I was his first PhD student. I acquired the opinion of two professors (one of them is my 2nd supervisor and is a co-author) recently about the quaility of paper and they recommended to send it to a good journal (impact factor of 10 and above). After many years of struggle my supervisor wished to publish it in a journal with an impact factor less than 1. Above all he is not willing to pay publication costs and he is not allowing me to try for good journal. I am the one who did all the work, who paid for work, who wrote paper and who is paying for publication costs and i am not allowed to try any good journal.

One thing about his recomened changes: He did not ask repeating any experiments, redoing any analysis or revisiting any conclusions. It’s only text style that is being changed over last four years. I contacted the university services and they told me that I don’t qualify for university help as they only cover two years post PhD duration.

What can I do now? Can I publish my work without him as co author. Can I just acknowlege him for hosting me and remove his name from the author list?

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    Such a long pause can easily nullify your results ( others publishing relevant data, making your results old), so your worry is grounded. However removing him from author list is rather unethical as he still has some contribution to the paper. Can you try contact senior professors in that department and ask some help from them to put pressure on your ex supervisor?
    – Greg
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:14
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    he is not willing to pay publication costs what are these? Publishing in reputable journals is free.
    – Cape Code
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:14
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    @CapeCode: That's not universally true. There are definitely reputable open-access journals which have publication charges. Oct 26, 2015 at 17:18
  • 8
    @NateEldredge: True, but on the other hand, I have not heard of a field, which is limited to such journals.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:22
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    This paper is an interesting case study of what can happen to a paper when one of the authors disapproves of the way the paper is written. In this case his name was kept on the paper, but a footnote was added to note his lack of approval. The paper was never published in a journal, perhaps because of this disagreement, despite the fact that it actually contains a very interesting mathematical result.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


Can I just acknowledge him for hosting me and remove his name from the author list?

Probably not. If he deserves to be an author based on his intellectual contributions to the paper, then it would be unethical to deny him authorship based on being difficult to work with. He presumably thinks he deserves to be an author, or he wouldn't have spent years going over the drafts with you, and you apparently thought he deserved authorship at the beginning of the process.

Theoretically, you could declare that you have changed your mind and now think he never met the criteria for authorship. That would be risky: he'll presumably be angry, and you'll need to have a very persuasive argument regarding authorship to avoid major damage to your career. You should not try this unless you are certain that you are right and that the community will agree with you. Would you make the same decision if your supervisor were cooperative and easy to work with? If not, then you have no grounds for removing him as an author.

I acquired the opinion of two professors (one of them is my 2nd supervisor and is a co-author) recently about the quality of paper and they recommended to send it to a good journal (impact factor of 10 and above). After many years of struggle my supervisor wished to publish it in a journal with an impact factor less than 1.

Why aren't all the coauthors discussing this matter together? That sounds like how the issue of where to submit should be resolved. You can start an e-mail discussion or schedule a phone call, everyone can make a case for where they'd like to submit the paper, and then you can debate the issue. Hopefully you are all reasonable people and can come to some sort of agreement.

If this doesn't happen, then hopefully your other coauthor will decide that your supervisor is being unreasonable and will be willing to have a private discussion with him and try to get him to behave better. On the other hand, if your other coauthor doesn't think your supervisor is being unreasonable, then you probably won't get anywhere with your complaints.


In the following I assume that your assessment of the situation is accurate, in particular:

  • I have done all the work.

    I assume that this means that your supervisor did not make any intellectual contributions to your work. Be aware though that setting the general direction of your work may be considered as an intellectual contribution.

  • he still is […] not willing to make any changes by himself.

    I assume that this means your supervisor did not write anything himself and thus did not only fail to significantly participate in writing the paper in terms of authorship ethics but also does not hold any copyright on its content.

  • It’s only text style that is being changed over last four years.

    So, your supervisor did not give you any signficant intellectual input that may qualify for authorship.

In this case, you may publish that paper without your supervisor as an author in terms of authorship standards and ethics. A central requirement for academic authorship is making intellectual contributions and it looks as if your supervisor may not have made any.

Just giving critical comments on a paper or reviewing it does not qualify for authorship – if it did, I could claim authorship of twice as many papers as I have right now and would have twice as many coauthors as well.

However, it may very well be that your supervisor accuses you of stealing authorship from him (we have some questions here about similar cases). To avoid any trouble from this, I strongly suggest collecting evidence and discuss the situation with your other co-author (in particular, if they are a professor at your supervisor’s university) and ascertain their support in this case. This should also serve as a sanity check of your assessment of the situation, as it sounds quite extraordinary.

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    It may be worth noting that the assumption is a rather generous one. Rarely does one expect a graduate student to have an accurate assessment of how much of the work they have done. Oct 26, 2015 at 21:32

I'd consider doing the following:

Send it to publication with him not on the author's list. Somewhere in the paper (beginning, or end, or what not) just say what happened: "Person X contributed to this work to the degree of meriting consideration as one of its authors, but does not agree with this form of presentation and/or with the choice of venue, hence he is not listed as an author. For details please contact the authors and/or Person X at [email protected]" . Also mention this point in the submission notes.

It's perfectly fair, I believe; nobody can accuse you of doing anything underhanded; and, well, it's the truth, right?`


  • This is a suggestion which can be put in the practice despite the supervisor's objection. If you can reach some agreement with him, that's another story.
  • If your advisor says "hey, if you sent it, why didn't you make me an author?" - then just do that. There's always enough time for this before publication. Just make sure to inform him soon enough (e.g. on acceptance).
  • 7
    If the supervisor agrees, this could be a reasonable solution. (But I'd be surprised if he agrees. If he didn't care about being listed as an author, he would probably have given up years ago and suggested publishing it without him. The topic would have to be brought up very gingerly.) Doing it without asking, or after asking and not getting agreement, could be a career-ending mistake. If his contributions merit authorship, then being honest about omitting him doesn't justify denying him that authorship, and if he didn't approve, then this note would basically amount to a confession. Oct 27, 2015 at 2:24
  • @AnonymousMathematician: How could it be a career-ending mistake? The text of the article clearly states the advisor's contribution merits authorship. See my edit.
    – einpoklum
    Oct 27, 2015 at 8:32
  • I would consider submitting an article for which someone who meets the criteria for authorship is not listed as an author as a practically textbook case of underhanded behavior. Or I might use the word "scummy" but the idea is the same, I think. And admitting to academic fraud right in the article itself just seems dumb.
    – David Z
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:22
  • @DavidZ: You can't be serious. Nobody is being defrauded, and full disclosure is made to all involved.
    – einpoklum
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:24
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    I can be, and I am. If someone who meets the criteria for authorship is not part of the author list (except in some cases with their consent), that is academic fraud.
    – David Z
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:28

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