A psychology PhD candidate has been doing research on students (sorry i don't think I can be any more specific than this). They needed someone to develop a application that gathers metrics about each student and then reports back to a central database. The PhD candidate then accesses the database and runs various metrics on the data to try to uncover patterns. I was the person chosen to code the application. I put about 100 hours into building this software application and I was compensated fairly for my effort. Since then I have done regular maintenance and updates on the software/database and I continue to get compensated. Other than the software aspect, I really know nothing more about their research or dissertation.

My question is: Is there any expectation that I should be credited in the dissertation for my work on the software? Without my software, the various studies simply would never have happened because there currently doesn't exist any commercial software that does what was needed. On the flip side, I didn't actually help with the research, i had no say in the design or manner of the studies and was essentially uninvolved with anything that did not directly deal with the code.

The reason I am asking this question is mostly to see if I can use my work on this project in future resumes or CV's and actually list myself as a contributor on the project. In my normal life, I am not an academic or involved with any sort of academia other than this one incident so I am pretty clueless when it comes to this type of stuff.

  • Basically you cannot force someone to give you credits, even if you earned it, I think. Do you have any reason to believe s/he won't give you credits? To answer your initial question: good practice and good behaviour in sciences would demmand credits. However, use your experience in your cv either way. IMHO this is justified since you can give detailled feedback on the programming and its purpose. Feb 18, 2016 at 14:20
  • @HATEthePLOT honestly, we have never spoken about anything other than directly about the code. Like you said, I'd assume that there would be some credit in there given to me, seeing as I put a lot of hours into making sure the code worked perfectly, but I really have no idea how these things work and wanted to check on here what the expectation is before the very awkward conversation that this entails.
    – celeriko
    Feb 18, 2016 at 14:37
  • What does your contract say about this?
    – Mast
    Feb 19, 2016 at 17:12
  • At the universities I know, the PhD student would need to acknowledge your work because they declare that no other than the acknowledged sources/third parties were used or helped with the thesis. Feb 19, 2016 at 18:46
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    @BenVoigt "you are not an academic, why are you concerned about a CV?" ...The OP may not be an academic, but unless they're a landed aristocrat, they'll need to apply for jobs, and in so doing they'll want to list prior work experience. Have you been operating under the assumption that non-academics aren't required to have work experience, or did you assume (as I always do) that the OP is a career pickpocket? Feb 24, 2016 at 23:19

2 Answers 2


You did work for hire for a research group. Since you say you were strictly involved in developing the tool and not in the research, authorship of subsequent publications is not to be expected. An acknowledgment in the thesis would be appropriate but it would have very little weight in a CV, inside or outside academia.

At any rate, you can definitely list your contribution to this project in your CV regardless of which kind of acknowledgment you might get. In fact having delivered a working software and gotten paid for it will be much more helpful than any kind of authorship/acknowledgments when applying for jobs outside academia.

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    This is basically what I was thinking -- you're entitled to credit for your work, but you didn't actually do any experimenting, experimental design, etc., and you worked for pay, so you aren't an author. However, it is your work, so you're entitled to you it however you want (barring any prohibitions in the work contract). Personally, I would put you in the acknowledgements, but that's strictly up to the author of the paper.
    – anon
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:09
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    @QPaysTaxes: "you worked for pay" that doesn't speak against authorship. (nor is "you didn't get paid" a point for authorship). Feb 19, 2016 at 18:44
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    @cbeleites Sorry, I wasn't very clear. The OP was hired by the researchers for a single specific part of the project. You can be a paid researcher and be an author, but I'd doubt a contractor would be made an author.
    – anon
    Feb 20, 2016 at 1:16

I'm in a similar situation to yours, my job is a research support position, and it sounds like you're in a similar position. As in your situation, most of the work I do is on the technical side of things, supporting data collection for non-programming related research.

Whether or not you deserve credit for your work very much depends upon what you mean by credit. If you mean authorship-credit, I would probably say it's unlikely, unless the dissertation is going to discuss the use of your software as a novel research method. On the other hand, if you mean credit as in taking credit for designing and implementing the software, yes, you absolutely deserve credit, and you should be able to discuss your work as a project that you've worked on/are working on.

If the PhD candidate is gracious, they will give you an acknowledgement in their dissertation, however regardless of whether you are acknowledged, this is a project that you worked on, and should be able to discuss and claim as such.

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