I am second author of three on a recently published conceptual paper (i.e., no data). The first author is a a student I co-supervise, although the paper did not stem from his thesis but is a contribution we were invited to submit for a special issue. Authorship order accurately reflects paper contributions.

We had discussed submitting an abstract to present this paper jointly at an international conference. The submission form allows multiple presenters but one must be named as the lead. My thinking was that this should be the student, since he is first author on the paper, but that I would contribute at least 50% of the preparation. However have found out that the conference funding from my department is only available to lead presenters. The student has funding for travel to the conference regardless, as he will also be separately presenting his thesis work. He has also stated it is no issue for him if I submit the abstract as lead presenter (I would of course credit him and provide the accurate citation for the paper with him as first author, or even present jointly as per the original idea if he wants to do this).

BUT - as a relatively new academic I would really appreciate opinions as to:

  1. Whether this is not the right thing to do even if he says he is ok with it - perhaps I should just sit this one out and leave that material to the student to present at a later conference if he chooses; and

  2. Whether it would actually just be weird for the second author to be taking the lead on the conference presentation i.e. being the named lead presenter, particularly if the first author is also present at the conference and/or involved in the presentation?

As a little bit more context, I am interested in attending this conference for the networking and learning opportunities, and don't have anything else to submit as an alternative being so new in the job. I have previously presented all my previous work.

  • Welcome to the site! I edit the formatting of the post a bit - I hope you don't mind and feel free to rollback if you like.
    – Dirk
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 9:03
  • 2
    I've just been involved in some conference abstract submissions. It was possible to set any of the authors as the presenting author, and any as the corresponding author. By default both of these were set to the first author but that's all. This is in a field where author order matters (especially first).
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 16:46
  • What makes one a good first author is not quite the same as what makes for a great oral presentation. Though less applicable here (e.g. who is able to make it to the conference & have time to prepare), there are also other good reasons why a team of authors might choose a lead presenter who is different from the first author.
    – WBT
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 5:20

4 Answers 4


As far as I see there is nothing particularly strange with any of the authors presenting while any other authors also attend the conference. (Well, I am from mathematics where there is no such thing as "order of the authors" but I also work with people from other disciplines which do have this notion.)

So having the second author presenting while the first authors is in the audience seems totally OK for me. (It could just be that the presenting authors is the "best presenter of the group" or, by contrast, should train presenting…)

Also it is totally OK for you to be first presenter, especially since the student agreed. There are many different things influencing who presents some paper/poster (some of which you already stated such as funding, time to attend) and I think the audience would not even think about the issue much. In general, all authors should discuss who should be presenting and as long as all authors agree, the outcome is OK.


As mentioned before: if he agrees there's no problem. Just like your PI could present your work, you can present the work of your student. If you contributed more than only supervision: even better. But I answered especially to say that usually there's no such thing as "leaving the material to present at a later conference". In my field at least, some work is presented on multiple conferences, recycled in big presentations by PIs and incorporated in the presentation on the follow-up publication. Of course he'll not be invited to present the same thing at the same conference next year, but somewhere else he could very well be.


If you have a department head you could consult, I would consult them on whether or not this would violate any standards and practices for your department or academic field - just briefly summarize what you and the student intend to do, and ask if there are any restrictions on it.

Also review the requirements for 'lead presenter' at the conference you are attending - make sure there aren't any qualifications necessary to be considered lead presenter (there might not be any rules at all - just so long as you are part of the paper itself).

If both of these check out, and as you said before you've talked it over with the student and he's fine with it, then I see no problem with representing your paper as the 'lead presenter'. You did after all contribute to it, so it's not as if you aren't familiar with the content.


I think there are two different issues here: (1) the learning experience for the student, and (2) academic politics.

The best learning experience (assuming the student doesn't have a track record of being terrified by doing presentations!) is to let them do the bulk of the preparation and presentation work themselves, but give advice on the first draft(s) of the presentation material and be around at the conference to pick up any hard (or hostile) questions from the audience if the student gets out of his/her depth. You can't learn how to do presentations without actually doing them, any more than you can learn to ride a bike by watching videos or reading books.

I wouldn't see anything particularly strange in the lead author of an already published paper being less involved in a conference. Quite likely the student would be working full-time on this single problem, but the lead author would have other responsibilities that might conflict with even attending the conference. Of course if the paper was written only for the conference itself, that would be a different situation.

I'm not qualified to comment on (2), except for the general observation that "here be dragons".


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