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I have been working on a paper as the first author. The paper looks good to my advisor and other collaborators, and we are almost ready to submit. I have already submitted the abstract for a good conference, and the full-paper is due in a few days. In the past week, my advisor let me know about a special edition of a reasonably good journal, that is due in a few weeks time (special edition = faster publication time. Period).

My advisor first asked my opinion about the venue choice, and I gave +s and -s of both, but refrained from providing a clear choice, saying that my experience in publishing is limited. In my mind, the +s of conference will be opportunity to travel and interact with community at large. Also I have never been to a conference before, so was excited about it. But I realize that the paper is a dead-end of sort, and doesn't have much scope to expand and publish later in a journal (Researchers in our field are usually interested to expand conf. papers into journal). Ultimately both me and my advisor agree that "getting it published" is the end goal that both of us would be happy to see.

I wonder if I should intervene and provide a strong opinion? or just let my advisor take the call? I have seen my advisor being pretty good at making such decisions. and I want to avoid looking like a jerk, when I have a long way as a PhD student with him.


I would like to thank Everyone for their suggestions. Things played out a bit differently than I would have anticipated. I talked to my advisor a day before the submission that I would like to submit for this conference, since my coauthor (ex-postdoc, 2nd author, experienced) recommended that's its a good venue and there will be scope to expand the paper into a journal later with xyz extensions. I had already discussed those extensions with my advisor before, but maybe i didn't sound as prepared / convinced. After our conversation, my advisor gave another quick review on the paper and let me submit it. Luckily it got accepted and I will be traveling to present it :). In retrospect, I feel my advisor was waiting for me to have a constructive discussion before giving me a go-ahead. I wasn't being as proactive earlier, was just too busy working on the paper and following up with coauthors.

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    Do you have a strong opinion? From what you've written, it doesn't really sound like you do (it sounds like you mildly prefer the conference.) – ff524 Apr 6 '16 at 10:55
  • @ff524 thats right. I haven't thought hard as yet, mainly due to lack of experience and concern of sounding oversmart. I have been avoiding this topic to avoid any contention otherwise. – tallharish Apr 6 '16 at 11:43
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    "special edition = faster publication time". Compared to typical journals, yes. Compared to conferences, NO. At least in CS (I assume you are also in CS, since there conferences have a special value). Besides the faster decision, conferences also offer wider and faster dissemination of your work + a paid vacation + good networking and so-on. – Alexandros Apr 6 '16 at 14:33
  • Thanks for the update. I am glad it worked out for you in the end. – Alexandros Jun 23 '16 at 17:29
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To be honest, I don't see a problem here. You seem to have a very good relationship with your advisor, who both repeatedly asks for your input and gives you the benefit of his expertise and experience. You have weighed in helpfully on the question at hand, but not definitively, because you don't yet have a definitive opinion.

The part where I get a bit confused is where you wonder whether you should "intervene" even though (i) you trust your advisor to make good decisions and (ii) you don't yet have a clear opinion to intervene with. So...unless/until you acquire a strong opinion of your own, go with what your advisor suggests. If/when you do, talk to him about it. If the decision has already been made and then you have thoughts about it, you can still talk to your advisor about it, but you should frame it not as questioning the decision but rather as a learning experience for you.

I think you're good.

  • I like your suggestion of discussing this later, as a learning experience. Thanks – tallharish Apr 6 '16 at 12:16
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Advisors tend to have a much better idea of the costs/benefits of where and how to publish. Sadly, it's not just a matter of "I think I've done great work, as long as it gets out there, I'm sure everyone will recognize it!" (as I extremely naively thought when I was a graduate student). If they suggest something, and you don't 100% understand their motivation for picking that venue, I suggest defaulting to their opinion, especially given from what you described about your relation with your advisor (ie they seem genuinely concerned about your career and allow you considerable say in the process).

There are situations regarding publishing where I might not suggest siding with the advisor (and you don't have too look far on this site to find them). For example, advisors that want to put themselves as first authors despite having very little input in the work or slightly less malevolently, keep trying to resubmit to top tier journals, even if that means not publishing until after the candidate has selected their next position (this can be very beneficial to them, but less so to the student). Both of those situations are in themselves slippery slopes as it is, but since it doesn't sound like you are in either, I would suggest siding with the advisor unless there is some other strong reason you disagree with them.

And of course discussing the motivations for their decision is never off limits (although it sounds like you have already done that).

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