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Some months ago I was contacted by a friend who works in my scientific field, regarding a collaboration project (we're both postdocs). We exchanged some emails and considerations. He provided me the dataset, and I developed a simple program able to make some interesting scientific discoveries (at least, from my understanding).

We've not given too much importance to this project, but now it turns out that it could lead to a scientific paper to submit to a good journal.

Even if I dedicated to this side project a small amount of time (~3 hours / week), it surely took away some time from my main project, which is much more important.

Now in the writing phase, I wondering if I should tell my supervisor about this project and this paper. On one hand, I'm worried that he might not like that I dedicated some working time to it instead of my main project... on the other side, I think he would be happy to collaborate in writing this paper with me and gain a new journal publication.

What do you think I should do?

What do you think my supervisor would say about this side project and its paper?

  • 4
    No one knows your superviser here better than you (except perhaps, themselves, if they are online). Is there a precedence case? – Captain Emacs Jul 26 '16 at 18:53
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    Your advisor is not a soul-sucking demon. Just talk with them already. – JeffE Aug 1 '16 at 15:09
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I recommend that you should talk with the supervisor about side projects. Perhaps revealing the nature of a project at once is not a good idea if the relation with the supervisor is not so close. You can start for example telling your supervisor that you are/will be collaborating with a friend on a project and see the reaction and the comments, and after a few weeks you can expose the whole project and paper to the supervisor. I don't think you have invested such a long time in your project, 3h/week is a small amount of time, so you didn't took much effort from your principal project, you have nothing to worry about.

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    I strongly agree: talk with the supervisor,. I gave a negative vote for suggestion of being less than transparent in the conversation - If a student told me in this manner (pretending first to 'sound' me out, then slowly doling out the truth over course of even one conversation let alone waiting days to come clean) I would likely want to get them out of my group. If a student tried to hide that they realized a potential issue, conflict of interest, error or omission, then it is very hard for them to regain trust that they won't try to mislead or lie about difficult mistakes in research. – Carol Jul 27 '16 at 13:14
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Just because you are doing a main project does not mean you cannot work on anything else. You are not a slave! You have every right to work on it with your friend. Many professors wont understand it. My masters professor did and loved it. If your relationship with your professor is new then mention about your project in passing and look for his reaction. If he is curious, let out the cat. Else kill the pigeon and work on it by yourself!

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