I'm currently close to finishing my first paper in a PhD degree (applied maths). I have a supervisory team of 4 academics, 1 of which is the designated main supervisor.

My problem is that in reality, all of my work for this paper has been in collaboration with only one of the supervisors (not the main) who works in a different department. As well as this, they also gave the advice for the direction of the PhD and is also the only person I have meetings with. It seems to be a culture within my environment that all the supervisors are included as co-authors. I'm not comfortable with the idea of other people getting credit for something I have worked hard on or the ethics of it; but at the same time of course I don't want to ostracise myself from the group or harm my future prospects. They did after all get the funding for my position and I have no problem with working with just one supervisor.

Unfortunately I didn't have any conversations about co-authorship before I started the program. Any advise?

3 Answers 3


Academia is a very 'political' and 'incestuous' environment. If it is common to do that, then in order for you to succeed there, you might should do what they do.
si fueris Rōmae, Rōmānō vīvitō mōre; si fueris alibī, vīvitō sicut ibi ‎(“if you should be in Rome, live in the Roman manner; if you should be elsewhere, live as they do there”); which is attributed to St Ambrose.

If you don't, and they expect it, then you might just piss them off. They may never mention it, but they might take it out on you in ways you could never prove. Retaliation likely won't be something you even see - not getting that scholarship, journal, presentation, etc.

TL;DR - Ask them what to do, then do it.

  • 1
    Good answer. I would add, specifically, talk to the author you did the work with first and see what they say.
    – Jeff
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:29

I think co-authorship is fine for papers you might publish based on your PhD work but the thesis itself should be your sole authorship. You can acknowledge your supervisors' guidance and collaboration on the research of course.


The honest and most practiced answer to say is that you have to put their names. They might not have worked directly but as you said arranged funds for you.

But personally i dont like adding people with no contribuion to work, but believe me they made me suffer and my masters degree was at risk, just for this small mistake.

So for now and for phd, just add them, keep them happy. As they will most probably save your day at the end. How ever keep in mind your future, and as far as you are the main author the gurus in journals and conferences know who has worked and who not.

  • 1
    I strongly disagree. The honest and most practical answer is that you must have the uncomfortable conversation about authorship standards now, while there's a paper on the table. Bad advisor for not having the discussion earlier.
    – JeffE
    Aug 21, 2016 at 3:26
  • I know these, but Normally the supervisors are the big fishes of the tank. And student is helpless most of the times.to avoid being pointed, just follow as said by supervisor. Definately the thing come into mind is lets talk to them which most of the times dont bring happy ending. Aug 21, 2016 at 4:49
  • If talking to your advisor "most of the time dont bring happy ending", get out. Find a new advisor, move to another program/university, leave academia if you have to. What you're describing is abuse. Students should not fear their advisors.
    – JeffE
    Aug 21, 2016 at 15:11
  • 1
    Yes get out if in 1st year, what will you do in final year of phd, quality publications and novelty comes after first year when you get hold of literature and related work. Personally i will cmpromise on one paper rather then restarting phd. Aug 21, 2016 at 17:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .