I started as a research assistant in a new lab 10 weeks ago. I have a six-month fixed-term contract, which was supposed to be extended to a PhD project in 2017. However, my supervisors have been mean to me (I don't quite understand why) and therefore I do not plan to stay in the group.

I have one unfinished paper (from the previous lab) which I plan to submit as soon as possible. The situation is quite clear: it was work that was started elsewhere, which I complete on my own time, and hence my new supervisors will not be co-authors.

I have been advocating against a certain practice in my field for about one year. I have received good comments about it. I would like to try to publish a short commentary in a leading science journal about it. However, I am not sure how to go about doing it. I would like to be the sole author, and not even discuss the work with my new supervisors. If I do it on my own time, is there potential for problems regarding authorship? It appears this particular lab has a policy that the supervisors co-author everything. Anyway, the usual protocols (e.g. Vancouver) suggest that without contributing they should be not. From a legal perspective I guess there are no problems, since the work (1) concerns a very general topic, (2) constitutes only of the idea, and does not need any resources from the university, and (3) I did it on my own time.

One thing I am also wondering is what to put as an affiliation. Should I put my present lab? Since it is the place where I work... Actually, doing that will have a positive effect to the lab's funding prospects if it is mentioned as an affiliation. On the other hand, I guess it could be used somehow against me in the worse case.

What should I do?

Please note that this is about a commentary, not original research. I think that makes this question different from many others.

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    Send it as sole author. I would choose to use the current affiliation. The other choice is no affiliation but it could be viewed as unprofessional. Oct 9, 2016 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


I see no reason not to send this as a single author paper.

I would, however, mention it as a courtesy to any new adviser you may acquire. If they are reasonable, they will not require being authors, but they may have input that could be useful to you, and it would certainly be useful for them to know about the paper.

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    "If they are reasonable, they will not require being authors, but they may have input that could be useful to you, and it would certainly be useful for them to know about the paper." I agree. But if they are not reasonable, maybe they would use the input they gave as a pretext for seeking coauthorship? I think that if the OP has reason to worry, he should bring up his paper as a single author paper to all of his supervisors. Oct 9, 2016 at 22:47
  • Yes, that is certainly a viable approach: "I have written this paper and would like some feedback, but within a level that allows me to stay the single author of the paper. Would you be willing to give me feedback of this kind?" Oct 10, 2016 at 11:57
  • Well, if they are unreasonable, they might also feel slighted that their new student published without their consent, and even if their names aren't on the work, if they disagree at all with the premise of the article they may also not appreciate (for example, if the premise of the article is about the attribution of authorship and ending the common but against-standards practice of gifting authorship to funders and supervisors without their intellectual input).
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 20, 2016 at 22:59

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