I am a second year PhD student currently working on three papers mostly unrelated to my field from previous research appointments (2 from rotations and one from undergrad). I'm finding myself very unmotivated to complete these simply because I'm not sure how beneficial it will be for me to publish them. I don't currently have any publications, but I'm currently working on a project in my lab that will hopefully get me a pub within the next year. Should I drop responsibility/authorship from these publications entirely, decrease my responsibility on the paper (currently first or co-author on all of them), or stick it out and publish them? I'm most worried about if it will hurt my reputation later to have a bunch of pubs during my grad school years that are completely unrelated to my thesis.

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    Actually, several of my papers have been published after I left the institute and while I was working at a new institute. Time contracts (2 years) make it possible. Publishing your work is a good idea. I would at least publish one of the three papers. Especially, since you don't have any publications so far. Feb 14, 2017 at 21:48
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    It certainly won't hurt your reputation to have papers unrelated to your thesis, assuming of course that the papers were of a good standard. But you need to guard against these papers sucking up large amounts of your time and lowering the quality of your thesis research. Feb 14, 2017 at 22:14
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    "I'm most worried about if it will hurt my reputation later to have a bunch of pubs during my grad school years that are completely unrelated to my thesis." To be honest, I'm having trouble understanding why this is a worry at all. You seem to be saying that having, say, 3 papers in field A and 3 papers in field B could damage your reputation in field A. This may not be as good as having 6 papers in field A (as @David says), and it may not even be as good as having 4 papers in field A and no papers in field B. But it has to be as good as having 3 papers in field A and no papers in field B. Feb 15, 2017 at 0:19
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    At some point in time you made a commitment to your co-authors to help with those papers. Those folks who arranged your rotations and invested time and effort in you made commitments that they fulfilled to you. You should really pay back their faith in you and get the papers out.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 15, 2017 at 13:53
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    Is there any specific reason why you worry that having different publications will count against you? I am not saying that this is certainly not true, but unless you have a reason to believe that this is an issue in your field, I really would not worry about it. (if the time you invest into these papers could be better spent elsewhere is a different story, but we are in no position to judge this)
    – xLeitix
    Feb 15, 2017 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


I struggle to see how having papers outside of your PhD field could be a negative - demonstrating you have knowledge, interest and expertise in a range of subjects can be a bonus. But as mentioned above, they must be of a standard you are happy to publish. Your PhD thesis (plus papers published along the way) will show your expertise in your main field, so why not show off your other skills too?

Plus, I imagine a lot of time and money has been invested into your previous work. I think you should use that for the benefit of your co-authors as well as yourself. But if you find the extra work is having a negative impact on your current studies, prioritise what is right for you.

  • I want to upvote this, because I think it's true in the OPs case, but I think it needs some sort of qualifier that this is true given the situation the OP describes. It is not universally the case that publishing outside your specializiation (and more broadly your field) will help your career.
    – virmaior
    Feb 16, 2017 at 8:43

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