I am a postdoc with two advisors (not something I would recommend for everyone). I would describe the involvement of my two advisors in the project I undertook as quite superficial. I met and discussed a lot with them, they gave me some useful ideas, but they didn’t contribute much to the core of the project. I didn’t even feel they put genuine effort to understand what I was doing. Most of their feedback was related to ideas that didn’t work or was not implemented. If the right for authorship is defined by a significant intellectual contribution, then I wouldn’t really describe their role as such.

Is it ethical to include them as coauthors in the article summarizing this project, with an author contribution statement that describes each one’s role?

In this case their role will be something like giving useful tips, analyzing the results, ..etc.

  • 2
    What does it formally mean to have two (or one for that matter) advisors as a postdoc? Apr 2, 2017 at 11:05
  • @TobiasKildetoft: Advisor = supervisor / boss / PI. This terminology is commonly used in math, for instance, where the relationship between postdoc and advisor is less supervisory and more collaborative. Apr 2, 2017 at 15:46
  • @Nate Right, hence the "formally". Usually when the term is used it refers to an informal relationship, which makes it unclear why the role of the person as advisor is really relevant. Apr 2, 2017 at 16:28
  • 1
    Is it generally accepted to negotiate authorship at the start of a project? To me that seems obvious, but I feel like I get weird reactions from my peer PhD students and faculty when I suggest this. (Perhaps I should spin this off as a separate question.)
    – Philip
    Apr 2, 2017 at 17:14
  • What do your supervisors and Co authors say
    – StrongBad
    Apr 2, 2017 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


The reality is that standards for authorship are not universal across disciplines. In some disciplines, your advisors should be considered authors. In other disciplines, you advisors should not be considered authors.

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