I just started my PhD and I was planning to submit a paper from my MSc work to a conference soon. The paper was finished before I join my PhD program.

Now my new PhD supervisor want to add his name and his post-doc name on the paper. He asked me to send the paper for his post-doc to review and then add both their names. Although my previous supervisor already reviewed the paper.

How should I proceed? My new supervisor definitely has no contribution in the paper and feels like he just wants his name on more papers with no regard to how he contributed.

  • 31
    I think this is time for a JeffE quote: "Don't walk, run". Someone will probably elaborate more, but if this is the attitude of your advisor, there is a good likelihood that this whole PhD will be a miserable experience with little gain. Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 7:26
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    Start by saying no. It's your work. You do not need your advisor's permission to publish it. If he objects, fire him and find a new advisor.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 11:43
  • 5
    Discuss this with your previous supervisor
    – user2768
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:33
  • 1
    "Thank you. professor but the paper is already reviewed by my former supervisor and I cannot add any co-authors without his/her consent." Or, you could go by "Thank you for your generous offer, but I'd like to submit paper as it is. Maybe we can work together for a journal version."
    – padawan
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:12
  • Are planning on going to the conference on your own (your own money)? Or your current advisor will pay for the fees? If he is going to sponsor you, perhaps he needs a justification to use some money from a grant or dept. I'm not trying to defend your advisor, but perhaps that's another angle to look at things. PS either way, I still agree with Jeff.
    – The Guy
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


I'm in the social sciences, but I can't imagine that this is a discipline-specific issue. Is your new supervisor pre-tenure? If so, he may be pressured to have a stronger CV and publishing with his post-doc would look extra favorable. Regardless, (from your description) this appears to be an inappropriate request and I'm sorry that you were put in this predicament. I find the fact that the supervisor wants the post-doc to also co-author is especially troubling.

First, I echo that you should find a new supervisor. If there is someone else whose work is close or closer to your interest, you can ask to transfer supervisors and claim this as an academic request and not a personal one.

Second, is your MSc a co-author? If so, you can state that the prior supervisor is the co-author and you do not feel comfortable adding additional co-authors when the previous supervisor put in much of the work.

If not, you can still claim that you did the majority of the work and that if neither your supervisor nor his post-doc have any significant additional contributions to your paper, you do not feel comfortable adding them as co-authors. To further decline with professionalism, you could explain to the supervisor that you have other paper drafts or other projects that you would like to publish and/or present at conferences...if the two are interested in co-authoring you could collaborate on revising something else to publish together.

If your new supervisor is somewhat junior, he may not know that this was inappropriate (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt), so I would try to be as professional about this as possible. It also might not surprise other faculty or administrators that this person asked you to do this (there are always faculty members here and there who are known to minimize student contribution and credit, though unfortunate). Good luck!!!

  • @user2768 If the student is interested in finding out if there is benevolent intent on the part of the supervisor, a larger discussion could start with asking how the supervisor and post-doc plan to help revise with the paper and take it from there. I understand your point - fair enough. However, there is the potential for a bigger them to review and having them assume there will be co-authorship on any and all terms, which may have to be argued against later. Here, it can be established up front, which is how all co-authorship agreements should be. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 21:50
  • That seems a bit iffy to me; it's clear from the OP that it is his or her original work and from what was written, probably already publication worthy. The behaviour of the supervisor was inappropriate and I think the best approach is to shut them down clearly.
    – JNS
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 13:04

I largely agree with comments by Tobias Kildetoft, JeffE, and Nicole Ruggiano, but there's another angle that has not been considered, namely, the supervisor might be acting in the OP's best interests.

THIS ANSWER IS CONTROVERSIAL. At the time of adding this remark, down-votes outweigh up-votes. The comments suggest that down-votes are due to the supervisor being presumed guilty of malpractice. This is a serious, worrisome accusation. Let's step-back momentarily and presume innocence.

The OP has stated that their supervisor wants his post-doc to review a paper co-authored by the OP and OP's previous supervisor. It has been assumed that the supervisor is acting in his own interests. This might not be the case. Perhaps the supervisor believes the paper can be improved, after review. The OP should assess whether this might be the case. If so, then the OP should consider whether such improvements are worth adding the supervisor and post-doc as co-authors. They might well be worth it. For instance, if the improvements enable publication at a more prestigious journal, then I'd consider such improvements worth adding the supervisor and post-doc as co-authors.

I fully appreciate that reviewing is insufficient for authorship and, as I have hinted, I fully agree with Tobias Kildetoft, JeffE, and Nicole Ruggiano, if the supervisor wants co-authorship without contribution. That's not the issue I want to address; I want to establish whether the OP has fully understood the supervisor's intent. In particular, I want to establish whether the supervisor/post-doc is also offering a scholarly contribution. If so, then the OP should consider co-authorship.

(In using the phrase "feels like," the OP is hinting that the supervisor's intent is unclear. Hence, the need for clarification and the potential importance of this response.)

  • 7
    Simply reviewing is not enough, otherwise every peer reviewer should be added as authors after acceptance of a paper. That he asks OP to add him and his postdoc as co-authors after only reviewing the work, and not as a conditional statement dependent on any real contribution, cannot imply anything other than ill intent.
    – user8001
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:06
  • 1
    Clearly reviewing is insufficient for authorship! That's not the issue, the issue is whether the OP has understood the supervisor's intent. It's very common for questions to miss crucial details and I'm merely exploring the possibility that a detail has been missed here.
    – user2768
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:34
  • 2
    I completely disagree with your answer. I could see your answer applying to a project in progress, but a person which has power (supervisor) asking to join a completed project (as stated by the OP) should be a big NO in academia. On top of that, asking to be added to the authors list before even seeing IF they can contribute negates your reasoning, at least IMO.
    – Nick S
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 16:43
  • 2
    I agree with @NickS. The explanation offered by user2768 might make sense except that the supervisor asked to be added to the paper at the same time that he asked to send it to his postdoc (not even to him!) to read. So the supervisor has neither done nor proposed any contributions to the paper but asks to be added as a coauthor. I don't see how this could be okay. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 16:47
  • 6
    But yes, it is possible that the OP has badly misunderstood the situation. That is always possible on this site (and in academic life). So I agree that the OP should not begin by trying to jettison his advisor. Rather, he should talk to the advisor in person and explain why adding him as a coauthor is not appropriate. If they still can't see eye to eye at the end of the conversation, then it is time to find another advisor. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 16:49

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