I'm working on a research, and I have a partner. We both should be working on the same tasks, but he's very busy, as he has teaching load and I don't, so I end up doing most of the work myself. This is not a big problem to me, but my advisor sometimes blames us for delayed results or little achievements, and I find it not fair to be blamed because he expects an outcome of two when there's actually only one working, and I get embarrassed to tell him that it was only me, because my partner is actually also my friend.

How does one deal with this situation? I know my partner is very capable, this is not an incompetence claim, it's just he has little time compared to me.

  • 2
    You could tell your friend what you told us, and let him explain to the advisor. I hope that when there are breaks in the semester, your friend tries to make up for lost time. Apr 8, 2017 at 5:02
  • @aparente001 is it appropriate to ask him to be a second author, not a first co-author? Given how much work we each put. Apr 8, 2017 at 10:57
  • 1
    Yes, that's appropriate. And your friend, if he's honest, will agree with this arrangement. Apr 8, 2017 at 12:09
  • 1
    You could ask him if he's given any thought to whose name should go first. That would be an interesting litmus test. Apr 8, 2017 at 20:15
  • 1
    Could you change to "busy research partner" in your question title? I realized only after reading half of your question that you are not referring to your significant other.
    – user9482
    May 4, 2017 at 11:16

2 Answers 2


As the comments have said, you need to go with your partner and explain this to your adviser face to face. It's not an incompetence issue and you need to make sure that you make that clear to your partner - it's a workload balance issue.

At the end of the day though, there are only two options available:

  1. Either your partner reduces their outside workload or,
  2. Your adviser reduces your workload to account for it.

This is something that needs to be decided between the three of you.

However, I'd strongly advise that after you've had the talk, that you put in place a very rigorous project plan for your next tasks with a strict timeline. Often, this situation ends up just repeating itself as your colleague says 'oh I'll find more time' or your advisor says they'll slacken off but not much happens, so a rigorous project plan helps highlight if the talk has worked or not.

  • 1
    Thank you. Will sit and talk about this and see what will come up. May 13, 2017 at 7:36

I've also struggled with this issue. What works for me is working on multiple projects, in this way I don't do the work my partner is supposed to be doing.

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