I apologize if this question is redundant in some way but I was unable to find a question similar to this.

I am a MS student (with thesis) and have an advisor who received a grant with myself as a collaborator to do a particular project. He has a hands off approach (or is just extremely busy) so I have planned, executed, analyzed the entire project. I am currently writing a manuscript that he will be a coauthor on (as the PI).

Recently he went to a meeting put on by the group that funds the project, with a presentation about my project. However, he left my name off the title slide and had me last on the acknowledgements (with my name spelled incorrectly) and a small picture of me next to people who only made smaller (albeit important) contributions. I feel like this is wrong, but he said it's normal to only have his name and another PI (not an author) on the title slide when I brought this up. To boot, he asked me to prepare the presentation, which I did, and he took my name off deliberately.

Am I crazy/egomaniacal? This seems wrong...

I was hoping for some opinions outside our lab group. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

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    You might be correct that you were overlooked. However, what did the other presenters do and specifically who did they include? Some granting agencies only let the PI be listed as the talk's author. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 20:51
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    So - it wasn't required, but listing only the PIs is what all the presenters did.... Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 21:46
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    This is not good and fortunately it isn't normal either, but it happens. A former supervisor of mine managed to go through a talk where half of the work (and the slides) were mine without writing or mentioning my name. It was particularly hurtful because I was in the audience. Leeches who thrive on others' work exist in every sphere of life, and academia is no exception.
    – Miguel
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 21:53
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    rapidCascade, based upon your comment, I can see why you may have not been a co-author, however, as the presenter, I would have handled things differently. Personally, I will often have the acknowledgments as my 2nd slide, especially people like you who contributed a lot. I'm also sorry to hear that your adviser did not give you credit. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 1:22
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    @RichardErickson Seconding this. Acknowledgements second or last (sometimes even up during the questions) are pretty common, particularly for large teams or multi-site teams.
    – Namey
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


There are basically two schools of thought on who should be on the title slide of a presentation: (i) everyone who has contributed, (ii) the name of the person who is actually standing in front of the audience and giving the presentation.

There is no accepted standard for which is the "correct approach". I tend to think that fields where projects only comprise 2 or 3 people use method (i), whereas more collaborative fields use method (ii) -- and I tend to think that that makes sense, because otherwise one would have to list a dozen or more people on the title slide, which is simply not very practical, and also not useful to the audience.

So I don't think that taking your name off the title slide is unprofessional or unethical in itself, even if you were the one who prepared the slides -- your adviser was, after all, the one who presented the talk and the project.

That said, if the adviser had been me, I would have made sure that you would have been prominently mentioned in the talk (and made sure that your name is spelled correctly!) but in the beginning ("Before I go through the details, I do want to mention that most of the work I am presenting here today was actually done by my student rapidCascade, and I do want to make sure that he gets the credit he deserves!") and at the end ("Before I end, let me acknowledge that many people have contributed to the work I just presented. In particular, I'd like to single out rapidCascade who has done more than any of the others.") These words may not be reflected in any of the slides, and unless you were there in person, you'd never know that this much credit was given, but it is possible to highlight someone's contributions without making this explicit in the slides.

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    Yes, it sounds like not only was OP not credited, but had that contribution diminished. I would seriously think about changing advisors. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 22:38
  • The conflicts of opinion here validate the awkwardness of the situation! (I wonder if there isn't a divide between advisors/advisees). I don't know if I agree with Wolfgang because often times, people will distribute their presentations to anyone who asks for it. It's like a de facto publication, in which case "ghosting" authors to me is unethical Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 23:09
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    I think the question comes down to what one believes the name(s) on the first page indicate -- is it the authors, or the speakers? As I said, one can genuinely be conflicted about what exactly this should indicate, and I am. I believe that I'm generally pretty good about giving credit to others, in particular my younger colleagues. But I often have only my (the speaker's) name on my first slide instead of the dozen or so I would have to list for most of my collaborations. I do make sure they get (verbal) credit in the talk, though. If one of them is in the audience, I make sure I point it out. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 3:26
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    I should also say that if one of my collaborators has only their name on a talk about joint work, I take no offense at all. In particular, if it's a younger colleague, I want them to take 100% of the credit and not have it diluted by having a senior person's name show up next to their name. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 3:29
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    While I would never handle it like this advisor did, I would definitely dispute that this sounds like a "de facto publication." Publications are published. An arXiv is a "de facto publication." Some slides for an invite-based sponsor meeting are not. While I like using point-based systems if it gets dicey (e.g., artsarmy.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/…), I've only ever had to bring that up once in my career. Usually just keeping open channels about ordering keeps everybody happy.
    – Namey
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 6:10

The appropriateness of this situation depends vastly on:

  1. Purpose of the meeting
  2. General patterns of working with that professor

In this case, there's really only one piece of information given to go on, and it's one that actually backs up the professor's behavior (mostly): "a meeting put on by the group that funds the project." This is basically an issue of rhetorical goals: what is the purpose of this presentation? If you're a PI presenting to sponsors, this is a money meeting. Yes, it is a research meeting (research results are presented) but fundamentally the relationship is that some group gave the PI's money to do something, those PI's were responsible for it getting done, and the PI's need to show something got done. If you did it well, they're still responsible to the sponsors. If you did it poorly so it never got done, they're responsible for that too. Either way, to the sponsors, the outcomes rest on the PI's. Even from your perspective, the best outcome of this meeting is that your PI shows the sponsors something good, the sponsors find more money, and it supports you (or people like you) for more good research.

At least in my field (and almost any that I can think of), presenting in a closed meeting to sponsors is typically not considered something you'd list on a CV (it's below-board), so authorship credit is somewhat of a moot point. There are a couple of exceptions to this. First, if you were a PhD student or postdoc, the PI might want to list you explicitly or highlight you to help raise your profile with those sponsors when you submit for grants in the near future. Since you're an MS student, you're probably a ways off from that, so there's not a ton of sense promoting you to sponsors (who might well have changed jobs or retired by the time you had a PhD). In fact, as a master's student, I would say that even being brought to a sponsor meeting is a good sign (e.g., you're getting networking with sponsors and other labs). So I wouldn't feel so bad. Flip it around: what would you have hoped to gain from being highlighted in that presentation? You're there at the meeting, you can just talk to people about what parts you did.

On the converse though, I would say that burying you at the end of the acknowledgements is a pretty thankless treatment for a major contributor. I'd never do it, and most people I know would never do that sort of thing intentionally. So I would be on the lookout for if this pattern of behavior ever touches an actual publication or presentation in an academic venue (e.g., conference, workshop). Leaving authors off in that venue or burying the main contributor in that context is a serious no-no. So that's where the pattern issue comes in.

But keep in mind that sponsor meetings, open academic presentations, and invited talks are really all different animals that serve different purposes (e.g., respectively: funding, reputation/ideas, depends on the invitation!). Credit and responsibility are not the same across these, because in each case you are trying to accomplish different goals when you speak.

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    Thanks, Namey. Your input really made me think about the other perspective here. It still doesn't sit right with me, particularly if it were distributed. But perhaps I need to give my PI the benefit of the doubt this time, and sit down for a meeting about future authorship. I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful input! Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 13:54
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    I wouldn't necessarily give a benefit of the doubt, but it's a good idea to consider the overall picture before talking with them (which you should be doing). Some people are well-intentioned but just poor collaborators (careless, anxious about getting one goal done at a time). Other people are not particularly well-intentioned (e.g., credit hogs). Either way you should be having regular discussions with any advisor about how what you are doing advances your career. I try to have these with my students at least 2-3 times per semester to check in on long-term goals.
    – Namey
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 22:51

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