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Lets say an undergraduate student does some research in their free time and wants to write a paper about the findings. What are the rules regarding affiliation when the student tries to publish?

  • The student is required to include the university as affiliation, because they are enrolled in a program at the university
  • The student is not allowed to include the university as affiliation, because they are not officially hired/approved to do research under the name of the university
  • There are no rules, the student can choose
  • ...?

I guess for graduate students / postdocs / professors it is mandatory to include the university as affiliation, as they get paid by the university to do the research they are doing!?

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I don't think there are any "official rules". (I can't even find a clause in my employment contract that officially requires me to list my university on my papers.)

But as long as you are a student, it's a good idea to list your university as an affiliation. Even if the university isn't paying you, you do benefit indirectly from the intellectual environment and resources that the university provides: professors, fellow students, library, internet, health insurance, nearby coffee shops, and so on. It costs you nothing to be generous. Also, for better or worse, readers will take your paper more seriously.

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  • I don't have a clause in my contract either, but I have had a PI insist on adding their group to my affiliation on a paper submitted before I joined the group, because I had spent time responding to reviewers while under their employ and therefore they funded part of the time spent on it. Sometimes, it comes down less to official policy and more on what the boss says.
    – E. Rei
    Jul 15 at 12:49
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The student should talk with their department and let a professor advise, acting on behalf of their Institution. This would be to help the Department find interesting work by students as well as helping the student with professional advice.

In any case, they can list the university they are enrolled in without suggesting that it was sponsored by the university. -- unless the University has explicitly set policies otherwise (for some boneheaded reason).

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