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Given that I am an undergraduate is it a good idea to publish a very mediocre paper (nothing novel, results way bellow state of art) in a conference/competition that accepts such papers?

Our results are good compared to everyone else (we are ranked 3rd) but the paper adds little to no value to the field and the conference/competition is mediocre (but not very bad).

Should I include myself in the authors or not, given that I am in the top of class in terms of grades and aiming for top US universities for PhD? My professor declined to be in the paper but everyone else in the team is okay with it.

  • Wait, wait: Do you have a "medicore paper" or "very good results"? If you have both, that would be a problem on how to write things down, not of whether or not you should publish it. Or are your results only "very good compared to...", meaning "we are bad, but the others are worse!"? – Dirk May 29 '17 at 13:18
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    @Bemte Great point, the answer is "we are bad but others are worse". – SuperMike May 29 '17 at 13:19
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    If your paper truly contains "nothing novel" then it should not be published. But I am not really sure what you mean by that. I would ask yourself this question: does this paper contain results that were not previously published in the literature, and that could be of some value, even if slight, to future research? If yes, I think it is worth publishing somewhere, and with your name. Your grades don't have anything to do with this decision. – Nate Eldredge May 29 '17 at 23:52
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So you want to publish rubbish, just to have a publication on your CV? If you really are a good student, you will find other ways to get publications. Remember that such a publication will stay with you forever, everyone googeling you will find it. On the other hand, once you have some publications, no one will care if you made your first one during your undergraduate or later.

Also: Talk to your professor. He will have reasons to decline and will be able to tell you more about the pros and cons of publishing this paper, given your academic plans. I would put quite some weight on his opinion, as he knows the paper and has lots of experience when it comes to the field, accepting or declining PhD students, etc.

  • His opinion is that "it won't hurt" you as a student to publish this but our paper is not good enough for me to add my name... – SuperMike May 29 '17 at 13:31
  • Yes, but you are not only a student, you are aiming for a academic career. Of course one day, when you have been famous for 20 years, no one will care anymore about what you did as a student. But in your first years, when you only have 2-3 publications maybe, this might be really problematic. I don't know how bad the paper really is, if it is still acceptable, although not good, or just really, really bad, so I can't give you a definitive answer - but you should really consider the pros and cons, and maybe also discuss with others (other professors, people responsible for PhD admission,...). – Dirk May 29 '17 at 13:34
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    "Of course one day, when you have been famous for 20 years, no one will care anymore about what you did as a student." You yourself might care and even be embarrassed. – Roland May 29 '17 at 13:48
  • Perhaps 'chill out'(?) UG students on stackexchange often seem either overly 'impressed' with themselves ("how can I kick my advisor off as co-author since I think it was my idea") or overly worried ("My advisor asks me to publish stuff that is not as 'important' a result as I'd deserve to publish as my first paper"). In both cases, I usually assume the advisor is likely correct, and the student is likely over-reacting. Am I misreading? I read as advisor putting a student name on paper that the advisor deems conference-worthy. It will prove student participation for student's grad app. – Carol May 31 '17 at 19:29

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