I am a fresh PhD. In search of postdocs and permanent positions in last 4 months, I learned about two things which evaluating/hiring committee look in their potential employees:

1) How much the candidate has grown post their PhD? If a candidate keeps publishing article with previous supervisors even after his/her PhD it may mean that they have a good working relationship, but it also means that candidate has failed to collaborate with new partners. As the present research world is considered to be highly collaborative. Also it means that even after the PhD, the candidate still needs supervision from his/her former supervisor.

2) The greater the number of coauthors are for your paper, the less weightage you get during the evaluation process.

Now main problem: One of my articles of my PhD thesis was submitted in Phys Rev Lett, and it had received one very good feedback and one very bad. That article basically consisted of an interplay of formulas and some mathematical tricks to derive a desired equation. The idea was mine and I had written the whole article by myself.

My main supervisor contribution's was that he asked me to reverse the order of two paragraphs of the final submitted version of article. Also during most of my PhD my main-supervisor always helped and polished my work.

My co-supervisor's had initially given some ideas but I proved them to be mathematically and physically incorrect. Also during most of my PhD my co-supervisor hardly contributed anything.

Update: Now I am planning to rewrite the article and submit to the same or some another journal, but this time I will have computational fluid dynamics simulation included in the article which will prove my derivation to be correct. I assume the new article will have 50% overlap with the previous version and new 50% material will be added to it.

Question: Should I include my supervisors as co-authors, or may be just one, or may be none? I do not think I will get any input from them in this particular article.

Background: 1) Academic world acts in 3 ways I guess:

a) Do buttering of seniors, collaborate with many and cite one another, and get timely promotions by feeding on the opportunities of others. I have seen a unqualified person getting promoted from Assistant Professor to Professor in just 8 years.

b) Do not do buttering, but then suffer. I have seen a well qualified person has remained as an Assistant Professor for last 23 years.

c) Make your credentials/ profile gigantic so none could affect you significantly.

So, If I rewrite the article as a single author, it will be a great boost for my long term career.

2) But I cannot deny that a recent postdoc offer I got has some contributions from my main-supervisor since he has highly recommended me to the professor at the new institute, since both are friends. Although the professor knew my work from before, he had attended a presentation of mine earlier, I cannot ignore the recommendation of my main supervisor. I guess that is how academia works, also it seems difficult to draw a line between buttering and seeking help. I guess when I will be looking for a permanent position after 2 years, I might need the help of my main supervisor once again?

So, how to deal with this problem?

  • The people who gave input for the 50% overlap with the previous version are still authors, so omitting them would be academic misconduct and not a boost for your career. It's not buttering, it's called collaboration and as such a very important positive for your career. Even if it is not in a direct, measurable way, you do profit from collaboration, from talking about ideas or venting about problems and all of this things.
    – skymningen
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:07

1 Answer 1


In this particular case, I would not change the authorship for the revised version (unless there are better reasons than what you have communicated).

You must not forget to keep your personal relations oiled. If you re-submit this article as a single-author paper, i.e. remove your supervisor, your relation to them would certainly not be helped. In the future, it may be important/useful to have that relation intact and well working for ongoing/future collaborations.

Moreover, by having them as co-author they are somewhat in your debt (which cannot be a bad thing) and may return the favor by adding you to one of their papers, even if you contributed as little as they did to yours.

  • Thanks Walter and Skymningen. A few more information. Let me tell you the impact of this work; this will be the first ever derivation and a validation of an equation that is used in the fluid dynamics of complex media. Also, what contributions will me both supervisors have? At most they may polish a paragraph or so for a better readability. If I become a supervisor in future, I would personally not liked to be given credit of something to which I have not contributed significantly. If it is only about academic-social etiquette, and "being polite" then it is a different matter.
    – james
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:25
  • @james Have you already submitted to arXiv?
    – Walter
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:27
  • Also, see this, academia.stackexchange.com/questions/21251/…
    – james
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:30
  • The so called Vancouver protocol (developed by ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) and its definition of authorship has been mentioned in many questions of this kind here on Academia but I think they deserve being repeated. The protocol describes authorship through three components which every author must fulfil: Conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data AND Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content AND Final approval of the version to be published. A key point here is the "AND".
    – james
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:30
  • Although all my previous manuscripts were submitted to ArXiv, this article was not, since it was conflicting with some protocol of PhysRevLett. My supervisor had asked me not to submit it in Arxiv. The result was new of its kind. And it was only only mathematical, now I am validating my proof with simulation which took me 4 months to learn and implement.
    – james
    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:32

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