I recently wrote a scientific article (let's say, about a methodology for predictive analyzes) I would like to submit. The article is beneficial for my PhD as it has close relationship with another paper I am currently writing.

However, I am concerned about its publication:

  • I don't want to put the name of my supervisor since he has (almost) no knowledge about what I wrote about. I barely think he can even provide constructed critics (if he checks the paper), and I am very unsatisfied about his way of not doing research (only participating to conferences) and taking appropriation of others work. I know, this is probably common in academia but I am the type of person working 8-10 hours everyday (week-end included) to get the job done (plus to get recognition).

  • To develop the methodology, I needed to learn and implement some mathematical models (and related algorithms) over the last 4 months. However, I have started everything from scratch, which means I am not an expert with 10 years of experience that can accurately see if the work I did requires strong modifications or not.

I am not quite sure about publishing alone since I don't think an editor would be convinced to do it that way. I was thinking about looking for a scientist (in conferences possibly) with whom I can work with so that he could make a proper review about my work (and add his name on it). I am not quite sure about this though, I don't think someone can steal my research (if we consider worse case of doing this).

My supervisor proposed me a post-doc already, I don't really want to envenom our relationship but let's say this is the type of person who (probably) doesn't care about recognition (thus having his name on papers). I may be wrong though.

My question is, do you think I should accept publishing with my supervisor or consider an alternative option?

  • 2
    Though this should have already taken place, I strongly suggest you to discuss publication protocols and expectations within your group with your advisor, ASAP.
    – Mad Jack
    Jul 9, 2017 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


On one hand, you seem to have a research advisor who is quite supportive of you; he has already offered you a post-doctoral position when you finish. On the other hand, you are concerned that he tends to attach himself to, and take credit for, work on which he is only peripherally involved. This places you in something of a quandary, since your advisor has not made a meaningful contribution to your paper.

However, I would suggest that you show your advisor the paper to get his feedback. Even if that feedback is not useful in terms of the content of the manuscript, your advisor probably has a good understanding of how papers should be written, and where they should be submitted. Moreover, when other scholars are evaluating work done by graduate students, you are not going to be significantly penalized for having your advisor as a co-author. Having a paper that is co-authored by your advisor, but with you as the first authors, is not going to be perceived as that different from a single-author publication.

Perhaps your advisor will make some useful comments, but he will decline to be an author on the paper. (This happened to me, in my interactions with my advisor, more than once.) You seem to think that your author is not likely to be magnanimous in this way, which is, in the abstract, unfortunate. However, as I stated above, having you advisor as a co-author is unlikely to be counted against you in a significant way, and maintaining a good relationship with your advisor (for whom you man continue working as a post-doc) can be extremely important for a future research career. So I do not think that you have much to lose by showing your paper to your advisor and getting the advantage of your advisor's guidance.


I am not quite sure about publishing alone since I don't think an editor would be convinced to do it that way

In principle what matters for a paper being accepted is the content, not the authors. If your paper is good and is a relevant contribution to the field, there's a good chance an editor will accept it, single author or not.

So if you feel that your paper is good as it is, go ahead and submit, you don't need another author. In the worst case it will be rejected but the reviews will provide you with the expertise that you (may) lack; then you can improve the paper based on the reviewers advice and submit it again later.

As others said, you need to talk to your advisor so that they don't feel sidelined. If your description is accurate, they are very likely to give you the green light. During my PhD I wrote several papers on my own and published them as single author, since my advisor didn't participate.


I remember having a problem with this too, however, whilst you are the one doing the actual experimental work, you wouldn't be in a position to even be doing it if it wasn't for your supervisor applying for the grant funding, giving you office space, access to equipment et cetera. His going to conferences is important for his status in the community that you work in, giving him the chance to network, develop research ideas that will become grant proposals and fund PhD students and post-doc positions. His time has been well and truly served in a lab setting, and off the top of my head I can think of very few group leaders who actually spend any real time in the lab.

Furthermore, I don't think it would be wise to try and get your methodology published without your supervisor even getting to see it. He still has presumably many, many years more experience in your field than you do and will probably surprise you with the knowledge he has banked over the years.

To summarise, run it by your supervisor and get his feedback and I would have his name on the paper, as if it wasn't for him then you wouldn't be in a position to write the thing in the first place.

  • -1, I am sorry I think this is an academically an unethical call. I agree that many a times a researcher will have to add a non contributing advisor due to the things you mentioned, but this is far from being an ethical situation. Maybe junior researchers need to accept this reality of academia, but we dont have to celebrate it.
    – Russelled
    Apr 27, 2022 at 19:11

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