I am a postdoc, and with my former Ph.D. adviser have won a paper award which includes a sizable prize (10k+). I am the first author on the paper, and he is the second. The work is entirely mine, but he has been an excellent second author and mentor throughout this project and paper providing active feedback and many excellent suggestions along the way. Both of us will travel to the conference related to the award, and both of us already have our travel paid for by grants. At the conference, we will give a presentation talking about the background of the paper in which I will be the principal speaker. The question is this: how do we split the award, or do we split it at all?

Please note that this is similar to the following thread, but the roles have been changed somewhat: Share prize money from conference presentation award with co-authors?

Edit: thank you everyone for your excellent advice. I have sent an offer to split the prize, as you suggest.

  • 8
    Use it as seed money for the next project you do together?
    – user9482
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 17:33
  • 13
    Are you sure, that you are the one to get the money and the decision is yours? Maybe there are other rules, written or customary, e.g. at my university the rules about splitting money from publications were codified. "I am the first author on the paper, and he is the second. The work is entirely mine, bu he has been an excellent second author" That is just so self-contradictory it's hard to comment on...
    – luk32
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 21:52
  • 2
    Is this an award for which your status is important? For example, restricted to recently-awarded Ph.D.s? Or your nationality but not your adviser's? If so, I would not share. If this was an open award for any paper, I would offer a 50-50 split. Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 23:56
  • 5
    Will you be paying income tax on the entire 10k (regardless of whether you split it or not)? If it is officially yours, then I suspect your tax bill could be 2 or 3k. Worth bearing in mind if you do split the remainder.
    – Jim W
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 4:21
  • 8
    @luk32 actually it isn't self-contradictory. In many fields the supervisor / advisor becomes automatically last author of a PhD students paper no matter how much of the work he did. He probably just meant his advisor was very good at teaching him how to do research and write papers, not that he did the job. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


I suggest splitting the prize money 50-50 with your advisor, or at least offering (with honest intent) to do so. It is the magnanimous and appropriate thing to do, especially considering that his mentorship and assistance to you in turning the project into a finished, polished paper are likely to have been instrumental in getting the award. And there is always the chance that he will be even more magnanimous and refuse to claim his share... By contrast, trying to come up with a formula for quantifying each author's contributions seems petty and ultimately futile. After all, the work may have been "entirely yours", but the paper carries both of your names, and from your description it sounds like the award is for the paper. Logically, I'd say the adviser definitely deserves at least a share, and very probably deserves an equal share.

Finally, even from a purely utilitarian (some would say cynical) point of view, by making such an offer you are likely to impress your adviser (and others who will hear about this -- word gets around!) as a sensible and pleasant-to-work-with person, which would be good for your reputation and could end up benefiting your career trajectory in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Congratulations on the award!

  • 48
    I think the second paragraph is important: If, say, you split the award 75-25, you'd gain $2500. But if you'd split 50-50, you gain good will that might translate into a better reputation in the community, a better reference letter, etc. In the long run, the latter is surely worth more than $2500. (In general, I can't overstate the monetary and psychological value of being a good member of the community and just accruing good karma -- if there is an opportunity to be magnanimous or just "do the right thing", do it!) Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 17:39
  • 3
    Have to agree - if you're the smart kind of guy who wins awards like this, you've got such a career ahead of you. $5,000 is nothing in the long run. He probably didn't do all he did just so he could win a prize off you, but like my grandma used to say "Whether you're rich or poor, it's nice to have money!"
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 21:15
  • 6
    It would be a more interesting dilemma if the author won $1 million or more.
    – user14156
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 6:28
  • One issue that hasn't been mentioned - are they the only two authors? "the paper carries both of your names, and from your description it sounds like the award is for the paper" in this 'even-stevens' approach do they risk aggravating someone else whose complaints could have the opposite from desired effect on their reputation?
    – LangeHaare
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 10:20

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