Does a PhD student and first author choose the journal or their supervisor?

This is in the case where negotiations have failed. Who should get the final say or keeps this right?

  • 5
    I feel like this might be a bit of an A/B question. If a student and their supervisor disagree on where to submit the article, there are more significant questions to ask than "who gets to pick?". For example, "who's right?". Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 18:26
  • 10
    It would seem quite likely that the supervisor has a far better feel for the quality of the paper and likelihood of fit, timely acceptance, and publication with different journals.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 18:41
  • 5
    If negotiations over something this small have failed, that relationship has much bigger issues than where to submit a given paper.
    – E.P.
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 21:52
  • @JonCuster unfortunately not the case this time, and I think it's a conflict of interest.
    – Rain
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 21:58
  • Why is it a 'conflict of interest' in any way? Please edit that into the question. A disagreement perhaps, but where is the conflict of interest?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


All authors have to agree to the publication of a paper, and any author can veto signing away the copyright. So, keep negotiating :)

  • 6
    @Rain Basically, no.
    – Buzz
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 17:14
  • 2
    I realize now how important it is to research into a prospective supervisor before researching a PhD topic. Thanks Lev and Buzz.
    – Rain
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 17:21
  • 8
    The first author gets no more rights than any other author (and in some fields, like mine, authors are ordered alphabetically). I would say that it is unethical to put your name on a publication to which you didn't intellectually contribute, but once your name is on it, there are no protections to the first author.
    – Lev Reyzin
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 17:35
  • 9
    @Rain: and only has their name because they are the PhD 'supervisor'?That’s unethical to begin with.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 18:05
  • 2
    Publishing and signing away one's copyright are not nearly the same thing. Sometimes publishers demand that you do the latter in order to publish in their journals, but there are plenty of publishers who don't (or don't, under certain circumstances).
    – RQM
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 19:53

Things you should consider:

  1. Your supervisor has much more experience in submitting papers than you do. It is considerably more likely that they have a good idea where is best to submit your paper than you do.
  2. Almost all journals will be charging a sum of money for publication. What is the source of this money? Who is in control of it? Most likely, it is money coming from funds controlled by your supervisor and not by you. This gives them greater leverage.
  3. Delay in publication due to squabbles over where to publish are likely to harm you more than your supervisor. They, presumably, have multiple papers to their name and probably multiple students producing papers that they will appear on. This is, also presumably, one of your first papers and one you will need to get published to either graduate or land yourself a good job in academia after your PhD.

All these points count against you. You have the right, of course, to fight for the paper to be submitted to the journal of your preference but you should consider whether this is really a battle worth fighting. In my opinion, it is likely you will be better served by choosing a different hill to die on.

  • 1
    "Almost all journals will be charging a sum of money for publication" - that's not true, or at the very least is field-dependent. In biology, unless you want to pay for gold open access, most journals are free to publish. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 7:56
  • @user2390246: Which major biology journal does not charge for publication? Open access fees are usually higher but, IME, there are charges regardless. And there are also additional charges for colour figures and so forth to be considered - including, absurdly - on online only journals. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:16
  • Providing there are no colour figures and the article conforms to length requirements: Nature, Cell, Proc Roy Soc B, PNAS ... Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:49
  • That's a pretty big 'providing' I would say. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:57
  • @JackAidley It isn't. Overlength? Put in supplemental, or find a different journal (don't put a full-length paper into a letter). Color? You should make B&W compatible figures anyway because many people will print it out on a B&W printer.
    – user71659
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 15:25

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