I am doing a phd in computer science.

Months ago, I was having an informal discussion about my research topic with my advisor, and he came out with a very high level conjecture about my research topic, something like "I have the feeling that A implies B".

Now, I am working with other people on a different project, and during the work for this paper, I realized that what we were doing demonstrated that the conjecture of my advisor was correct (so A do implies B), and this makes a lot stronger our paper.

Now, which is the right etiquette to follow in terms of authorship of the paper?

  • Should I ask my advisor to join the project as a coauthor because the paper proves what he informally conjectured?
  • Should I simply speak to him notifying this fact and add him in the acknowledgement?

I have a great relation with him, but I am not sure on how to behave with respect to this topic.

  • See also academia.stackexchange.com/questions/644/…
    – user2768
    Nov 8 '17 at 9:43
  • 3
    I would always just ask the person involved, this prevents you from offending the person in case you do not add him as a co-author. Furthermore, it allows your advisor to say if he feels that his contribution does not warrant a co-authorship, while staying on friendly terms with said person.
    – Bas Jansen
    Nov 8 '17 at 10:07

First, yes, you should speak with him. There different ways how to approach him and I would suggest to inform him about your progress (something you should do anyway) and to just ask him how to proceed regarding co-authorship.

In general, merely posing a conjecture does not merit co-authorship, but you could ask, if he would like to contribute to the paper (e.g. by checking/rewriting the proof/statement of the conjecture, providing more intuition as to why this conjecture is true, putting the conjecture in context with references…).

  • 2
    Sometimes posing a conjecture is actually what gives the student the whole direction, without which he or she would be unable to progress, hence making such contributions essential and merit of coauthorship
    – Dilworth
    Nov 8 '17 at 11:14
  • 1
    @Dirk Regarding your second paragraph, it is worth taking into account the idiosyncrasies of the field. In Theoretical CS (not sure if the OP is referring to CS or TCS), for instance: (i) the authors are alphabetical, so no concept of first/second author; (ii) papers typically have relatively few authors (2-3 usually, >5 is exceptional); (iii) asking the "right" question, or formulating the "right" conjecture is very often grounds for authorship (well, some papers actually are all about phrasing things the right way or coming up with the right view).
    – Clement C.
    Nov 9 '17 at 1:18
  • Yes, I know. Fields and subfields vary, posing a conjecture may be trivial or crucial,.... This is why I wrote a quite general answer: 1. Discuss the situation. 2. Nothing is obviously clear in this situation.
    – Dirk
    Nov 9 '17 at 5:23

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