Grad Students, Don’t Publish With Your Professors

On Friday, Vitae published my essay, “The Trouble With Collaboration” — check it out.  I have broken my silence about a collaboration with a former professor of mine that he (unintentionally?) held up for years.  With peers — people of relatively equal status in academia — co-authors who don’t do their part are eventually removed as authors.  However, as I learned, neglectful co-authors in more powerful positions (your professors, mentors, or senior colleagues) are harder, or even impossible, to remove.  Arguably, every exchange between co-authors and decisions made about a paper will be shaped by the imbalance of power among collaborators, from the direction a paper takes to where (and whether) it is submitted.  As such, I strongly discourage working “across power lines”; in recognizing this is not possible in certain fields, I also offer advice for doing so if you must.

Also, check out my first Vitae post, “How I Came Out of the Liberal Arts Closet.

4 thoughts on “Grad Students, Don’t Publish With Your Professors

  1. Learn from them is what I say but do it on your own

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  2. There’s a lot of wisdom here, but I thought I’d add one word: my PhD advisor was really, actually dedicated to publishing with grad students as a way to help them build connections and enter the scholarly community. I’ve met lots of people and understand the inner workings of some journals and book publishers specifically because he invited me to work with him.

    So yes, without the things you mention in the article (communication being the most important, certainly!), things can go really, really wrong. But I wouldn’t generalize that *too* much, personally. It all depends.

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    • I’m glad to hear your positive experience, along with others’ that have been shared with me. My own first publishing experience was with an undergrad advisor, and it went well. I suspect it helped that she was lead author and I was second, which aligned with our positions. Had the roles been reversed, we probably still would have had a positive experience because of the transparency and respect. The power-imbalance can magnify problems, but I’m aware even equal-status/equal-author collaborations could be disastrous without respect and communication.

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