Good Academic Practices Guide

Good practices for joint publications of PhD candidates and supervisors

This guide is the result of discussions in 2014 with the Graduate School Programme Board and the PhD Council.

Publishing together with your PhD candidate, or publishing with your supervisor can be a minefield of ethical dilemmas. In the Erasmus University Dilemma Game various problems are presented that are based on questions about co-authorship and it is clear that specific situations require specific discussions and solutions. Nevertheless, there are a number of good practices that the EGS3H thinks hold for all disciplines in our graduate school. We list them below as general guidelines for supervisors and PhD candidates. Consult our page on confidential counsellors for more information and resources on supervisory issues.

1.   Agree on the division of labour, the expectations about co-authorship and author order BEFOREHAND as much as possible, and make it part of the teaching and supervision plan that you sign with your PhD candidate.

2.   In case of a joint publication that will be part of the PhD thesis, the PhD candidate should be the first author because the thesis should testify to his or her ability to conduct research in a largely independent manner.

3.   Take into consideration who did most of the work:
It is fair practice to list the authors in the order of who did most of the work. In case of an equal division of labour, the order can be simply alphabetical, but then make sure you include a footnote that says the order does not reflect a difference in contribution. 

4.   It is common and fair practice to include the supervisor in publications of the PhD candidate:
a. If the supervisor defined the project and acquired the grant for the PhD position;
b. If the PhD candidate is using data collected by the supervisor.
In those cases the supervisor is usually listed as the second or last author.

5.   If the PhD candidate defined her or his own research topic, the inclusion of the supervisor as a co-author in publications should depend on the quantity and quality of the contribution:
a. If the supervisor did not contribute to the specific article, inclusion as an author is unwarranted;
b. If the supervisor’s contribution did not exceed normal supervision tasks, inclusion is unwarranted;
c. If the supervisor contributed an original question, idea or concept, inclusion as a second or last author is fair.

6.   Supervisors need to include PhD candidates as authors in their publications when:
a. They base their writing on the data collected independently by the PhD candidate;
b. The PhD candidate contributed significantly to theory and concept development;
c. The PhD candidate effectively wrote sections of the article.

7.   In case of doubt, the supervisor and PhD candidate should discuss the problem and try to resolve it. They could ask for advice from the relevant faculty or board.  A PhD candidate who feels she or he has been treated unfairly in this respect, can ask advice from the EGS3H confidential counsellor professor Sabine Severiens.