Who should pay?

All PhD students know that the student-supervisor relationship is fraught with potential pitfalls.

A recent letter I received highlights how important it is to establish clear rules between yourself and your supervisor regarding joint authorship of papers, especially when submitting a Thesis by Publication. The student was asking for advice for a friend and I really had no easy answers.

Instead I asked for permission to publish this letter so we can all think about, and learn, from what happened in this instance. I’ll be interested in what you think about this situation in the comments.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 2.36.40 pmDear Thesis Whisperer,

A fellow-student at my university has just submitted his Thesis by Publication, containing three papers all co-authored with his supervisory team.  Or were they?

This particular student is an international student who was studying on a scholarship.  His scholarship was awarded for three years, and he was able to get a six month extension.  At the end of 3.5 years the funding ran out, so he took on as much teaching as possible and worked hard to finalise these very good papers and submit them, and to include the updated versions in his PhD which he subsequently submitted within the required four years.

He worked for four additional months and then was presented with an university invoice for thousands of dollars of “supervisory fees”.  As an international student he was not entitled to continue studying for free after his 3.5 year scholarship ran out, and four months of supervisory fees added up to a lot of money.

His question is “who should pay?”  

Technically he is responsible for those supervisory fees.  The reality is that he was working for that extra four months producing papers from which his supervisors will benefit.  They were most definitely NOT working on those papers. In addition, some months earlier, they had benefited from his work by attending a conference in a glamorous European destination at no cost to themselves.

The student is trying to pluck up the courage to confront his supervisors and negotiate that they pay his “supervisory fees” out of their research budgets.  He is concerned that this may damage his relationship with the supervisors who are needed as referees for job applications.  He has also received one of his PhD papers back from a journal with a “conditional acceptance”, but requiring quite a lot of work.

He asks “how will I pay my rent if I keep updating these papers for free?”

He is teaching part-time at the university as an adjunct but has no research budget.  The university does not require the papers to be published in order for him to pass his PhD.  Updating and resubmitting the paper will enhance his reputation yes, but it will also enhance the reputation of the supervisors who are listed as co-authors.  Should he stand his ground and say that he will only continue working with them if he receives some sort of remuneration?

Should students continue working on papers after they submit if the university won’t give them a job?

What do you think?

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How I broke up with my supervisor

How to tell your supervisor you want a divorce

41 thoughts on “Who should pay?

  1. What really bothers me is the not knowing. He is being taking advantage of. At this point negotiating is in order.

  2. Hi,

    Unfortunately this is a situation I find most of the students are in. The PhD studies and its long winding never ending regulations are all subjected to interpretation and convenience of the bosses. I clearly don’t understand why the supervisors are not humane at all. I think the student should wind up his stay and submit the articles in his name with an acknowledgement for the supervisors.

    • I get the impression the supervisors don’t know about the situation.

      As to the articles, I don’t believe removing the supervisors’ names is a sensible or ethical idea. Changing authorship of a revised paper would likely raise red flags with the editor. If an article was published, the supervisors could have grounds to demand a retraction by the journal.

      Working on articles in your own time, or after a contract finishes, is unfortunately common in scholarly publishing. Really each individual has to make their own judgement as to whether it’s worth it.

      • I agree that it isn’t clear what the supervisors know – or the extent to which the university informed the student of the financial implications of being late to post.

        I also agree that it is neither sensible or ethical to remove the supervisors name.

        I would suggest an open and transparent meeting with the supervisors to make them fully aware of all facts and to obtain their input, support and advice re next steps.

    • Three years after I got my master degree I wrote my master thesis in terms of 2 papers then sent to my master supervisor to review in ready for submitting to a journal. Little did I predict over 5 years my master supervisor still couldn’t finish the review. Though he showed his willingness to review my papers and approve to put my papers into publication, he alwyas gave me a ton of excuses preventing him from reviewing my papers and gave me a new upcoming date when he would review my papers but when that date comes he got new excuses again. Whenever I read his mails replying to my promting mails, I am dreadful of hearing his hindrance stopping his reviewing my papers instead of his progress on reviewing my papers. The duration of the 5 years spent in prompting him has become my nightmare. I often dream the scenario of going to beg him to review my papers. Like today I dreamt of asking him if he has forgot to review my thesis for me to graduate. I have made this kind of dream several times.
      To end this kind of nightmare, last December I approached another professor for help. After some correspondences, he suggested me to rewrite the two papers, delete my master supervisor’s name as a author and just thank him in the Acknowledgement section then submit to another journals. I actually don’t want to rewrite my papers with the same contents again. I enjoy very much in writing a thesis with new results but I don’t like to paraphrase the same contents again and again. During the duration of 5 years, I have proof read the two papers uncountable times to the ennui level. But since that professor asked me to make change, I managed to proofread again and make some adjustments and change a little bit of contents. Now I have finished and am going to send that professor the new version of my papers. I really hope to submit the papers to journals soon and get published to end the nightmare.

  3. Think about the long game: Yes, it’s a bit unfair right now (though not too far off of normal, I’d say), but if those supervisors can help you get a job, a good job, a well-paying good job, then it is essential that you keep them happy until you have secured said well-paying good job. Seriously: add up all the income you expect to earn in a good career over the next 30 years, and compare that to a few thousand dollars now. Even after you get a job, publications and citations are the currency by which academics are judged and keeping your supervisors happy will serve you well through many repeated games of editor review, peer review, tenure, etc.

    Unless and until it’s egregious, I would be deferential. You might ASK if they have room in their research budgets to help, but I certainly wouldn’t CONFRONT them.

    -Two years into my well-paying good job

  4. Everybody made very good comments here and I agree with most as long as the context is clear – it very much depends on his or her relationship with his supervisors. If his relationship is good, I would go and ask for help or advise and if the student has spent 4 years at said institution with his supervisors on his side, then yes, speak to them, with respect. The last comment by EconJess in fact touches on both points – being deferential and non-confrontational and thinking of the long game. But also think of YOUR long game – as an international student, you might go back to your country or anywhere else and have no further contact with your supervisors, you might not work as an academic, you might…. a lot of things. While your situation is by far not unique and is the norm, your future is – it depends on what you want to do with your PhD, what kind of career you are aiming at and so forth.

    Of course, if your discipline is a small one and everybody knows everybody, then even when you leave the country you might still need them. But it is not a matter of needing them only – they need you too – they have benefited from your work and they know that.

    Bottom line is that it depends on your relationship with your supervisor/s. Without being longwinded, my relationship with my supervisor, who also became my mentor and collaborator in the longer term always worked with me on the terms that we were equals – even though we clearly weren’t – he respected my thoughts and expertise as I had for him – which was pretty new for me. The trust that we learnt to have for each other meant that when we collaborated on papers, I clearly did most of the research, wrote the first and second drafts while getting his invaluable input, and then we would spend hours drinking coffee and finalising them into the best papers we could – not that they didn’t come back from reviewers for revisions – as most do (especially when it is an interdisciplinary field), but he was there for me – so much so that when he was working on a massive influential consultancy report and he asked me out of the blue to go through it and comment, even though I was swamped with work, I did it — out of respect. My surprise was when it came out – my name was in the acknowledgements and he never told me that he put my name down – I had only checked the final draft after all, and only a section of it (around 50 pages) for which I had the expertise.

    Now, he is lobbying for me to be recruited at his university and work on paying projects even though I have not finished my PhD yet. I am not a genius, I am sure there are people out there who are much better than me, but this great academic wants to work with me – why? Because over the years we have learnt to be honest with each other, garnered a healthy respect for each other both as academics and as human beings and if either of one feels uncomfortable about something the other said or did, we talk about it.

    I know that I am privileged in this respect, especially since I had several supervisors before him, but finding the right supervisor is as important as choosing the right university and choosing the supervisor who knows and likes your expertise. It is about building a relationship that needs to be a long-term one (PhDs are usually 4 years long, sometimes longer) and he will be influential in helping you in your early days – like the one this student found himself in.

    When I got in a financial bind, for different reasons, this supervisor of mine offered to help financially while I was just discussing my problem with him over a coffee – it wasn’t even my intention to ask for any help from him, just his advise, let alone financial help. A previous supervisor, when I first arrived at the overseas university (I was a foreign student too), put me up at his house for a week because I couldn’t find an apartment and couch surfing was getting tough. WIth this supervisor, I had been communicating with him months in advance before I went up to the university to start my PhD.

    So, to reiterate, critically analyse your relationship with your supervisors and if you feel that they are strong enough, talk to them, ask for their advice on what to do. But never be confrontational – just as you would’t want them to be with you.

    Good luck!

    • Hi,

      With all due respect. I have changed my supervisor recently because of his bad behavior, wanted me to work for his own company within my PhD time etc.
      You may not know what the students individual experience may be. This guy is all good talking and appears approachable and charming to his friend and family. If I am being judged on the fact that I changed my supervisor is a bit unfair.

      Individual experiences cannot be a basis for judging ones character. This is a circumstance. I kindly urge all of you to have this discriminatory power.

      • I don’t know whether you are referring to me as being approachable and charming to his friend and family — or are you talking about the supervisor – either one. In my previous post I tried to tease out the positive stuff that I learnt from having had 4 supervisors in total, between 1st and seconds, who either moved university, leaving me stranded, another one had his own agenda and tried to force it down my throat and into my research and the same thing with another 2nd supervisor. So I know how unfair people can be and it was when the Sh** hit the fan that my mentor, who had moved to another university but had had the courtesy to stay in touch (since as a mentor, we had a different relationship from one between a supervisor and a student, that due to the trust that we had built over the years, he asked whether I would prefer changing university and he becomes my supervisor, IF my 1st supervisor at the university I still was at agreed. This also meant that I had to have a good relationship with my 1st supervisor (who had not changed over the course of my studies, always the 2nd supervisor) – and since I always had an open dialogue kind of relationship with him, he agreed that it would be the best move, given the circumstance.

        There had been some tension between us in the past, which could have ruined the relationship, but I was frank with him, tried to understand his way of thinking and urged him to understand mine, always with respect and never being antagonistic, well knowing what the repercussions could be.

        So I am or was not judging you for changing your supervisor – I reread my post and I have no clue from where you thought that you were being judged by me, at least, for changing supervisor.

        In any case, there are countless reasons why one needs to change supervisor – it could be different core interests, the supervisor is unfair, as you mentioned and so many other reasons. It still has to go through the HOD (at least in the UK) unless the supervisor changes university, in which case, if he is the 1st, the student may have the option of moving university with the supervisor. In my case, they were 2nd supervisors and they simply up and left! I ended up without a 2nd for a year at one point, though the department should have assigned me one. But, as others have mentioned in other posts, at the end of the day, it was also my fault – I should have known my rights and should have gone to the HOD immediately when I found out that my 2nd supervisor was going to leave – which I didn’t because I had other things on my mind. Asking for an extension on the grounds that I did not have a 2nd supervisor for a year, for example would have been impossible because it was my responsibility to inform the department for a replacement, even though it was partly my 1st supervisor’s too. But since I was between 2 departments in two different faculties, news does not travel as easily as one might think and I didn’t tell my 1st supervisor when I should have. Maybe if they had both been in one department, things may have turned out differently.

        Again, bottom line to your conundrum if you are the person this whole discussion thread is about is what kind of relationship you have with your current supervisor/s and make your judgement call of telling them and how from there.

  5. I wonder if the university communicated they would be charging supervision fees before the student continued working? If this student was not warned I don’t see how they can be charged and I’ve never heard of it happening before (but then I’m not an international student). But if the student knew that fees would be charged it is their responsibility to pay them. I would ask my supervisors if they have any capacity to assist with funding but they definitely aren’t obligated.

    In terms of working on the papers for free I personally would. Publications are currency. I have worked on papers for free while doing my Phd (papers separate from my thesis with researchers at another university) because I think it will help me in the long run when I graduate. Finishing those papers will be of advantage to the student if they wish to stay in research. But I would negotiate no further supervision fees before I continued. If they insisted on fees I would have very minimal supervision and track how much contact I had/ how much supervision was provided.

    • As I understand it, if a student (domestic or international) extends their enrolment / candidature, the university certainly can charge fees for supervision. This remains the case right up until the PhD thesis is submitted for examination. The rules should be spelled out in the university handbook, as well as other places such as the graduate students office. My university is quite clear that responsibility for understanding the rules / policies rest with the student.

      • But unless I’m mistaken the charges being discussed are for supervision POST submitting the thesis? The four months after the student submitted? So the individual was no longer a PhD candidate but was in some sort of no mans land?

      • @Pam This (long!) sentence is where I got the timeline:

        “At the end of 3.5 years the funding ran out, so he took on as much teaching as possible and worked hard to finalise these very good papers and submit them, and to include the updated versions in his PhD which he subsequently submitted within the required four years.”

        Scholarship ends at 3.5 years.
        Four months later he submitted the thesis. (3 years, 10 months)
        Those four months were spent writing papers that were included in the thesis.

        The next sentence says “He worked for four additional months…” which does seem confusing. However that would make it 8 months after the scholarship finished (4 years, 4 months). It says he finished within 4 years.

        I can’t see any other sentences suggesting he was charged supervision fees after submitting the PhD thesis.

  6. Since the student is also a paid casual employee he may be able to get advice and help from the NTEU.

  7. My own experience:

    I was a domestic Australian student who took 4 years to finish up the PhD.

    My supervisor recognised that extending me was a productive and strategic thing to do. In late stage PhD, if you are submitting papers you are more productive (and 1/4 the cost) than a new postdoc.

    My supervisor paid my scholarship for over 6 months (APA equivalent) out of research funds, so that I didn’t have to go and work to support myself.

    In this scenario, I’m sure my supervisor would have found a compromise so that the student was not substantially out of pocket.

    I would talk to the supervisor. It is not fair that they are getting these many benefits at the student’s expense. They should be willing to chat about it and negotiate. I worry the supervisor might not even be aware of the position this student has been put in.

    • “The reality is that he was working for that extra four months producing papers from which his supervisors will benefit. They were most definitely NOT working on those papers.”

      I actually disagree with this statement. From the post, it seems the student had not submitted the PhD thesis at 3.5 years, and got an extension. This suggests he was still enrolled as a student / candidate, with his supervisors still formally recognised as such, for the next 4 months.

      The post suggests those 4 months were spent on papers *that were included in the thesis*. If text for the papers formed part of the thesis by publication, I think the argument that his work was only for the benefit of the supervisors is very weak. He benefited, in that he was able to complete and submit the thesis.

  8. It’s a tough situation. Perhaps he could see if the supervisors would be willing to help him lobby for a fee waiver? Even if it’s unsuccessful, that might be a good place to begin the conversation.

    Re: authorship, I’m concerned by the suggestion that this student has been sole-authoring papers, but that his supervisors have been listed as authors.

    It’s probably too late for this student, but it is important for students to understand that your supervisors do not have any kind of automatic right to authorship of your work. Being a supervisor or even funding the work does *not* give them the right to have their name on what you publish, not in and of itself (that’s what the ‘acknowledgements’ section is for – to acknowledge people who provide funding/general support but who weren’t co-authors). Authorship means that they have made a *substantial intellectual contribution to the specific work in question*. The Australian Code for the Conduct of Responsible Research spells this out in Section 5 (https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/r39_australian_code_responsible_conduct_research_150107.pdf).

    I know there are people out there who tell their students that their name must be on anything and everything as a condition of their supervision – they are wrong to ask, and even more wrong to insist. Not only does it contravene the code, it is exploitative, and it contributes to the artificial inflation of academic productivity standards.

    Publishing with one’s supervisors is a great idea – when it works, it’s good for everyone. But their contribution must be real, must be substantial. If supervisors want to be a co-author, then they must actually co-author!

    • “I know there are people out there who tell their students that their name must be on anything and everything as a condition of their supervision – they are wrong to ask, and even more wrong to insist. ”

      I’m afraid I find that statement unhelpful. Students and supervisors should absolutely discuss their expectations of authorship – not only at the outset of the candidature, but regularly along the way. This is particularly important in the thesis by publication, since a formal relationship between the student and supervisor/s exists.

      Clearly there are differences in opinions about authorship. Journals that have guidelines or recommendations for authorship may in fact provide for the type of oversight role a supervisor would or should have. For example, the International Council of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has 4 criteria, which include:
      – “Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work”; AND
      – “revising [the draft] critically for important intellectual content”; AND
      – “Final approval of the version to be published”; AND
      -“Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.”

      http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

      I’d expect that an engaged supervisor could fulfil those requirements and have a legitimate claim to authorship.

      • Of course an ‘engaged supervisor’ may well have legitimate claims; I wasn’t arguing otherwise. The Code I linked to has similar stipulations around authorship as the ones you quote.

        What I was objecting to is the trend towards supervisors insisting on having their name automatically added to work that they have not made any, let alone all, of those kinds of contributions to. I am arguing that authorship needs to be discussed for each publication, not as a condition of supervision/funding, and not as a ‘blanket’ rule for every output from a project.

        It’s true that many students may feel as though – for the sake of their candidature and career – that they have to go along with whatever their supervisor suggests re: authorship, contravening the Code I linked and the criteria you quoted (indeed, I have met many students who did not know that such Codes/criteria existed). There are some fields and some departments with this kind of behavior is more prevalent, no question. Doesn’t make it okay.

      • @natjosborne Thanks for the clarification! I was perhaps only considering those publications that would form part of the final thesis, rather than *all* publications a candidate might produce during candidature. I very much agree with you on other publications! I linked to the ICJME criteria mainly because it is one that some journals specifically reference in their “Instructions for Authors”. I’m not surprised that students don’t know about them – I certainly didn’t until I first prepared a paper for a journal that required it. It points to (yet another!) area of research training that needs to be addressed early in the candidature.

  9. I think he should discuss with his supervisors about his financial difficulties and ask them for help. Maybe his supervisors didn’t know about his tight budget. I’m sure any sensible supervisor will find a way to help his/her student.

    As for authorship, if the supervisors are supervising their students properly, they should have given enough input to the papers their students are writing, even though the supervisors might not be writing the papers themselves.

    I would work on the papers even if the current university doesn’t offer me a job, because the papers might help me to get a job in other university! 🙂

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  11. I think the difficulty in this case was that he hasn’t brought this up to his supervisor 4 months ago. I am also an international student, just have 4 more months till my scholarship runs out and then hopefully get the extension. We have been discussing my submission timeline already for about a year, because I had some serious difficulties with recruitment, etc. And I have a plan B if I don’t get an extension (which is crucial for any student who want to not get crazy). The timeline of me finishing has been on the table for a long time and me and my supervisor have both been aware that I cannot pay the fees. A few of my international friends have said they bring this point to their supervisors attention frequently, because some of the supervisors don’t realise the issues with fees etc. I think that’s the part the student needs to take care and be responsible for.
    I am not certain anything can be done in this case, as it sounds a bit after the matter. But I do think it’s a relevant point to all international students to be aware of. I know I will need to work on some of my papers after my submission of the thesis, on my own time, because I need the papers myself. It is a personal choice at the end of the day. But I will do it AFTER I submit the thesis to not pay the fees. The supervisor benefits from it, and if you can negotiate some funding from their research funds for the time you spend on the articles, that’s a win. But it has to be done before you start working, not after, I think.

    • @jane Thank you for sharing your story! Best of luck for the next few months – imagine the #phdchat and #acwri communities virtually cheering you on!

      In terms of papers, the post prompted me to look at the requirements for The University of Queensland, where I’m enrolled. This is what I found:

      “5.3 If submitting a thesis partly comprised of publications the papers must have been submitted for publication, accepted or published during candidature.
      5.4 If submitting a thesis entirely comprised of publications the papers must have been published or accepted for publication, during candidature.”

      https://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.60.07-alternate-thesis-format-options

      If I were the student in the post, I’d have to submit the manuscripts to journals before I could submit my PhD thesis for examination. This has helped me to understand why the student apparently spent much of the 4 months focused on writing the papers!

      I haven’t looked further into the policies to determine whether any revisions to the papers need to be incorporated into the final thesis once it’s been examined. That might also influence how much (unpaid!!) time should be spent on any revisions.

      • Hey, thanks for pointing out about the papers. However, at least at Uni I am in you can submit a thesis that is partly comprised of papers, partly that are not yet papers and that will be turned into papers later on. I think bringing in the Thesis by Publication in Australia has created a lot of misunderstanding about this. At least how much I know from the seminar I was in on this issue, you can still have a normal thesis and include the text from papers you have published and then have text/findings that are not part of any paper yet (and you can’t say it is a paper then). But you don’t need to do a thesis by Publication unless you are enrolled into it specifically (most PhD’s are enrolled into a plain PhD, not the one by Publication). Really really double check with your Graduate School and they usually hold some seminars throughout the year. Maybe the issues with including published/unpublished papers is a topic for a really needed blog post?

  12. Another international student here, and I wanted to say that the fees should have come as no surprise to this student. When he signed the scholarship agreement three years ago, he knew how long he had. The scholarship office should have given him a heads-up that his time was running out, and advised him how/when to apply for the extension (it also required letters of support from my supervisors, so they had to be aware of what was happening).

    I’m a joint degree student (co-enrolled at two universities, international to both), so there’s an extra layer of complication. My scholarship doesn’t end for 6 more months, but the extension is already in place. I was notified (by Macquarie U.) at the 9-month mark, and I did the paperwork early. Since I’m currently at my Partner University, I sat down with the head of the department here, and worked out what happens on their end, so I know how to apply for a second extension, what it includes, what the consequences are for failing to complete on time, how much I have to pay in fees (on top of MQ’s). I don’t think I’ll need it, but I know how to get it if I do. It’s much easier for everyone if you have these conversations when they aren’t an emergency.

    I summarised all the details and sent them to my supervisors, and let them know that, given the stakes, I’m not interested in (and can’t afford) paying international fees to two schools, and therefore I are submitting on time.

    Altering the author list to reflect who has(n’t) paid whom strikes me as unethical. Author lists should be contribution-based, not cash-based.

    • @Rebecca Thanks for sharing your experiences. I can’t imagine how complex it must be working through two university bureaucracies! Best of luck with your studies. 🙂

  13. It’s a very unfortunate situation, however I agree with others who have indicated that it is not the supervisor’s responsibility, but that of the student and the university’s graduate research office (GRO). When an international student applies for an extension, in my experience working at several universities, the GRO spells out very clearly both the visa and the financial implications of that based on the rules of their scholarship. When the students sign their scholarship paperwork upon initial enrollment, the limitations on funding are clearly stipulated. If the student failed to read the documents before signing them, then they’ve really got no recourse.

  14. Thinking on this again, another thing that bothers me is the original letter writer’s assumption that their supervisor actually has the money to pay this in the first place. Most academics will have grant money in a research account, but that grant money usually has very explicit rules attached to it regarding what it can and can’t be used for. Paying for a student’s tuition will almost always be in the “can’t” column. There are not a whole lot of academics who have a slush fund that has no spending conditions attached with the many thousands of dollars this student would need.

  15. The student is responsible for paying his own fees. He should seek advice from student support in his university, especially if he has been working in some capacity for them. Regarding publications, he needs to be very careful how he proceeds and should consider several key issues. Firstly, most reputable journals are committed to COPE (publication ethics) guidelines. As per guidelines, I would not expect to be a named author on any publication that I had not been involved in, in some capacity. He should check these guidelines out and think very carefully about how to proceed.

    http://publicationethics.org

  16. This is indeed a challenging dilemma. As a supervisor of a number of PhD students (including one who has commented on this thread – thanks for pointing this out, StetsonMan!), I would certainly hope that a student would talk to me about something like this, and if I had a research budget to help then I would want to do what I could, even if I could only afford enough to split the fees between me and the student.

    I would however caution against “confronting” the supervisor, or doing anything that would jeopardise trust. A friend of mine recently had an official complaint made about his supervision by two of his PhD students, and given how unfair their accusations were and the way they went about it (they didn’t have the guts to say it to his face despite him being one of the most approachable and humble academics I know), I have to say that I would think twice about collaborating with these two students who have now got their PhDs (and of course they have burned their bridges with my friend). Luckily for them, my friend has only confided in me and one other academic and doesn’t have any intention of spreading this any further by talking to others. But it has emphasised to me how important it is to treat everyone with the respect you would expect yourself if you want to get on in life.

  17. First off, it sounds like a sad story, I hope it all works out for the student.

    Q1: “How will I pay my rent if I keep updating these papers for free?”

    Q2: “Should students continue working on papers after they submit if the university won’t give them a job?”

    A1,2: I think anyone that asks these q’s, is not cut out to pursue a Ph.D, let alone a career in academia in the first place.

    Maybe the papers were not up to grabs for publication, when they were first submitted? Supervisors believed this process of updating/ reviewing would improve the content/ work, as they could not make any further contribution..

    Now a couple of realistic points/ truths…

    1) 3 papers for a Ph.D? that are not required to be published in order to get a Pass? I found it a bit bizarre?

    2) Ph.D publication set up, could never end in 3 1/2 years, so supervisors should have realistically informed, and student should have sat down to do the math and ask realistic q’s prior to commencing.

    3) Lesson for international students to plan for at least 4-5 years, for this type of experience (by publication), traditional style thesis could take up even longer..4-7 years..

    4) The student knew what he was getting himself into, played and lost, as the supervisors will never sacrifice a budget to pay for a somebodies fees!! LOL

    I recommend to stay still, if the student aims to pursue a career in academia.

    I hear alot: “that supervisors don’t contribute etc etc etc, bla bla bla..”

    Well who brought you into ‘the Department’/ gave you a once in a lifetime opportunity to commence your Ph.D in the first place?

    That’s the most common thing Ph.D students always forget… (maybe another blog topic?)

    • From what I have observed, finishing a PhD, either by publication or thesis, in only 3 1/2 years can be rather difficult and seems to be strongly influenced by two things:
      1) How the data can be gathered to write the papers that form each chapter for the thesis, and,
      2) Supervisor engagement with the candidate.

      For the first, if the data is gathered from desktop studies (e.g., computer simulations) or from experiments conducted in the lab, gathering sufficient data to write 5 or 6 papers or thesis chapters in only a couple of years is more or less a doddle. The factors that influence data collection are usually very tightly under the control of the gatherer and not subject to outside influences.
      For data that can be collected only from field observation or seasonally (i.e., data can be collected only once per year, such as working on pretty much any topic related to plants or animals) getting sufficient data to make a significant contribution to the field of study in only a couple of years is much more difficult. In the latter case, many of the conversations I have had lead me to the conclusion that finishing a PhD in only 3 1/2 years in the natural sciences, especially if data collection is influenced by factors that cannot be controlled (e.g., the weather), is more or less impossible. Unfortunately, there are some in authority who have great difficulty understanding the latter situation and often give PhD candidates a more difficult time than is strictly necessary if they do not finish in 3 1/2 years.

      For the second, the two contrasting issues are: the supervisor who is lazy or disinterested, allows things to drag on for an unreasonable time and does not provide encouragement or support to the candidate and the supervisor who is more or less the opposite.
      If you are lucky enough to have enough confidence to be pushy and bend your supervisor to your will (but gently), the first issue is less of a problem for timely completion. But for someone who is a bit shy or feels like they should always accede to the authority of their supervisor, no matter what, there can be serious issues for mental health of the candidate, in addition to a failure to complete.
      The second supervisor approach can lead to conflict or resentment, but seems to be quite a motivation for finishing on time. At least for some candidates!
      For completion of thesis by publication, another factor is the time taken for papers to be approved for publication. In most cases, this seems to be not less than 3 to 6 months, and frequently even longer. It is more desirable, or so it seems, that the papers contained in the thesis as it is submitted for examination have either been published or approved by a journal to be so. The push to make a PhD take only 3 1/2 years seems to be quite unreasonable, but unfortunately seems to be the expected these days. At 4 or 5 years would seem to be better for most.

  18. So hang on… the OP’s got an extension to their submission deadline but not to their scholarship? Alarm bells should have rang loud and clear back then. A lesson to be learned for all who are applying for an extension – ask exactly what the extension entails.

  19. A general question that is probably a bit off the topic, but perhaps tangentially related: do universities pay academics a bonus when they publish journal papers?
    This topic has become of interest to me because I have published a few papers with my supervisors. These were published in open access journals, which usually command a fee (sometimes quite substantial). Now, one of my supervisors claims that I owe him some kind of pay-back because he paid these fees out of his own research funds.
    At least one of my fellow students has claimed that our institution pays a cash reward to staff for publications. Upon hearing this, I was more than a little bit annoyed. I would like the clear this up, but I can’t ask anyone at my uni. We are a small institution and word would quickly get back to my supervisor.
    I would appreciate any information anyone has about this ‘cash for publication’ issue and in particular if this occurs at any other institution.

  20. I always ask students to consider staying on in a paid position to continue working on papers. The trouble is when they take the salary, but don’t do the work—you are left to wonder why you would continue. Many PIs I know wouldn’t let students defend unless papers were in a format for submission, and I admit I understand aspects of that much more now…

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