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Should Young Computer Scientists Stop Collaborating with Their Doctoral Advisors?

older man and a younger man looking at a laptop computer

Credit: Samo Trebizan

Shortly after the first author started his tenure-track position at Bar-Ilan University, he published a few additional papers with his doctoral advisor. These papers were mostly "lingering" results from his Ph.D. or direct extensions thereof. He was very surprised that his department chair reprimanded him for this, claiming it could be harmful to his career. Surprisingly, until now, we were unable to find any support to that claim in the literature.

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The benefits and importance of mentoring have been long established and span a wide variety of vocational fields both in and outside of academia.2,7 In the academic realm, the supervision benefits are commonly mutual:6 The advisor extends her ability to conduct research by delegation, extends her influence network, and the advisee learns the important skills needed to conduct scientific research, receives various types of academic support, and so on. Focusing on the advisee, prior research has shown the doctoral advisor's identity and characteristics can have a far-reaching effect on a doctoral student's future career. For example, having an advisor with a strong publication record was shown to drive graduate students' publication activity,16 to increase students' chances of obtaining an academic position,10 and to serve as a predictor for future academic success.9 These, in turn, include higher levels of scientific autonomy,5 active international collaboration dynamics,1 an increase in the advisee's chances of pioneering their own research topics (that is, not following their advisor's research topics), winning prestigious prizes and recognition,12 and publishing in top venues such as Nature and Science.18


Jie Cai

Interesting. The point is that most Ph.D. students have to align their research with their advisors' agendas to start the research ideas and get more guidance. Independence is tricky. Do you mean independent ideas within the advisors' agendas or independent agendas? After reading this, I wonder whether I should keep working with my advisor. I kind of enjoy working with my advisor. LOL

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