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First-author Publications but co-advisors are presenting work.


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I am a first-year PhD student and I have two accepted publications as a first author since the start of my program. The thing is I thought I would be the one to travel to the conferences and present my work but my advisor has hi-jacked the second presentation from me, principally in my opinion, because he wants to get the opportunity to travel out of the country. The conference is in Europe. He gives me a flimsy excuse that the reason he will be going is because he will be on the committee of reviewers for the same conference next year and this will be a good opportunity for him to know what is going on. The first conference is somewhere in CA and his co-PI also hijacked that presentation from me. I feel a little frustrated that all my hard-work is being reaped by different people who had little or nothing to do with the hundreds of hours of research that led to these results. I feel this might be a trend that will continue throughout my PhD as I see these guys continuing this way. My question: do you think I should challenge these folks or quietly accept their excuses for wanting to go, though unhappy about it as it is, and hope for a better deal in the future.

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I don't think this is as evil as you're making it out to be. Flying a first year to another country to give a conference presentation is probably something a lot of advisors would hesitate about. (Also, your advisor's explanation is a very valid one. I'm not sure why you describe it as flimsy.) You are still getting credit for the work if you're the first author on the presentation.* In fact, it's likely they'll tell people to email you if they have further questions about the paper's content, methods, findings, etc. So no, I wouldn't challenge them. If you want to make sure people associate your name with this work, then get it published ASAP. 

 

* This would be a very different reply if you were not listed as first author on these presentations. 

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I agree with you that normally, one expects that the first author be the presenting author. In fact, many conferences in my field do not allow anyone other than the first author to be the presenting author.

 

I will offer one potential perspective that assumes the best of intentions on your advisor:

 

Assuming the best of intentions of your advisor: It is normal for an advisor to present their student's work at conferences that allow it if the advisor was not planning on sending the student to that conference anyways. That is, sometimes conferences are really far away and the advisor plans to go but not send their students. In this case, it's generally okay (if it's okay with the conference) for the advisor to present the work on behalf of their student. Of course, your advisor should seek your permission to do so, and you should usually grant it, because when choosing between "no one hears about your work" and "your advisor presents your work on your behalf", the latter is preferable. (Since we're assuming the best of intentions here, we would assume that your advisor would properly "talk you up" to their colleagues and present it as your work, instead of attempting to pass it off as their own). 

 

However, you seem to feel that something fishy is going on. And it's certainly possible that your advisor is planning to do something bad and will probably continue this throughout your degree.

 

That said, I actually think your best plan of action is the same, whether or not you think your advisor is behaving badly or not. First, whether or not your advisor is acting unethically, you should determine whether it's normal in your field for advisors to present their students' work. In my field, it generally is and I think this is true in most fields. Second, I think it is not worth it for you to fight your advisor on this particular conference. It's not like your advisor says you should go to this conference, but you don't get to present your work! 

 

Moving forward, I think you and your advisor should have a talk about conference travel. It sounds like you might have different expectations than they do. My advisor and I have decided that it would be best for me to travel to about 2 or 3 conferences per year, and one of them can be international. I think we have a good working relationship as we both work together to find the best use of my advisor's funding to maximize utility for me (i.e. we pick conferences so that they are the most beneficial for me). I don't think it's realistic to expect that since you have a publication, you should be able to present at every conference that exists. You might have to pick and choose which conferences to go to and perhaps your advisor would then present your work at the ones you cannot attend. But to avoid future misunderstandings, I think it's worth taking the time to ask your advisor about how much travel to conferences they can support. If, from these conversations, you do not feel that your advisor has your best interests in mind, or that you are unhappy with the amount of travel they have envisioned for you, then there are other ways to find additional conference travel money.

 

One way is to apply for and win external fellowships. This could decrease your cost to your advisor and free up additional money to send you on conferences. Or, some of these fellowships have a research fund that is directly for you to spend on travel. Conferences might also have their own funding sources to support students in groups that don't have a lot of funds for travel. Your own department or school might have a fund you can apply for. And, there are organizations that offer travel scholarships for conference travel. In any case, it's up to you to seek out these opportunities and apply to them. You can let your advisor know that this is important to you and also ask them if they know about any other sources. 

 

In the ideal world, your advisor would have your best interests in mind and they will help you get opportunities to travel and present your work. Sometimes, you end up with people that aren't like this. And sometimes you end up with people that are actively trying to undermine you. If, after further discussion, you still feel it's the last case, then you might want to consider changing labs if it's worth it. For the middle case though, sometimes that's just how things are and maybe you can find some other way to ensure you get enough conference presentations by the time you graduate (e.g. those fellowships and travel grants).

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If you want to make sure people associate your name with this work, then get it published ASAP. 

 

It would be indexed on IEEE xPlore after the presentation. Is this what you meant by publishing?

 

Moving forward, I think you and your advisor should have a talk about conference travel. It sounds like you might have different expectations than they do...ut to avoid future misunderstandings, I think it's worth taking the time to ask your advisor about how much travel to conferences they can support. If, from these conversations, you do not feel that your advisor has your best interests in mind, or that you are unhappy with the amount of travel they have envisioned for you, then there are other ways to find additional conference travel money.

Again, thank you for the sagely advice. I will discuss this with him and let him know what I think.

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In my field it's very, very typical for the presenting author to be either the first author or last author, and also common for it to be the last author (PI) unless the first author is a senior graduate student. It would be quite rare for the presentation to be a first year graduate student rather than the PI. 

 

It's also typical for presentations (oral or poster) to have a different authorship/order than the publication that they're based on. They're indexed separately, and the presentation author/presenter should be first. It would be different if you put together the presentation, but someone else presented it.

 

I only verge on IEEE, however- I know some things change a bit, but it's not to the CompSci extreme where conference presentations are more important than peer-reviewed publications. 

 

The work is yours, it's been published as such. Your PI or Co-PI presenting on the work will more than likely bring a greater deal of recognition to the work than you presenting on it. 

 

It's also work overseen and paid for by the PIs, and as such they have just as much of a right as you do to speak on said work. 

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For what it's worth, the only time my work has been presented at a IEEE conference (for a different field as an undergrad research project), I did all of the work and made all of the poster but I didn't attend. So while I was first author on the poster, the PI presented it as the last author. Overall, it went really well and as Eigen said, I'm sure the PI was able to attract more attention to my work than if I had to try to do it myself as an undergrad student!

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I actually also have a couple of presentations in my CV that I was presenting author but not first author on. I was already going to the conference, and the first author (another grad student in our group) was not able to come. I was second author on the project anyway, so I presented his poster for him. 

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I'd suggest that the advice on Academia Stack Exchange is not necessarily the best, from reading it, and I certainly wouldn't base your decision off that.

 

If you really want a better view, I'd ask on the Chronicle of Higher Education forums, but I doubt it will be much different than the advice I gave you earlier.

 

What you don't seem to be addressing here, at least to me, is your willingness to pay out of pocket (or your ability to secure competitive grants for funding) to attend the conference.

 

It doesn't seem like your PI is telling you you can't go, just that they aren't willing to pay for you. That's not particularly uncommon.

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I am in a different field than you are but my take on this would be that you should have a general conversation with your PI about questions such as what conferences you should be submitting to, what conferences you should try and attend in person, and at what career stage. Also relevant: how many conferences per year does you PI think it is reasonable for you to attend, and who pays for your travel? These details are all important to know independently of what happens this particular time. I would not be surprised if your PI thinks the cost of the trip is just too high and the benefit not substantial enough given your career stage, but it would be a different story if you were in your 3rd or 4th year. As it stands, I don't think your PI's explanation for why he should go and not you is unreasonable.  In any event, as long as you are acknowledged as first author on this presentation and subsequent publications coming out of this work, I wouldn't worry just yet. A more general conversation about expectations for who should travel, when, and how often, should help with your more general concern of getting 'hijacked' again in the future.

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OK! I raised this issue with him yesterday in a non-confrontational, clear-the-air setting. I basically reiterated the earlier conversation we had early on and told him that I had been working on the presumption that I was going to be presenting my work at the conferences. I found it out of normalcy to know at the last moment that I was being shoved aside.

 

He was quite generous in his remarks telling me he had no question about my competence or anything like that but it was more of a budget thing. 

 

According to him, my project is currently low on budget given that the proposals' results (submitted in the first quarter of the year) were not announced yet and he has had to dig into another student's budget to make this trip to Europe. He also raised the fact that I was an international student and that getting visa to travel to the country where the conference was being organized might be an issue for me (not like I had visa issues as I told him before we ever got the work submitted that I had no visa issues travelling to this particular country).

 

I am exploring securing grants elsewhere for this trip though.

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I think one thing that you still seem to have conflated in your head is your PI "taking" your authorship vs your PI not paying for you to go present. 

 

The way I still read the situation is that you got presentations accepted. Yay!

 

You don't seem willing to pay out of pocket to go present them. Your project/PI don't have funds available to you. You don't have a grant that will pay for you to go.

 

Your PI/co-author have other funds available, and are presenting so you don't have to retract the paper.

 

Your last post still uses the "shoved aside" descriptor, when I don't get that read on it at all. 

 

Why don't you just pay your way and go to the conference? Even in a field with good funding, most graduate students I know still foot all or a large portion of their travel to conferences and/or get grants to pay for it. I would consider it uncommon to have all or even the bulk of your conference travels throughout graduate school paid for outside of very well funded labs. 

 

Also, just to clarify... You initially said you had two first author publications accepted. Are you referring to the conference paper, or are you talking about actual publications? IE, do you have two first author publications and this is just a presentation off of them? Or is this previously unpublished data?

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Why don't you just pay your way and go to the conference? Even in a field with good funding, most graduate students I know still foot all or a large portion of their travel to conferences and/or get grants to pay for it. I would consider it uncommon to have all or even the bulk of your conference travels throughout graduate school paid for outside of very well funded labs. 

 

For the record, I have not spent money out of pocket on conference travel as a PhD student or as a postdoc, and I travel a fair amount. I had decent travel funding as a student and generous funding now. When I ran out of money as a student, I applied for extra grants, both institution internal and external. I use different tactics to reduct costs: apply mostly in the US -- locally as much as possible, crash with local students whenever possible or (rarely) share a hotel room with others, apply to conferences that reimburse presenters, have co-authors present. You have to be smart about where you apply and what you spend on travel, especially if you have a bulk sum for the duration of your studies. I don't think spending a lot of money -- or people's good will, for that matter -- on an expensive international conference in your first year is worth it, especially when your PI is going and therefore the presentation will end up on your CV. I would save my time and effort for when it really counts, which is probably in at least another year. 

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Hey, hey, hey Eigen!...Wht's all this "conflated in your head" thing?

And I am not aware of people paying for conference trips out of their pocket, either. But I hold that things might differ I your field, however.

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My point was that you're conflating your PI not wanting to pay for your trip to the conference with him not wanting you to go, when the two don't seem to be related in this case. Most of your language (ie, hijacked) seem to imply malice/improper behavior. If your PI just wanted to go to the conference, they could have gone without presenting as well.

 

A couple of years ago I wouldn't have thought people paying out of pocket for conferences was very common.... Then I spent the last 2 years reviewing applications for some of our school's travel grants for graduate students, and was surprised at the number of students covering some or all of the costs out of pocket. Definitely less common in STEM, but still a good number. Granted, we're not a top 10 school, but funding is pretty decent overall.

 

I also think considering how much you're willing to pay for an opportunity (like a conference) can be good. It helps weigh how much you want to do it with how important (and valuable to your career) it really is- and can help you see the perspective of your PI when they're weighing travel costs. It's also fairly common to not know all of your available funding sources until pretty close to the wire (in my experience), so knowing how much you're willing to pay in case of shortfalls/not getting grants is a great idea.

 

Definitely look for grants, there are a huge number of grants within schools and within conferences for graduate student travel and registration.

 

For the record, I have not spent money out of pocket on conference travel as a PhD student or as a postdoc, and I travel a fair amount. I had decent travel funding as a student and generous funding now. When I ran out of money as a student, I applied for extra grants, both institution internal and external. I use different tactics to reduct costs: apply mostly in the US -- locally as much as possible, crash with local students whenever possible or (rarely) share a hotel room with others, apply to conferences that reimburse presenters, have co-authors present. You have to be smart about where you apply and what you spend on travel, especially if you have a bulk sum for the duration of your studies. I don't think spending a lot of money -- or people's good will, for that matter -- on an expensive international conference in your first year is worth it, especially when your PI is going and therefore the presentation will end up on your CV. I would save my time and effort for when it really counts, which is probably in at least another year. 

 

Just curious, but I've never heard of anything like a bulk sum/travel allowance in my field. Is it common in yours?

 

All funding is either tied to grants (ie, presenting research from a specific project and at the PI's discretion) or competitive in nature (from the conference organizers, department, school, outside foundations, etc.)

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Not sure about your field, but this is pretty standard for biosciences. The last author has the same right to presenting research as the first...remember the work was done in the PIs lab. Your name will be mentioned more than a few times throughout the presentation and you'll get credit in any citations that come from the research. Also, I have to assume that this would be your 1st big presentation (just based on you being a 1st year), would that really be the appropriate forum for such a thing? Also what's the context of the talk? Is your work a small portion of it or is it the main portion? In my experience, PIs tend to pool together all recent work from the lab for presentations. 

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I agree with Eigen that the two statements:

 

Your PI does not want to (or is not able to) pay for you to go to the conference

 

and

 

Your PI wants to steal your work

 

are not the same thing. I would even say that the statement "Your PI does not want you to go to the conference" is different than the above statements. As ballwera says, every author on the work has equal right to present it (as long as they don't misrepresent their contribution). It would only be strange/weird if your PI wants you to go to the conference, but wants to present your work instead of letting you present it.

I would even say, in this case, even if you were paying your own way and even if you found your own funding, the PI still has the "right" to say that they don't want you to go. After all, you work for your PI and time spent at the conference is working time. Your PI has the right to say that they would prefer you go to another conference or that they would prefer for you to stay in the lab and work instead. If this happens though, then there might be reason to wonder about their intent. 

 

But, what I mean to say is that being lead author of a work does not mean you necessarily have to go to every single conference and present it. It is smarter to just pick and choose the ones you think are best for you to present and let your PI or other coauthors present your work at the conferences you don't attend. If you continue talking to your PI about this topic, instead of focussing on this one particular conference, I would move forward and just ask about future conference plans. 

 

I think it's always a good idea to plan your conferences in advance. At any given time, I usually know my travel plans for the next year. Right now, I have three conferences coming up, one in August 2015, one in November 2015 and one in July 2016. I will probably be thinking about Fall 2016 meetings after this summer is over.

 

Just curious, but I've never heard of anything like a bulk sum/travel allowance in my field. Is it common in yours?

 

All funding is either tied to grants (ie, presenting research from a specific project and at the PI's discretion) or competitive in nature (from the conference organizers, department, school, outside foundations, etc.)

 

Bulk sum/travel allowance is pretty common in mine. First years in my program get $400 for travel in the first year, which isn't very much, so it's usually used up in a single trip. First years in another program here get $1500 as a research grant upon starting. Because this is a rare grant that actually allows for equipment purchase, many people use it to buy a laptop to work on and the remainder for one trip. In my field, many graduate student fellowships come with about $3000 of research grant money that works like a bulk sum travel allowance. Generally, we are not allowed to spend it on equipment, so we generally spend this on travel. Having a fellowship like this is awesome because this means the student can have more control over where they present their work. While these fellowships are competitive in nature, they are not really fellowships tied to specific research, but I suppose you might still consider it that way.

 

Overall, I have never spent my own money to do work related travel. My opinion is that it's just not worth it (for every conference I could not get funding to attend, I was able to find an alternative conference that was just as good where I could get funding). Missing out on a single conference because you didn't have funding isn't really going to ruin your career, in my opinion. 

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I would suspect travel money has a correlation to institution, rather than field. I have about $2k available yearly to me ($700 allotment + $1300 available departmental grant).

Edited by telkanuru
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I would suspect travel money has a correlation to institution, rather than field. I have about $2k available yearly to me ($700 allotment + $1300 available departmental grant).

 

I think it might have a little to do with field too because my colleagues in different fields at a past institution told me that none of their work are funded by their PI's grant. Students would have to fund their work entirely out of grants that they apply for themselves, or with department money allotted, etc. 

 

However, in my field (and many other sciences), all of our work is tied to a grant from our PI. PIs are expected to spend most of their time writing grant proposals and then using that money to hire grad students to do the work. Some very theoretical fields do not have as many research grants, but for my field, all of my work is funded through a NASA grant that my PI won. This grant covers all costs related to my research work: my salary, my benefits/overhead charges, page charges for journals, buying equipment and travel to conferences. Since this is my PI's grant, it's up to my PI's discretion to spend the money (they decide if I can go to a certain conference, or which journal we submit to, which equipment to buy etc.)

 

What I was trying to say above is that grad students can still win additional fellowships with a research allowance for the grad student themselves. When students have one of these fellowships, this is money in addition to whatever grant money already exists to fund the student's work. So this usually means extra conferences for the student, or, maybe the PI only had money for a domestic conference but the student supplementing with their fellowship might allow them to go to an international conference instead.

 

So, these two examples (most common form of travel funding in my field) are both not institution based. (Unless you want to make an argument that your institution brand name has a indirect effect on grant success rate).

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Bulk sum/travel allowance is pretty common in mine. First years in my program get $400 for travel in the first year, which isn't very much, so it's usually used up in a single trip. First years in another program here get $1500 as a research grant upon starting. Because this is a rare grant that actually allows for equipment purchase, many people use it to buy a laptop to work on and the remainder for one trip. In my field, many graduate student fellowships come with about $3000 of research grant money that works like a bulk sum travel allowance. Generally, we are not allowed to spend it on equipment, so we generally spend this on travel. Having a fellowship like this is awesome because this means the student can have more control over where they present their work. While these fellowships are competitive in nature, they are not really fellowships tied to specific research, but I suppose you might still consider it that way.

 

Overall, I have never spent my own money to do work related travel. My opinion is that it's just not worth it (for every conference I could not get funding to attend, I was able to find an alternative conference that was just as good where I could get funding). Missing out on a single conference because you didn't have funding isn't really going to ruin your career, in my opinion. 

 

That's awesome. The most we can get is ~$300/year in school-based awards, and those are competitive among all graduate students that year. Our department funds exactly $0 for conference travel. We also fund a lot of travel out of our graduate student association- that's not exactly free money though, since we all pay in ~200 per year, and only some people get travel awards out of it. It's more cost-sharing than anything else. 

 

All of our grants can fund travel, but it's not an explicit line item so the choice is often between lab supplies/equipment and sending someone to a conference. And even when it's sending someone to a conference, it's about how you split the available travel funding between the 4-5 people that can go to said conference.

 

That said, I've found there's lots of money available to apply for, and I've been quite successful finagling funds from unusual sources as well- I've just never heard of it as an allotment- it's always been something I've had to justify/argue on a case by case basis. Every time I've asked about internal research grants (for computers, travel, etc.) I've been told that's what my stipend is for!

 

The most useful one for me that I've now passed on to some junior graduate students in my department is making use of "recruitment money"- I offer to run a graduate recruiting booth for our department at the conference, and the department/school are usually quite happy to pay my way to do so.

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Our Graduate Office (i.e. Graduate Deans) provides travel awards (up to $500, but only once per grad career) on a needs-basis. You need a letter from your PI saying that 1) they support your decision to attend this conference and 2) they have no money available to pay for the costs. Our Graduate Student Association does not provide any travel funds for research (because the Graduate Office fills this need) and while we do collect student dues, these dues count as student fees that our advisor pays for (i.e. part of our "overhead"). So our grad student association would very rarely fund anything that has direct benefit to a single student only (we generally fund things that would benefit the campus as a whole). All needs-based funding go through the Graduate Office.

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Just curious, but I've never heard of anything like a bulk sum/travel allowance in my field. Is it common in yours?

 

All funding is either tied to grants (ie, presenting research from a specific project and at the PI's discretion) or competitive in nature (from the conference organizers, department, school, outside foundations, etc.)

 

Some version of the allowance is common in my field. It varies in amount and in other conditions attached to how the money can be used -- anywhere from $X per year to be used for no more than one trip to $Y for the entire duration of the program to use as you see fit. My department gave us a lump sum. Linguistics doesn't have too many large grants (and the NSF is actively trying to cut what remains) and in any event it's not a grant-based field. I work on my own projects; my dissertation research came out of an idea that I had and developed, and got the money to fund the experiments for. There is not much that I need in the way of support (advising aside), since a lot of the work is cheap or doesn't cost any money. Whenever I do need access to a lab (for experimental components of my work), I work with a faculty member who has one and they end up being a co-author.*

 

* Experimental linguistics is still a very young field and there is a lot we haven't figured out yet. Authorship, in particular, is still something people don't have a clear consensus on. It is also still hard to get funded because we are usually judged by people in other fields, who tend not to understand our questions. </rant>

 

 

I would suspect travel money has a correlation to institution, rather than field. I have about $2k available yearly to me ($700 allotment + $1300 available departmental grant).

 

Yeah, this is a rich school. Not-as-rich schools in my field also have some allowance of this kind, but the amounts vary. (As do the stipends and other money-related matters more generally.)

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Our Graduate Office (i.e. Graduate Deans) provides travel awards (up to $500, but only once per grad career) on a needs-basis. You need a letter from your PI saying that 1) they support your decision to attend this conference and 2) they have no money available to pay for the costs. Our Graduate Student Association does not provide any travel funds for research (because the Graduate Office fills this need) and while we do collect student dues, these dues count as student fees that our advisor pays for (i.e. part of our "overhead"). So our grad student association would very rarely fund anything that has direct benefit to a single student only (we generally fund things that would benefit the campus as a whole). All needs-based funding go through the Graduate Office.

 

Our graduate office has some, but it's a very new office- our school got rid of the Graduate School a number of years ago, and organizationally is just restructuring to provide central support. 

 

There's a long and sordid past about why we provide student association funds for travel, but in the end once we started, it's so popular it's never going away. The best I was able to do was cap it at 40% of the funds we allocate yearly, with the rest going to things with broader impact. It's from student fees, but fees are outside of what our programs cover- we have to pay all related fees out of pocket (although that's a gripe for another time- last I checked, we had one of the highest yearly fee requirements of any grad school in the US, which is horrible).

 

Thanks for the additional info, Fuzzy- that's a really nice idea, kind of like professional development funds for faculty. Wish more fields did that- I think grad students would learn a lot from having even a small pot of money they needed to budget from.

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Thanks for the additional info, Fuzzy- that's a really nice idea, kind of like professional development funds for faculty. Wish more fields did that- I think grad students would learn a lot from having even a small pot of money they needed to budget from.

 

Yep -- as long as it also comes with some kind of instruction on how to budget the funds (which, btw, young faculty could also benefit from). Let's say that not everyone plans far enough ahead to hold onto enough money to be able to travel sufficiently in their 5th year. In fact, I think it can very hard to know as a first year what is even reasonable. 

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Thanks everyone for your contribution. I just want to bring this closer to home and find out what the standard practice in STEM is in the United States when applying for grant as a grad student.

 

The company whose devices I've been using to deploy my algorithm mailed me sometime in April about the possibility of being awarded a $50,000 grant to fund my research should I decide to apply. In good faith, I told my advisor that I would like to collaborate with him on this grant application and he told me he was happy to collaborate with me in applying for the grant.

 

I went to work drawing up the draft and checking it with the company's local sponsor at my institution. He made minor corrections and told me it was good enough to be submitted. All the while, my PI paid no attention to the work after asking for his input in emails. He was away for a conference when I did most of the work. When he returned, I brought it up to his face and reiterated that I would love to have his input on my draft before I submit.

 

He read it up after the discussion and was very impressed but admitted he was concerned a student would be applying for a grant. He asked me to confirm this from the research grant coordinator at the company who would later confirm that I could submit it in my name and it's optional for me to submit it in the PI's name or submit it along with his name. Anyways, I informed my advisor of the grant coordinator's reply but I could read his emotions and body language that he was dissatisfied with the response.

 

As the deadline approached, my advisor started musing how it was not a good idea for me to be the one to submit the document. One morning, he raised it that he grant submission has to go through the Uni grant office which I accepted as it seemed logical to me. What I found confusing however was the fact that he recently told me he would have to remove my name from the grant document because "the school told him so" after he checked with the university grant office. The thing is I have other colleagues in other research labs that are applying for this same grant through their advisor but their advisor is in no way musing to remove their name from the grant application.

 

It's difficult but I am starting to question this guy's intent and objectivity. Am I the one with issues?

Edited by Calorific
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