I am presenting my research work at a conference. In my poster, I am crediting my research advisor. For anonymity purposes, say his name is John Smith. He is a PhD so he is often addressed Dr. Smith but he is a professor at my university so his students call him Prof. Smith. In my poster, should I credit him as Dr. John Smith or Prof. John Smith?

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    I doubt it actually matters, but if you're concerned, ask your advisor himself. – R_Kapp Dec 31 '15 at 12:36
  • @R_Kapp He is out of town and has no access to e-mail within the time I have to finish. – Ahaan S. Rungta Dec 31 '15 at 12:38
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    You might get better answers on academia.se. Not saying you're off topic here, just pointing out a site that might be useful – Kate Gregory Dec 31 '15 at 13:27
  • @KateGregory Thanks for that info! Didn't know that site existed. :) – Ahaan S. Rungta Dec 31 '15 at 13:46
  • @KateGregory IMO, most of the answers here are wrong so, yes, better answers would definitely be had at Academia. – David Richerby Dec 31 '15 at 18:54

Short answer: Use "Professor".

Why? Because that is your adviser's official title at your university. It's a recognised "rank", and so he should be addressed as such, especially if you are introducing him in the capacity of your work at your university.

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    Be careful with this though because "professor" may be different than "assistant professor" vs "associate professor" etc. Academia often cares about title a lot more. I'd suggest just asking to avoid any potential issues. – enderland Dec 31 '15 at 14:02
  • To supplement this answer Dr. is an exclusive group of people. Professor * is a more exclusive group than *Dr. and part of the reason you should go with Professor. – A.K. Dec 31 '15 at 17:55
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    This is backward. In the academia I'm familiar with, professors are called "Professor Smith" if and only if they don't have a PhD. It's actually mildly insulting to call them "Professor Smith": It implies they're not fully qualified. Also, it's not true that it's a "recognized rank". Most people you call "Professors" are not actually "Professors". They're usually "Assistant Professors" (if they're not tenured yet), or "Associate Professors" (if they're tenured). "Full Professors" are a minority, the most senior of the tenured group. Call your advisor "Dr". It's safe and accurate. – iayork Dec 31 '15 at 18:29
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    I've been to many academic conferences and never seen titles used when crediting somebody. – David Richerby Dec 31 '15 at 19:06
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    @iayork - at my university (and I'm sure most others in the UK), professor was a role and title given to senior lecturers in a department, and all the professors I knew there had PhD's. We called them Professor (or "Dan" ;) ) - calling them Dr would have been impolite as it implied ignorance of their position as senior staff. – HorusKol Jan 1 '16 at 5:05

Best answer: Ask them how they would like to be referred to.

"Absolute is the right of any man to spell his name 'Jones' and have it pronounced 'Smith'."

If unable to do that, I'd use whatever form they last published under, which they presumably found acceptable. Or contact their department and ask if anyone there knows.

  • That is the best answer, except that OP has said that the professor is out and inaccessible until after the deadline. – Kent A. Dec 31 '15 at 17:12
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    @KentAnderson: Expanded answrr to address that case. When possible, research beats guessing. – keshlam Dec 31 '15 at 17:17
  • What's the source for that quote? It's rather good. – OJFord Dec 11 '16 at 15:03

Another Short Answer: Use "Dr." or "..., PhD."

Acknowledging the PhD is the safest route if your concern is avoiding his being offended.

If a professor holds a doctorate degree, he or she will not be offended if you acknowledge it with the "..., PhD." suffix. However, if you do not acknowledge it, there may be some who would be offended, especially given that you're working in an academic setting, and there is some level of prestige among their peers involved in your work. So, it's safer to acknowledge the PhD.

If the professor does not hold the degree, then "Professor" is the right choice, obviously.

  • When I did my PhD, my adviser had a PhD but held the title of "Professor". She always introduced herself as "Professor", which was a ranked title. – Jane S Dec 31 '15 at 13:28
  • Hi @JaneS, Fair enough. However, this is in a context of printed/published work, where PhD or Dr would be more appropriate. It may be a cultural thing - in the US, at least, PhD's often come with a bit of ego, especially when referenced in an academic setting. – Kent A. Dec 31 '15 at 13:33
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    I guess that over here, you can't even have the title of Professor unless you have a PhD and have been awarded the title by your institution. So Professor holds considerably more prestige than Dr here. – Jane S Dec 31 '15 at 13:35
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    Oh yeah, in the US, "Professor" can be used for anyone teaching at the college level, PhD, or not. In fact, a (too) common joke is to say, "I don't hold a PhD, only a Masters degree, so you can call me Master Smith, if you like. If not, then Professor suits me fine." – Kent A. Dec 31 '15 at 13:37
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    I've been to many academic conferences and never seen titles used when people are credited. It's implicit that 99% of the people there either have a PhD or are studying for one so, honestly, writing "John Smith, PhD" is like writing "John Smith, who is more than 25-30 years old." – David Richerby Dec 31 '15 at 19:08

In my experience at many academic conferences, titles are never used. I've never seen anyone credited as "Dr Smith", "Professor Smith" or anything else involving a title. Just credit them as "John Smith". (This is in theoretical computer science; it's possible that other fields differ.)

I don't know for sure what the reason for this is but I would speculate as follows. First, almost everybody at an academic conference either has a PhD or is studying for one. When you're in a room with 50 PhDs and 20 PhD students (and maybe that one guy from industry who doesn't have a PhD), there's not a lot of point drawing attention to who has a PhD and who doesn't. Second, although one naturally bases opinions on all kinds of things, acknowledging somebody as "Professor Smith" sounds like an appeal to authority: Smith's work should be judged on its intrinsic quality, not on Smith's position on the career ladder. Third, different countries use titles in different ways. In the US, essentially any permanent member of the academic staff is a professor; in the UK, a professorship corresponds roughly to a named chair in the US, i.e., the title applies only to a relatively small number of very senior academics.

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