I much appreciated your Editorial “Joys of (top-notch) supervision” (Nature 434, 421; 2005). Having supervised 35 successful PhD students — and resisting the temptation to write a book on the subject — I believe that there is a debate to be had on good practice in student project mentoring and the problems of identifying and avoiding poor supervision.

For example, universities have procedures for recognizing academic staff who are qualified to supervise research students, but, in my experience, they lack adequate processes for dealing with poor supervisors.

To focus on one particular point, that of co-authorship of publications with the supervisor: the supervisor should indeed have contributed to the scholarship substantially beyond the baseline of normal supervisory support.

However, practice varies between disciplines, and in certain areas of the physical and biomedical sciences it is the norm for the supervisor's name to appear on any publication arising from a student's research.