External co-authors, the pros and cons

Many researchers collaborate across various fields, countries, or institutions to produce scientific papers. External co-authors are those researchers or authors who are not affiliated with the same institutions as the main or corresponding author but made significant contributions to the research and writing process. External co-authors can bring many benefits to scientific articles and improve them in many ways, such as enhancing the quality, making them more influential and visible, expanding their network, connections, and audiences, and sharing the workload and responsibility. However, such co-authors may also bring some challenges and risks that must be expected and handled, such as managing conflicts and disagreements, addressing ethical and legal issues, and ensuring quality and consistency. This article will explore the main pros and cons of using external co-authors for scientific papers.

Pros of contributing with external co-authors

The benefits of external co-authors are based on the advantages and opportunities they bring to the research and writing process. Some of these benefits are as follows:

Improving the quality and influence of the paper

External co-authors can provide useful feedback and comments, expertise, data, analysis, and insights that can increase the design, implementation, and presentations of the research. These co-authors can also help to publish in higher-impact journals by improving the citation potential and visibility of the article. They can also help respond to the reviewers’ comments and recommendations more effectively and efficiently.

Expanding the network and opportunities

External co-authors can bring new contacts, connections, collaborations, funding sources, and career opportunities. They can also help to showcase the paper to broader audiences and communities of practice. They are also beneficial in creating interdisciplinary or international research teams that can address complex or new research problems.

Dividing the workload and responsibilities

Such co-authors can share the duties and challenges of conducting and publishing research, such as literature review, data collection, writing, editing, peer review, and ethical issues. They can also divide the responsibility and ownership of the research results; external co-authors can also provide support, motivation, and encouragement for each other.

Unique strengths and weaknesses

Every writer is different, so a co-author can assist you in creating a stronger scientific article. Perhaps you are good at scientific details and methodology, while your partner is great at writing in a fluent style. Or, maybe your co-author knows how to keep up the pace while you neglect some parts or details to rapidly finish that part. Having extra sets of eyes to proofread the paper will help eliminate more grammar mistakes and typos.

Save time

The truth is that when you use external co-authors, you only have to write half of the words. In addition, having a co-author means having someone to promote your published article.

Increase connections

Your co-author’s audiences may be different from yours, specifically when you are working in a multidisciplinary field. This can bring twice as many readers to your paper. Your collaborator’s network may also strengthen your promotional reach with conferences where you can showcase your work.

cons of contributing with external co-authors

despite the various benefits of using external co-authors, collaborating with them may bring difficulties and challenges. Some of these cons are as follows:

Handling conflicts of interest and disagreements

External co-authors may have different opinions, interests, goals, or expectations than the main or internal co-authors. They may have different levels of commitment, availability, or communication. These differences can lead to disagreements regarding the paper’s research design, methods, results, interpretation, conclusion, or recommendations. Conflicts can also happen over criteria, order or acknowledgment of authorship, or the choice of journal, reviewers, or editors.

Addressing ethical and legal issues

Such co-authors may have different ethical or legal standards or duties than the main or internal co-authors. They may have various affiliations, funding sources, or conflicts of interest that need to be revealed and managed. Such differences may lead to ethical and legal issues such as plagiarism, data fabrication or falsification, authorship disputes or misconducts, intellectual property rights violations, or contractual breaches.

Maintaining quality and consistency

Such co-authors may have various levels of expertise, skills, or knowledge that the lead or internal co-authors must manage. In addition, the writing styles, formats, or conventions that need to be unified and aligned may be different between external co-authors and other authors of the paper. These differences can influence the quality and consistency of the report regarding the content, structure, language, presentation, or referencing.

Different versions of the book

If You contribute with a co-author to write a book or a comprehensive review, you find that you have different ideas, and each wants to take the book in two different directions. Even if you start with the same objective, your opinions may differ once you start revising. Or maybe you disagree with feedback from the reviewer or publisher. The creative process is very personal, and you may find it means different things to you and your external co-author. Resolving such conflicts is challenging and not always easy.

Financial issues

Money can be a tricky topic. You have to decide and agree on how you and your co-author will deal with any expenses before publication, such as paying for research materials or getting permission. You and your co-author will need to talk and agree on these details, and you might not agree on who deserves what.

Style inconsistency

While having different skills and expertise from two authors can be useful, your overall voices and styles should not be too different. The paper should be consistent enough that readers can’t notice differences between parts written by each author. Style consistency is specifically essential when you want to write a book or a comprehensive review.

The “group project” effect

When a group is responsible for a project, most of the time, one person ends up doing more work than others. This can happen when co-authorship as well, even if both of you have the best intentions to divide duties equally.

Final words

Using external co-authors for scientific articles can be a rewarding and helpful experience for researchers who wish to boost their work, expand their network and share their workload. However, this also requires careful planning, communication, and management to ensure successful and ethical collaboration and publication of their research.

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