Publishing scientific research with a co-author is a common practise followed in academic writing. While co-authorship sounds like an interesting collaboration between two or more authors, at times it might get tricky. Authorship not only gives credit to the researchers but also indicates their academic, social and financial responsibility towards the published work. As a result, it is important to wisely choose the people contributing directly or indirectly to a research paper. To help you in this process, this article will tell you about co-authorship in academic writing and its advantages and disadvantages for researchers.
What is co-authorship in academic writing?
Co-authorship is a traditional practise in academic writing where two or more researchers come together to work on a common project. Based on their knowledge and expertise, they contribute to the research and share the authorship of the research paper. A person who significantly contributes to a journal article is called a co-author. A co-author also shares the accountability for the results of the published data.
A co-author can have any one or more of the following roles in article publication:
- Significant contribution towards the research in the form of studying design, planning, execution, conception, data collection, data analysis and interpretation.
- Writing, revising or critically reviewing a few sections or the complete research article.
- Shortlisting and choosing a potential journal for publication.
- Reviewing and approving different versions of the research paper before submission.
- Modifying the article based on the feedback from reviewers.
- Taking responsibility for the contents of the article.
- Being accountable for the accuracy and integrity of the published work.
At the time of collaborating with another author to write a research article, you will have to select someone as a corresponding author. A corresponding author will be responsible for all the communication related to the research article. This person will also be the authorised signatory for signing publishing agreement. Generally, corresponding authors also ensure that the correct contact details and affiliations of other authors are provided for publication.
Now that you understand what co-authorship is in academic writing, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of publishing research with a co-author.
Pros of publishing research with a co-author
Different researchers have different reasons to collaborate with other authors on writing a research article. However, regardless of your reason, skill transfer is a common benefit of co-authorship. Generally, collaboration occurs between researchers who have similar interests but a combination of different skills. This improves the synergy between the two authors and results in a smooth flow of skills among them. For example, if you possess good technical skills but do not have better communication skills, collaborating with someone who has good oral and written communication skills can make it easier for you to overcome the challenges. A co-author can share the burden of your tasks and ensure that your article is free from grammar or punctuation mistakes.
Along with research and dissertation writing, PhD candidates have to perform various other academic tasks as a part of their studies. This includes attending conferences, presenting research papers and teaching other postgraduate or undergraduate students. All these tasks can consume a significant amount of time in a day and give lesser time to researchers to work on their paper. Co-authoring can be a good option for researchers who want to publish their research but do not have much time. By getting one or two other co-authors on board, you can equally distribute your tasks. This will not only reduce the number of words that you have to write but also make it easier for you to delegate tasks related to your paper to other authors. The time that you save here can be utilised for communicating with journal editors, promoting your research and presenting your work at academic seminars or conferences.
Adds value to the research
Co-authorship is a great way to add significant value to your research. Your co-authors can showcase their subject matter expertise and present the information in a better way. As every person has a different perspective, with the help of your co-authors, you can try different ideas or methodologies to get the most out of your work. Some co-authors can suggest more relevant examples or tell you about new discoveries related to your research that you have never heard about. All these factors will make your research more comprehensive and give readers an in-depth understanding of your work.
Several researchers prefer to collaborate with other authors, as this gives them an opportunity to expand their network. If you are collaborating with researchers who have successfully published their work in the past, then co-authoring will help you with cross-promotion. Researchers use this tactic to promote their articles to a wide range of audiences. Moreover, co-authoring can help you get an increased number of academic and non-academic readers. It will also boost your confidence and encourage you to promote your work at conferences, academic events and on social media platforms.
Both new and experienced academic writers agree that publishing a research can be stressful. From finding information from reliable resources to presenting data in structured manner, authors need to put in a lot of effort to publish a high-quality academic article. This increases the stress and decreases the efficiency of the researcher until they reach the publication stage. On the other hand, collaborating with other researchers can be less stressful. As a team, you can distribute the tasks and create a strategy to complete your research article. Moreover, all the co-authors in a team can motivate each other by sharing their experience.
Apart from researching and writing, you might also need to set a budget for conducting the research, collecting data from reliable sources and conducting surveys and interviews. Many times researchers have to take help of professional academic writing or editing services to improve the tone and language of their research paper. Some open-access journals also charge one-time fees for publishing a research paper. As all these costs can result in a hefty initial investment for authors, collaboration can make it easier for researchers to split the costs with other co-authors. This reduces the initial investment that goes into publishing a research article. The money saved during writing and publishing can be used for marketing campaigns or to promote your article to reach the maximum audience.
Writing a research article can be a time-consuming process. Due to the nature of the work, there are chances for researchers to lose interest in their work or feel distracted. Co-authorship can increase your accountability and responsibility for the research paper. Working in collaboration increases productivity. Your co-authors can assist you in addressing different challenges, scheduling your tasks, creating a priority list and finishing your research paper to meet the deadline. As an active team member, you will also feel involved and be more responsible for your part of the work.
Cons of publishing research with a co-author
Difference in opinions
No matter how much you try to match your ideas with your co-authors, there might be instances where you will have to find ways to overcome differences in your opinions. Whether you are working on the same section of the article or a different sections, not having a similar goal can make it difficult for you to finish your research. Difference in opinions often arises when one author is an experienced researcher and the other is a new doctoral student. In such cases, identifying the differences and finding a solution on mutual interest can help you in completing your research in the given timeframe.
Lack of contribution
While working as a team, all the authors will have to contribute equally to the research. Getting less support from other authors can result in an overload of responsibilities for a few team members. To avoid any possible conflict, it is advisable to select your co-authors wisely. Drafting an agreement with the roles and duties of all the authors can ensure the fair contribution of all the authors. Many researchers use a work-load allocation matrix to define the roles of each collaborator. This helps in creating a task schedule for each author and comes in handy for determining individual contributions to the research.
Lack of acknowledgement
It is common for authors to feel their efforts are not properly acknowledged by other researchers. Sometimes researchers choose, the lead author, co-author and corresponding author based on their level of seniority. However, this might not be helpful in all cases. There could be possibilities where senior authors involved in the research lack knowledge about the latest tools and resources. Similarly, a new researcher might not be well acquainted with the background of the research, the scope of the subject and the expert knowledge needed to execute a high-quality academic work. Selecting a corresponding author based on the level of engagement in the form of research, data collection, writing and use of scientific methodologies can help in acknowledging their contributions.
Inconsistency in style
An inconsistency in style can occur when more than one author is involved in writing different sections and sub-sections of the research paper. Every researcher has a different academic writing style, which is reflected in the tone of their content. However, asking all co-authors to write a few sections can lead to disparities in the content. To avoid this, researchers must take the paper through multiple rounds of editing and proofreading. At the editing stage, all the discrepancies in style, language and tone can be identified and corrected. This will not only ensure that a consistent writing style is followed throughout the paper, but also keep a continuous flow of information for the readers.
Unequal distribution of finances
Unequal distribution of finances is another common disadvantage of publishing research with a co-author. From handling expenses to securing revenue, improper financial management can lead to multiple conflicts among co-authors. However, having a strong financial plan before collaborating can help avoid any misunderstandings between co-authors. Whether your research is self-funded or you have been approved for grants, keeping a record of all the expenses is a must. Additionally, you can also maintain a log book to enter any extra expenses that occurred during the research and before publication. From securing permission for your research to getting it published, you might have to spend a lot of money on your research paper. Based on a mutual agreement, you can divide all the expenses with your co-authors. Similarly, you can create a plan for dividing the revenue generated after publication or splitting the royalties earned. This will make sure that there are no monetary issues and all the co-authors receive fair payments for their contributions.
Your co-authors might have a different style of working. At the time of distributing roles, make sure that a common vision is shared across all the authors. Even a single mistake from a co-author can have a negative impact on the career of other authors. Instead of trusting the work of your co-authors, take the time to cross-check and verify all the processes. For example, if a co-author accidentally plagiarises a section of the research, it might affect your research paper. Creating different check points can help in identifying any red flags. Moreover, it will reduce the chances of rejection and ensure that the article is published without any difficulty.
Finding the right co-authors can make it easier for researchers to write a high-quality article. Some universities encourage PhD candidates to work in collaboration with other researchers. Here, all the co-authors have to specify which parts they have written or the percentage of their contribution to the research article. However, it might not be easy to find like-minded people for co-authoring a research article. Additionally, it can also get difficult for researchers to get along with each other and write an article based on common perspectives. Thus, it is important for researchers to understand the advantages and disadvantages of co-authorship before moving forward.