Not sure if this question is a bit weird... I'm still a young researcher. I was wondering if it is okay to co-author papers with one's friends who are also doing research in a close field to one's research.

Having friends who conduct research (even if it is at another institution) that is close to one's research is a really motivating factor, and being on close terms with someone, in my opinion, may really improve the workflow and the harmony in the work. In your opinion and from your experience, what do you think about this?

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    There are two possible outcomes: either this will end your friendship or make it stronger. Well, not that extreme, but just make sure it's clear it will not affect your friendship if there is no result, or one side does not pull as hard as the other or someone drops out, etc. Jun 10, 2021 at 10:07
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    There is this joke I got told in my first semester, that in mathematics you have no friends, only people to study and do your homework with, because these are the people you spend all your available time with. I have always interpreted this as aimed at the student life, but while reading the question, I may or may not have noticed some uncomfortable relevance to my research activities...
    – mlk
    Jun 10, 2021 at 14:56
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    I would liken it to living with somebody. It's way better to live with somebody you already like! But it's really important to pledge to open communication and respect for the challenges that will arise. Jun 10, 2021 at 17:54
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    Conversely, you might well become friends with your coauthors!
    – half-pass
    Jun 10, 2021 at 17:55
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    I disagree pretty strongly with @CaptainEmacs, I’ve had friends who I didn’t work great with as collaborators and we just stopped collaborating and stayed friends. Also once you all move away your collaborators are the only friends you’ll regularly visit and stay in touch with. Jun 10, 2021 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


By all means, go for it. As always when co-authoring: agree on the order the names on the paper beforehand and explicitly. This prevents conflicts.


Working with friends can be a lot of fun. It can also be an unpleasant experience, and everything in between. Your experience will depend on your personality, your friend's personality, and luck.

  • You may feel more relaxed about sharing ideas because you are talking to a friend. Alternatively, you might find you feel more self-conscious, because it's not solely a professional relationship.
  • Your friend may feel more inclined to put time and effort into the project, because they enjoy working with you and value your friendship. Alternatively, they may feel more able to miss deadlines and drop balls, because 'you will understand'.
  • You may feel less pressure, because your friend 'will understand' if you miss deadlines or drop a few balls. Alternatively, you may feel more pressure because you don't want to let your friend down, or because you feel obliged to pick up their slack.
  • You may find it easier to assert yourself when dealing with someone you know well. Alternatively, you may feel you have to accept your friend's way of doing things, because you don't want to create trouble.
  • You may be able to disagree vehemently on some aspect of research, yet still spend a convivial evening together in a bar. Alternatively, you may find that professional disagreements spill over into the personal sphere.
  • You may be able to have a blazing row with your friend about their political views, yet still work respectfully together. Alternatively you may find that personal disagreements spill over into the professional sphere.
  • You may feel more able to walk away from a project that's not working for you, because the relationship is bigger than the project. Alternatively, you may feel compelled to flog a dead horse because you don't want to disappoint your friend.

TL;DR: Having a clear differentiation between first and second author helped us a lot

After authoring a paper with a researcher from a pretty different field I became friends with the first author (I was a co-author). What we actually did was to write two papers: One for the other researcher's field (biology) and one for my field (statistics). Then both got a first-author paper out of it.

In my experience it helped a lot that it was clear who was the one responsible for the respective research paper and who was the sidekick. The first author did most of the writing and setting up the experiment structure and so on - setting the plan if you will and being responsible for the respective paper/project. The sidekick focused on their part. For me it helped to not argue about things and to have clear responsibilities. The last thing I want is to get into a inter-personal conflicts. Research is hard enough.

So, it turned out to be actually good that one of us clearly put in more work and that this was the first author and that this was fixed before starting to work on the project.

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