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I work at a teaching-oriented college, where no postgraduate programs exist, and no research assistants hired. I have a research idea, but due to teaching load, I am thinking about hiring a research assistant online (zoom meetings) to do some of the programming/coding and data analysis/visualization under my instructions. I plan to pay this research assistant (of course it is a part-time job) and add him/her as a co-author. Do you think this is academically acceptable? Are there any downsides in doing such a thing?

Note: in case someone suggests to find a motivated undergrad student to help, I don't have time to teach them the advanced programming I require in my work, so I will be looking for someone who is already expert in programming and is interested to work with me on my idea.

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I think it is academically acceptable. You should ask your chair.

That said, good professional part time programming is expensive. Supervising that kind of help will be time consuming. Making sure your requirements are right and correctly understood and testing the results will be your responsibility. Teaching a motivated undergraduate who was already a good programmer (such folks exist at many places) might in fact be easier and more rewarding for all concerned.

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This sounds perfectly fine. You have an idea, and want to employ someone to help you. As long as you go through the correct HR procedures to write a job description and hire someone, and follow academic protocols around assigning authorship, then it looks good to me.

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