What are the things one should consider, as a postdoc, before accepting or rejecting an invitation to contribute a book chapter? The proposed book is a handbook in a developing field of engineering.
When I get an invitation to contribute a book chapter (or conference paper in an invited session), I usually ask myself the following questions:
- Can I have a reasonable contribution ready for the proposed submission deadline?
- Is the venue I am invited to a good fit and does it provide the best possible visibility for my contribution?
- Do I want to invite the person inviting me to similar occasions in the future?
Ideally, you should be able to answer at least questions 1 and 2 with "yes" before accepting the invitation. If your answer to question 2 would be "no", it may still be wise to accept the invitation in view of question 3. For this type of invitations, I would try to find a smaller contribution which fits the visibility of the proposed publication venue. In a book chapter, for example a summarizing synthesis of some of your previous results might be appropriate.
It almost certainly won't earn you any money.
It probably won't be read by many people. It will be cited by even fewer.
The collaboration may lead to future projects together.
It may involve a lot of work.
You might enjoy the process. Or hate it.
It may or may not help your career progression, depending on your field, your career to date, and the posts you apply to. If it's a book that will become a standard for one or more taught courses, your contribution may be crucial for your future teaching career.
In this particular case, when the putative author is a rising young authority in an engineering field, it's a rapidly-developing field that's attracting significant international interest, and many universities are introducing new courses in the area, then, (depending on the publisher, the other authors, and the other chapters) there's potential for the book to have quite a significant audience, so contributing to the book chapter would be attractive.
I would like to add the following:
If there are other, more experienced, persons in the specific field, who would likely do a better job than himself, perhaps it is best for him, for the sake of all the potential readers of the book, to decline the invitation and recommend these other people instead.
An invitation is something that is unexpected, and meeting it would likely require an extra effort in addition to his normal responsibilities. Unless he is able to manage his resources well without encroaching what belongs to his family, for example, then perhaps it would be prudent, despite all the prospects it might offer, to decline the invitation.