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I have a lot of single author contributions/articles (e.g. 30% of my total papers). This is uncommon in my field, medicine. The reason is that I regularly write commentaries/letters for 2 specific journals. Yet, I also have some original articles (secondary data analyses) I did on my own.

My supervisor advises against this (we have a good relationship and he is about to retire soon). He says it could suggest a "lone-wolf" attitude to others, e.g. evaluation committees. My colleague says its fine, as it demonstrates independence. May I ask your opinion about it? Should I care?

Unlike here, I am not asking about the impact on tenure, etc.

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    Can you clarify what you mean when you say 'commentaries/letters'? I would interpret this as typically short communications on a recent paper (usually in that journal) with little to no additional data or new research. Is that the sort of article you mean? If so, this wouldn't be a negative by itself, but my main concern would be I would not consider them the same as full peer-reviewed research articles. So if I saw them grouped all together on a CV my first thought would be article count padding, rather than 'lone wolf'. Put them in a separate section of your CV and you may avoid both issues. Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 20:51
  • @ Stephen McMahon - yes your are right - I refer to non-original articles (e.g. commenting other research / perspectives on current topics). In the CV, they are listed under a section called "Editorials and Perspectives".
    – Dr.M
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 21:01
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    Whatever others think about you only matters in two circumstances: (i) annual evaluation and continued employment, and (ii) when you apply to other positions. Which are you concerned about? Whatever anyone else in your community thinks about you does, in a sense, not matter very much: The ones who know you and your work personally will know how to put things in perspective, and everyone else is, well, someone else who don't need to worry about. Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 23:07
  • What is your 1st author ratio for regular peer-reviewed articles? Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 18:39
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    @WolfgangBangerth i suppose I'm unsure of your advice. Research is small, and you never know who is going to be on the next committee evaluating you, or who might need to invite someone for an invited talk or something. Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 19:00

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Based on the clarification in the comments that these are typically editorial/commentary types of submission rather than research (and are clearly identified as such) then I would see no problem with this.

Even in medicine a lot of these types of articles are single-author, and don't carry the same expectations of collaboration as research articles. They likewise don't carry the same CV weight as peer-reviewed research articles so they'll likely not be a highly-weighted positive factor for committees either, but so long as you have a decent profile in your main research area I can't imagine these being viewed as a negative.

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I'm not in medicine so things may be different where I am, but I am very sure that in my field 30% single author papers are not too much, very far from that really. In fact I have worried, being in commissions, about applicants who don't have any substantial single author paper, because that makes it more difficult to assess what they actually have done in the research. As long as you have a substantial number of collaborative papers I don't see any issue, not even in medicine, as you have quite something to show your ability to collaborate. I may suspect a "lone wolf" behind a list of publications that has 9 single author papers out of 10.

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    I would not be surprised if the majority of (very good) people in biomed never write a single-author paper, so I am not sure this advice directly applies. Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 18:41
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It is true that solo papers are rare in medicine, and in biology in general. That's because most biologist and medical researchers work in teams (labs) and share authorship. So your advisor's concern would be correct if we were talking about research reports: even a couple of single-author papers could bring suspicious about lone-wolf type of difficult personality. But you seem to be instead writing commentaries and letters, which are usually authored by one or two people at a time. Just make sure you don't end up like this guy https://retractionwatch.com/2023/07/24/meet-the-author-who-has-published-more-than-500-letters-to-the-editor-in-a-year/

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