I have been independently working on a substantial idea. The results of my work have been compiled into a complete manuscript.

However, I think I need to have an expert in the field reviewing it to check for potential flaws prior to publication. Then I want to include him in co-authorship. The expert I look for is a professor in another country and we have had no prior contact.

Is it inappropriate to send him a request via email and explain the aforementioned story?

PS: I am a Master's graduate with previous publications. Any elaborate advice or template on how to approach is much appreciated.


4 Answers 4


There's nothing inappropriate about sending an email with a request. The difficult part might be getting a response.

I would frame the request not as a quid pro quo, but as an offer for collaboration. We are all afraid of getting suckered into a 'collaboration' where we do all the work and the other person/team shares the credit. You are offering the opposite of that, and assuming you are not a crank (you are not 'disproving' evolution, are you?), it could be an attractive proposition to the other side. Just keep your email short and to the point, and don't be disappointed if the other part does not agree that your idea is that substantial.

  • As you point out, it is not appropriate for you to do all the work and have someone else share the credit. But it sure seems like that's what you're recommending. Unless the other person comes back with a major overhaul of the work, I don't see this is as an authorship-level contribution. Apr 28, 2023 at 13:34
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    You are correct in spotting the contradiction. I assume that the paper will need serious input to make it publishable. Otherwise, as @Buffy points out, the offer would be an exchange of reputation for authorship. Sadly common, but unethical.
    – Cheery
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:58

Actually, I'd suggest that you not do that and that you just submit your work to an appropriate journal.

There are two negatives in your plan. The first is that reviewing a finished work isn't grounds for co-authorship. Had you contacted the professor much earlier, when the ideas were being formed, then it would be an actual collaboration. And if the paper is without merit, a reviewer or editor will tell you as much.

The other downside, given all you say, is that the professor might interpret your request as trying to trade off of their reputation.

Also, though not in the same league as the above, sending a paper to someone you don't know in a first/blind email is fairly unlikely to get any response.

If your paper is your own work as as good as you can make it, then have some confidence and send it off to a journal.

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    I agree. Offering an authorship for something along these lines creates the appearance that one is trying to capitalize on a prof's credibility for one's own ends. Apr 28, 2023 at 15:15

I don't believe it's at all inappropriate to ask for their feedback. I literally do this all the time (in causal inference, my field, it never hurts to reach out to subject matter experts). In my first paper (currently RR'd at Stata Journal), I thanked A LOT of people in the footnotes, because A LOT of econometricians took time to read my work and give very very good feedback on it... but I didn't include them as coauthors to that paper because that paper is mine, and mine alone.

With this said, if they want to be a coauthor cool, that's great. But, I do believe it is wrong to ask them for co-authorship, unless and until you're prepared to work on it as a proper collaboration (that is, a true collaboration, not simply feedback). In this business, authorship is warranted with contribution. If you did all the hard work, if you were up til and past midnight running code to solve problems and make sure things worked properly, if you've revised the manuscript 100 times from beginning to end, taking every pain to ensure that it's written as logically and as succinctly as possible, if you were the one who called all the shots and had eureka moments at 2am about the way to solve the newest problem you'd been facing, then you are the one who deserves authorship, and while other people may give comments (that we are very most grateful for!!), they should decidedly not be included as co-authors, unless they are prepared to make it their paper as much as it is theirs, and vice versa.

Authorship is conferred with contribution, not simply strength or knowledge.

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    Thank you for the response. If I am the only one who has worked hard on it, why can't I give some credit to someone else who has not? I don't really work in the academic business, and it is not important to me that I am giving it away.
    – Ash
    Apr 28, 2023 at 6:12
  • When I say "this business", I just mean in this industry of academia-- the fact that you're here on this website tells me that you are in this business, even if it isn't for life. My point is, giving some credit is not the same thing as giving authorship. No professional journal would accept someone being listed as an author who didn't adhere to most of the guidelines I've informally described above. It's called "gift authorship". Google says gift authorship is one of the most common forms of unethical behaviors in academia. Apr 28, 2023 at 13:38
  • It would not simply look bad on you, it would also tarnish their reputation. I'm a Ph.D student. Someone else doesn't just get to get my Ph.D along with me (literally, in the sense that we both get the same PhD) because life and academia are based, in part, on owning your own actions. Again, I'm not saying you don't reach out and ask for feedback, that's all well and good, but you can't just fork over authorship. Apr 28, 2023 at 13:42

Can you ask some professor of your university to give some feedback? Go to their office hour, bring your printed manuscript and explain what you explained to us.

Con: They might be less expert in the topic of your work.

Pro: They know the standards of your fields and how to write a scientific paper. Further, they might help you directing to the next step, like starting a real collaboration with someone, improving parts of the paper, or submitting directly to a journal.
Pro: They might me more inclined to help a master student of their own faculty compared to the other professor who would be helping an anonymous student from another country.
Pro: You get direct feedback, you don't have to wait for weeks without knowing whether you will get an answer at all.

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