To my understanding, there are pros and cons to inviting (well respected) researchers to co-author a paper.

Pros: Being a co-author with well-respected researchers puts one in a good light. They can make valuable contributions. You improve your chance of being invited to work on projects with them in future. All these points can advance one's academic career.

Cons: Too many cooks spoil the broth. There is more chance of conflicting idea and styles, which might lead to frustration and delayed publication. They might not contribute as much as you hoped. More authors means less credit for the work per author.

I would like to hear your views on this.

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    Aren't your co-authors involved in the project from the start, hence need not be "invited" (at any stage or at the writing stage as you seem to imply)?
    – user67075
    Jan 28, 2017 at 19:39
  • Sorry, i should have clarified the particular situation: I have started the project with one other author, but we are considering whether to invite one or two other researchers we have in mind.
    – Gavin Rens
    Jan 30, 2017 at 8:17
  • 1
    @GavinRens Do you really need invite someone? Is it the case that if they are not involved, your project would not be completed?
    – Coder
    Feb 1, 2017 at 7:51
  • @Coder We could complete the project on our own, but there are Pros in bringing in one or two other people we have in mind. If we don't bring them in, we lose the Pros.
    – Gavin Rens
    Feb 2, 2017 at 10:35

1 Answer 1


When you "invite" co-authors is when the project is still in the formation phase - as early as possible. Authors are people who contributed to the project, not people whose names might power a paper past reviewers. And the reasons for their invitation should be substantial and scientifically valid reasons.

One thing to note is that after the project starts is potentially a bad time, as presumably you don't necessarily have the budget to pay them, the potential for them to be genuinely engaged in a question they're interested in is a bit of luck, and you've lost out on the chance for their expertise to to actually influence the formation of the project (where it's probably most helpful).

It's absolutely not appropriate to invite them at the paper stage.

For reviews or commentaries, it might be acceptable to do this before the paper begins to be written, but for other papers, co-authors should not simply be added to a project at the writing stage. Indeed, doing so violates a large number of authorship guidelines.

I'd also like to contest one of your cons: "More authors means less credit for the work per author." This is highly field dependent. In my own, noone cares, or tries to divide credit by number of authors.

  • 1
    I think OP meant "when" in the sense of "in which cases? under what conditions?" rather than "at what time?" Sep 5, 2017 at 14:40
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    I think it's not too uncommon to start a project, work for a while, and then realize that you need expertise that none of the original authors has. Surely it is better to invite additional co-authors at that stage, rather than abandon the project altogether, or take a long delay as the existing authors learn a new area? Of course, in an ideal world, the need for the extra co-authors would have been foreseen, but often that doesn't actually happen. Sep 5, 2017 at 15:23
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    Fair enough. My experience has been the opposite - I've been in projects that were completely stalled until a co-author was added, which revitalized things and led to successful completion as well as further collaborations. Sep 5, 2017 at 15:29
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    "It's absolutely not appropriate to invite them at the paper stage." I need to disagree with this. It's not unlikely that the results of the research reveal details which are unexpected and the team working on this topic aren't experts on this. In this case it is absolutely necessary to get someone on board who knows about this and is able to do the correct interpretation of the results.
    – user64845
    Sep 5, 2017 at 19:06
  • 3
    I find this answer overly restrictive. Suppose, for example, Alice and Bob are working together on some project. After six months, they realise that the project actually requires considerable knowledge of widget theory, which they do not have. That would be an ideal time to invite Chris the widget theorist to join the project. Sep 6, 2017 at 13:41

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