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A Non-Mouse

Marcus Arvan: Why do you regard people as having a prejudice--a judgment formed beforehand and without knowledge of the relevant facts--against coauthored work? Why not regard them as having judgments reached as a result of thoughtful reflection and reasoning about the facts? If you don't have a good answer, perhaps you have a prejudice against their judgments.

Marcus Arvan

Hi A Non-Mouse: We've already litigated this in an earlier thread, so I'm not sure that I will be able to say anything that will convince you to the contrary. I'm also happy admit that I may be wrong in believing that there is something prejudicial about it.

That being said, I am inclined to regard it as a prejudice because I don't think whether someone does solo- or co-authored work is, in itself, *any* reason to think they are a better or worse researcher simpliciter.

We all have different gifts. Some of us are really good at coming up with original, insightful arguments--but not so good at specific kinds of highly technical things (e.g. modal logic). Others of us are really good at those specific technical things, but not so great at coming up with original arguments. Some of us are good at coming up with really good but narrow arguments. Others of us are good systematizers. Others of us are good writers. Others of us are not so good.

I believe this is just as true in philosophy as in science. One needn't be good at *everything* all by oneself in order to be a good researcher simplicter. This is why it is standard in the sciences for people to co-author work. Some people are better coming up with good ideas for studies, others better at doing methods, others good at complex statistics, and so on. People divide their labor in the sciences because they recognize that this can be the *best way* to produce good work. I think this is just as true in philosophy, and that we shouldn't hold co-authorship against people in philosophy for these reasons any more than it would make sense to hold it against people in science (which, again, no one does).

Untenured Ethicist

There is no universally applicable answer to this question. Different departments and different universities have different standards. Sometimes, the people who will be voting on a tenure case disagree with each other about what the standards are. (Fun, right?)

Ask around your department about how they will regard co-authored papers. Ask more than one person. The opinion of strangers on the Internet is irrelevant.


I think norms are changing around this issue. Certainly in some sub-fields, like philosophy of science, and in some places, like most of Europe, co-authored articles really are becoming so common that it would be surprising to see a young person's c.v. that does not have co-authored articles on it. Consequently, how c.v.s are judged depends very much on who is judging.
Still, I think a young person on the market who does publish a lot of co-authored pieces should aim to be the first author sometimes.


I think it depends a lot on the nature of the co-authoring. If a candidate's publication record consists of a lot of co-authored pieces with the same co-author(s), who are more established in their careers than the candidate--for example, if the candidate's main co-author was also a dissertation advisor--then I think it might be reasonable to conclude that the candidate's past publication record doesn't tell you all that much about their ability to continue to contribute to the literature.

By contrast, if the candidate has co-authored with lots of different people, many of whom are at a similar or earlier career stage to the candidate, then I think these adverse inferences are much less likely/reasonable.

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