Our books

Become a Fan

« Applying for stretch jobs in a particular region: "just go for it" or "don't waste your time"? | Main | Choosing a PhD program writing sample: should the topic relate to your dissertation interests? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bioethics Joe Shmoe

Co-authoring is quite common in Bioethics, and there the author order has more of a set structure. As I understand it, generally speaking, first author is primary drafter of the piece, and last author is the person overseeing the project. So, a paper lead by a postdoc with a group of people off of a grant that a PI secured would have the postdoc as first author and PI as last author. The middle authors are less concrete , and relate more to the type of work being done (e.g. research assistants or others helping with data or analysis but who did not primarily draft the paper). The PI(s) in particular are responsible for ensuring fidelity in the draft and can take varying levels of involvement in the process of drafting a co-authored manuscript

In these kinds of papers, most journals require all authors to attest that they agree with the submission of the draft in its form (and when it is revised). Increasingly there is a requirement to do just what Marcus suggests doing in a footnote, where the contributions of the author are summarized briefly at the end of the paper. Often this information is required at submission.

Since I am not well established in bioethics, I do not know how authorship and publications where the candidate has served in different roles are viewed by committees.

Hüseyin Güngör

I think what matters more than the order is who your coauthor is. If the person is someone who publishes very often and your coauthored paper is your first one, people will assume the majority of the work is done by the prolific higher-profile person (even if that's not true). But I heard good things about coauthoring with your peers, since there it is assumed the work is divided equally. It also speaks to your quality as a collaborator.


I share Hüseyin Güngör's sense; I also think it makes more of a difference when there are many authors, as opposed to just two.


Co-authoring is good, all else equal, but authorship order matters, inasmuch as it will be assumed that the first author did much more -- e.g. had the main insight that yields the paper's thesis. That's been my experience anyway. It's even more pronounced if the first author is not alphabetically first, though this is a pure optics effect. That said, co-authoring a paper, even as second author, still counts for something, especially if you've independently established that you can regularly come up with your own big ideas.

Tenured at R2ish

I’m charitable. Folks in my department are too. If you’re on the paper, it counts. I don’t care where. I don’t care how. I do t care who else. I care that you’re there.

Bill Vanderburgh

I always appreciate brief explanatory notes on the cv's of job applicants. It is easy to have a note at the beginning of the entry like "(refereed; journal acceptance rate 8%; co-authored with x,y,z; my contribution 10%)" or (invited chapter; refereed; co-authored with x; my contribution 80%)." Make sure your co-authors agree about the % effort before you put it on your cv. Only having the author info on the paper itself is of little use since that paper might not be read during the search.

The point about members of college-level tenure committees reading your file through their own disciplinary lens is important, and is the reason to provide this kind of info on the cv and in the list of publications in the tenure file. The pattern described for bioethics is common but nowhere near universal. Each science seems to have its own practices; sometimes the first author is the most prestigious, sometimes the last. Since most philosophers don't co-author papers, they might assume the author order on a philosophy paper means what it means in whatever other discipline they happen to be familiar with. Many tenure committees will not count co-authored papers as equal to solo-authored papers, so you will need more papers to make the tenure threshold.

There is a hidden danger for job candidates here. If you only have co-authored publications, and especially if they are with your dissertation supervisor, some search committees are going to be suspicious that you won't be up to the task of establishing your own independent research program such as would be required for tenure.


What about the convention of alphabetical order? Do people assume the "first author" is the first name listed, if there is no first author specified, or do they assume it's equal? I'm at the end of the alphabet, so I will always be last unless I force it, but I worry that putting myself first would undermine my colleagues' perceived contribution and negate the publication as a valuable one for their CV. How is a second authors' work perceived?


To add a counterpoint to Hüseyin Güngör's comment: if a co-author is very famous and prolific, I assume the opposite, that they've done almost nothing. I know a few famous philosophers who get the contract, hand off the rest of the work to a younger colleague, and then come back to reap the credit.

Mike Titelbaum

Having an initial footnote describing contribution breakdown is very common and very helpful in philosophy. As far as job applications, letter-writers will often vouch for the fact that a younger scholar was a major (or even primary) contributor to a particular piece. This is especially helpful if the letter-writer was a coauthor. But for purposes of tenure evaluation, I like Bill’s suggestion above of indicating the split on the cv.

out of the box idea

I have seen a few papers now where two coauthors have clearly played equal roles, and so a footnote has been added stating that both authors maintain the right to list themselves as first author. I thought this sounded like a good solution for those early in career for whom authorship matters

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory


Subscribe to the Cocoon