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I agree with Marcus - it's better to be more straightforward about who the author is, or how much credit each person really deserves for the idea.

Another consideration is that some things might change in a few years: for instance, your preferences about what kind of career you want to pursue could change, and the relationship you're in might end (sorry to be pragmatic about this, but I think it's something anyone should consider in this sort of discussion). Right now you're thinking that you're more open to industry and lightly prioritizing someone else's academic prospects, but down the line you might find yourself single and/or regretting not building up your academic qualifications as much as you could have.

Co-publishing couple

I think I want to add vis-a-vis your ethical question that after doing enough of your thinking together it becomes difficult to properly attribute ideas in general, whether it gets to the level of collaboratively developing an entire paper sketch (you often sincerely don't recall who suggested the other person read this, or this point in some program, or to work on this or that point). I could recapitulate any paper he's written, and vice versa, and we're both acknowledged in each other's papers prominently.

But, it doesn't make much sense to require both people split the demands of authorship on all papers where two people had a hand in the ideation, especially where one person is better-situated, or just plain more-interested, in the topic than another. So on the one hand there are clear cases where one person ought to write on an idea or emphasis that to some extent shares joint credit; whereas the corner cases about which I'm talking are ones where both parties would in principle share an interest in writing a piece.

As far as the authorship guidelines go: as I understand it authorship ordinarily requires some form of drafting or revision. The ethical guidelines you link to say that in the humanities 'generation of ideas' and 'commenting on drafts' are to be listed in the acknowledgements. Were we to decide to co-publish, it would entail both parties contributing to the drafting of the work, and taking joint responsibility for it.


I think the person with the question misunderstands authorship. It is not something you strategically assign to one person or the other. The person listed as the first author in a co-authored piece should be the one who did the most work and takes responsibility for the project - like the PI of a grant. Their way of thinking of it borders on a questionable research practice (a notch below misconduct).

We’re here we’re queer

What makes you think the author of this question is a woman?

Marcus Arvan

@we’re here: my sincerest apologies—I had meant to write “they” and messed up. :/


I think the more important consideration here is the likelihood of resentment down the line, if one partner abandons a paper to let the other develop it. To me, it sounds like a recipe for breeding resentment--not necessarily deep resentment or a relationship extinction-level resentment, but a cause of friction nonetheless. I wouldn't advise it.

I mean, you might not have much interest in developing an idea, and so might relinquish it to your partner; that seems fine. But not systematically; I don't see that going well.

(Besides, while having publications is important, it's just one item among many. They're not so important that two people can't share credit for a few.)

Co-publishing couple

I think I might not have been altogether clear, so I want to add that I find it a relatively harsh mischaracterization to assume that the alternative to co-authoring a paper is being untruthful about something like the shared attribution of an idea. In all cases, this is something that would be named explicitly in the acknowledgements, and hasn't yet posed a problem for journal editors. Whereas, co-authoring in my mind entails some degree of joint work on the final product; which is why to do so is a choice. (Of course I could be wrong about this, and if others can think of cases where only one person was involved in drafting & revising, but both shared authorship, I'd be interested.)

Co-publishing couple

To follow on the previous comment: the reason why the distinction between prominent acknowledgment and shared authorship is relevant is because only the latter affects CVs. There is, unfortunately, no section on CVs for 'papers helped with ideation'; and, on the other hand, work being co-published in the minds of some decreases the amount of credit/pubs owed to them in a way that work having been aided in a fashion acknowledged in a footnote is not. That said I think that it is a reflection of a poor system that this is the case, and wish that there were clearer gradations of attribution.

The Real SLAC Prof

While I understand it isn't specified in the question, I think the gender of the OP is relevant to the answer I'd give. If, for example, the OP is a woman, I would advise her not to "strategically" disclaim authorship for papers where she was a co-author; doing so puts her in a vulnerable position, and reinforces certain, gender-based, norms of self-sacrifice.

co-authoring as an ECR

I'd like to know what people think of another aspect of OP's question: 'how a co-published paper in a good journal is weighted'. I'm also an early-career person, and love co-authoring and the stronger papers that result from co-authoring. But I've been told by various senior people that a co-authored paper is valued much less than a single-authored one, even if you can give evidence that you were first author. What do people think about this? Since one can at least be strategic going forward, should one avoid seeking co-authorship opportunities and focus on single-author work?


If you just share the ideas and he writes the paper up I think it’s fine if he claims authorship with your blessing. Just make sure he commits to returning the favour if he does get some good publications out of it when it’s your turn to go on the market


I think this is somewhat unethical since it misleads the people at the department, who believe they are hiring someone who can and has written these papers by himself. It also potentially isn't fair to other candidates.

But also not such a big deal.

Assistant Professor

There are increasingly interesting and co-authored articles published in "good" philosophy journals. Given career stage each person should also demonstrate an independent publishing track record, and not co-author everything, but it sounds like they are doing this.

In terms of authorship ethics, I don't think that merely being a conversation partner or even a critical reader of a paper is sufficient for authorship, so the couple could discuss ideas and even review drafts for feedback without being named as authors. But if they are each 1. contributing to the conceptualization AND 2. to the writing OR providing substantive editing for content, then they should both be authors.

One thing the OP doesn't indicate is if their potential concern is the co-authoring or the co-authoring with their spouse. I see plenty of academic partners co-authoring but honestly I wouldn't have known this was the case if I didn't know who they were personally. If you don't publish under the same surnames then presumably most people won't know that you are colleagues and partners. I find the way some people write acknowledgements is much more likely to make plain that a person is a spouse/partner (especially, though not exclusively, in book acknowledgements).

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