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April 20, 2011


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Jeff Yates

Jacqueline, I think that you pose some good questions. I have done a lot of co-authoring and I have found that no two co-author relationships are the same. You make a good point that it's probably a good idea to be very explicit up front about division of labor. It is often a matter of matching good (but distinct) skill sets - that two people equal more than a sum of their abilities. There is also the matter of work habits and incentive processes. Suffice it to say, it's not as easy as it looks. :-)

Glenn Cohen

I've co-authored a few times and the experience has depended on the authorship, subject, expertise, and journal-type. My last venture (coming out this month on fetal pain and abortion, , pardon the plug, with Sad Sayeed a lawyer, bioethicist and practicing neonatologist at Harvard Medical School) involved a preliminary conversation about the idea and what we would say, an agreement that I would take a first stab at drafting, with me leaving large "[I would love you to fill in this Part]" sections, and a few "insert comments" sections on things I wanted him to weigh in on. He then filled in, altered (keeping Track Changes on throughout), sent back questions/comments to me. We then went back and forth 5 or 6 times before we had a draft ready to submit for peer-reviewed journals.
Subsequent to the Article's acceptance and reviewers' and colleagues' comments, we then repeated this same arrangement another 5 or 6 times.

We implicitly adopted a "deference and ownership" attitude where one of us would largely defer to the other on whether to make changes based on comments on a section if the other had written it or it played to the other's expertise.

All in all it was a beautifully painless and productive collaboration. I think this is the my third co-authored paper and each have gone differently. I cannot tell whether this one went so smoothly because we adopted this approach, and/or whether because the piece was shorter than a typical law review article such that we could go back and forth more quickly, but it struck me as a promising model.

Hopefully that helps....

Jacqui Lipton

Very interesting - and most helpful, Glenn. Sounds like a great model.

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