How many of your co-authors have you never met?

Looking at a large list of co-authors on a paper I came across, I wondered what it would look like if all of those people were ever in a room together discussing who would be first author and why. Would every author have met the others? Then I realized that I have published with a couple of people that I have never met in person for a variety of reasons. In fact, of the 12 papers I published, I counted 11 names of people that I have never met in person. I may have corresponded with them via email but I've never actually met them. That may be because I was only briefly involved to do one experiment for somebody else's paper, because there was a collaborator on my paper who figured that their department head also needed to be a co-author or because collaborators were on the other side of the world and my role in the project was never big enough to warrant going there.

What about you? How many of you co-authors have you never met in person and why?

15 responses so far

  • Drugmonkey says:


  • L Kiswa says:

    Interesting exercise. Of 46 unique c0-authors on 19 papers, I've met 39/46 in person. The ones I have not met are on 3 papers where I was contributing a small part to a collaborative project and was not involved in original study design. Still, I bet some co-authors might not recognize me if we bumped into each other at a conference, and vice-versa.

  • eeke says:

    Out of about 60 co-authors, there are only two that I have NOT met at all, and one that I didn't meet in person but communicated with either by phone or email. All others I knew pretty well.

  • Steve Heard says:

    I did this calculation about a year ago for the "coauthorship" chapter in my (forthcoming) book on scientific writing. It was then 25 (plus 3 more who I met only after coauthoring with them). This is becoming more frequent! Typically, I'll collaborate with another PI. Each of us will bring lab members or local collaborators into the project; but I won't have met her "locals" and she won't have met mine.

    It is great fun meeting someone at a conference and realizing you've published with them!

  • M Skvarla says:

    Out of 15 co-authors, I've not met 5-7 of them, depending on how you count. One I met at a conference after the paper was published and another I met at a conference while we were writing the paper prior to submitting it. However, I've had extensive email conversations with all but two of the coauthors, both of who were on papers I wasn't first author and didn't play a huge role in writing.

  • DJMH says:

    One. Gave us a published mouse line, insisted on authorship.

  • odyssey says:

    I've never really thought about this before. After a quick count I believe it's 25.

  • Barbara says:

    One, out of 10 co-authors in total (3 papers). Interesting exercise; I hadn't even realized!

  • Rheophile says:

    Two of sixteen unique co-authors, one of which I have not even exchanged emails with. Interestingly, these are polar opposites - one a postdoc who left the lab before I could meet her, but provided the bulk of the experimental data. The other was (as far as I could tell) a courtesy authorship.

  • Duke of Neural says:

    46. All from one publication. With so many, it's possible I may have met one of them at a conference and not realized it. Kind of annoying when researchgate keeps asking me to endorse my co-authors's skills when I wouldn't be able to even name half of them.

  • potnia theron says:

    1 who was dead at the time of writing (but collected much of the data)
    3 for a paper on which I helped out (gave data, did stats, helped with interp) but was from another lab and I didn't know the trainees from that lab (another state)
    1 from international collaboration (again, a trainee in another lab)

    out of ~100 papers

  • Heavy says:

    130, nearly all foreign collaborators

  • pyrope says:

    11 on ~40 papers. Almost all international collaborators who contributed data, plus one project with multiple conversations but no in person meetings.

  • girlparts says:

    I've had about 50 co-authors, never met 5 of them. In one case I worked with another student, and never met his PI. One was an undergrad who had left the lab before I got there. The other 3 from a commentary with overseas collaborators.

  • MF says:

    About 20 out of 70 collaborators (on 25 papers), mostly due to international collaborations.

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