I want to apologize in advance; this will be a somewhat long post with some
personal thoughts wrapped in questions.
I'm not (so) far from completing my PhD and I started to think about building up my reputation as a (social) scientist. Unfortunately my dissertation theme as well as my scientific curiosity does not tend toward "popular & sexy" themes, so I have difficulties with finding senior co-authors for future research projects. I do not really need a co-author and I'm perfectly comfortable with writing solo-authored papers (I went well beyond my program's requirements in that) but i must admit that this practice have a lot of drawbacks.
First, I was not able to get adequate professional opinion about my thoughts and writing before peer review (I must note that in my country there are senior social scientists with very few or no experience with the system of peer review of international journals, not to mention academic ELF competency, knowing about current scientific literature & new results etc.).
Second, I was not able to start networking. Co-authors and common interests
would have provided a good opportunity, which I missed completely.
So I was thinking about the legit modes of finding co-authors for my unsubmitted manuscripts, or for completely new projects (which, I fear to state so, but must fall within my fields of interests). For beancounting and prestige reasons it would be ideal if I could find senior researchers from Western-European or American institutions. How to start contacting senior researchers? Should I simply email them about my plans, or ask someone who they know to recommend me? I can not afford to go on international conferences too often (~1 per year) so I can not see other option than cold-emailing everyone, but this could quickly turn to a spam campaign in the eyes of some, including myself.
I also thinked about posting a message on freelancer sites like Elance or Odesk, looking after co-authors with a degree. Their job would be to write an additional chapter to my existing manuscript, or revising it critically for important intellectual content and to agree with submitting the manuscript as a co-author for publication. Would that bring up ethical problems? I'm not sure about that; after all, they will be credited as co-authors.
So basically, I'm just curious about how to start contacting others, keeping in mind that I need them as co-authors in order to build connections and look good in the eyes of my (national) institution's administration. Is that a wicked way of thinking about co-authorship as a currency and should I abandon it, waiting for the opportunities to come up naturally? I can do that. In fact I would be much happier if such connections came up naturally, and would become a source of mutual intellectual enrichment. But if there are rules and criterias for academic advancement, and higher education institutions or grant committees evaluate one higher if (ceteris paribus) they look at one's CV/pub.list and see proof for international co-operation and connections, than why should I not seek for these