Abstract Scientific collaboration is one of the important drivers of research progress that supports researchers in the generation of novel ideas. Collaboration networks and their impact on scientific activities thus already attracted some attention in the research community, but no work so far studied possible factors which can influence the network positions of the researchers at the individual level. The objective of this paper is to investigate various characteristics and roles of the researchers occupying important positions in the collaboration network. For this purpose, we focus on the collaboration network among Canadian researchers during the period of 1996 to 2010 and employ multiple regression models to estimate the impact on network structure variables. Results highlight the crucial role of past productivity of the researchers along with their available funding in determining and improving their position in the co-authorship network. It is shown that researchers who have great influence on their local community do not necessarily publish high quality works. We also find that highly productive researchers not only have more important connections but also play a critical role in connecting other researchers. Moreover, although mid-career scientists tend to collaborate more in knit groups and on average have higher influence on their local community, our results specifically highlight the important role of young researchers who occupy mediatory positions in the network which enable them to connect different communities and fuel information transmission through the network.