IPCC Assessment Reports provide timely and accurate information on anthropogenic climate change to policy makers and the public. The reports are written by hundreds of scientists in a voluntary, collaborative effort. Growing amounts of literature and complex procedural and administrative requirements, however, make this effort a substantial management challenge next to a scientific one. During the 5th Assessment Cycle, IPCC Working Groups II and III initiated a program that recruited volunteer scientific assistants who provided technical and logistical support to author teams. In this paper we describe and analyze strengths and weaknesses of this 'Chapter Scientist program', based on an extensive survey among Chapter Scientists (CS) and interviews with other stakeholders. We conclude that the program was a useful innovation that that enabled authors to focus more on their core scientific tasks and that contributed to improving the quality of the assessment. We highly recommend similar programs for future scientific assessments. Key criteria for success that we identified are (a) involvement of early-career scientists as CS, (b) close integration of CS in the assessment process, (c) recruitment of CS through an open call to achieve transparency, and (d) provision of funds for such a program to support travel costs and compensation of CS.