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Other Question about the number of authors on a paper and how this...

  • Thread starter rwooduk
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... effects the first author.


I am in the process of completing my writing for my PhD and will be submitting my papers to the journal shortly. I would like to understand more how the number of authors on a paper affects the viewed contribution of the first author.


I have two situations at present:


1. A girl (graduate) spent 1 day doing some experimental tests for me (some O2 measurements from solutions) for a particular paper. I decided to also use the results of those tests on a second paper. Should I include the girls name on both papers? Is one day’s work sufficient to warrant addition to both papers which took many many months of experimental work and writing to complete?


2. One of my papers was done with funding from a company, the guy from the company already has his name on the paper because he is an expert in the field and will review and contribute to the paper in that way. However, he also would like to ask some of his colleagues to review, I have a feeling that this is so their names can also be added to the paper. Is this common practice? I am reluctant to add them unless they contribute sufficient theory (or experimental results) which would add to the paper because I am of the view that the more authors on the paper detracts from the first author. Am I correct?


I have seen papers, some with numerous authors, how does this affect the view of the first authors' contribution?


Thanks for any insights on this!
 

DrClaude

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1. A girl (graduate) spent 1 day doing some experimental tests for me (some O2 measurements from solutions) for a particular paper. I decided to also use the results of those tests on a second paper. Should I include the girls name on both papers? Is one day’s work sufficient to warrant addition to both papers which took many many months of experimental work and writing to complete?
If the help was basically technical, I would not add her to the author list. I would however thank her in the acknowledgements.

2. One of my papers was done with funding from a company, the guy from the company already has his name on the paper because he is an expert in the field and will review and contribute to the paper in that way. However, he also would like to ask some of his colleagues to review, I have a feeling that this is so their names can also be added to the paper. Is this common practice? I am reluctant to add them unless they contribute sufficient theory (or experimental results) which would add to the paper because I am of the view that the more authors on the paper detracts from the first author. Am I correct?
Don't worry about this. I had a similar situation when a was a grad student and my supervisor decided to add two coauthors from another institution that not contributed directly to the research that was presented (I had produced all the results), but had furnished some computer code I had used. I did not feel it was sufficient for co-authorship and didn't appreciate what I felt was my work being "diluted" by having more people sign it. I was fortunate to be able to discuss it with another senior research not involved in the work, who told me not to worry (as I am doing now), that having more co-authors doesn't take away from the first author, and can even add to the visibility of the work. This is indeed what happened, as it created a link be tween myself and those other researchers (whom I had never met them before), and they of course ended up citing the work more than if they weren't co-authors, which helped the paper get more readings and citations overall.

Let me be clear that I am in no way condoning adding authors that have no or very little contribution to some work. But there is always politics involved when humans are concerned, and it is a question of judgement whether a contribution rises to the level of co-authorship. So if senior people are telling you that some names need to be added, defer to their judgment and let it be. It will not take anything away from you as a first author.
 

Orodruin

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This varies between fields. Nobody who is not an expert in your field or a nearby field will be able to answer accurately.

I would suggest your best option would be to discuss this with your supervisor. It is a typical question that should arise in the normal course of supervision.
 

Dr. Courtney

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Discuss each case with your advisor and go with their recommendations.

As I've matured as a scientist, my tendency has been to offer co-authorship to all contributors for whom a decent case can be made for co-authorship. With over 100 scholarly papers published by now, I can only think of 2-3 where I think authorship attributions could have been better - and in each case, hindsight suggests an additional author should have been included. I've never felt that inclusion of additional authors detracted from the recognition of the first author.

Guidance for making a case for inclusion or exclusion is available from a number of sources:
https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2010/04/conventions-scientific-authorship
https://provost.yale.edu/policies/academic-integrity/guidance-authorship-scholarly-or-scientific-publications
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510206/
http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

If, after consulting the standard practices in one's field, a case still seems borderline, my recommendation would be to include a co-author. I prefer a friendly and collaborative approach to science over arguments about who "deserves" credit. Including borderline co-authors also gives me one more set of eyes to catch mistakes in later drafts, and when their reputation is riding on it, young scientists tend to pay more attention. It makes the work product better.
 
717
46
If the help was basically technical, I would not add her to the author list. I would however thank her in the acknowledgements.

Don't worry about this. I had a similar situation when a was a grad student and my supervisor decided to add two coauthors from another institution that not contributed directly to the research that was presented (I had produced all the results), but had furnished some computer code I had used. I did not feel it was sufficient for co-authorship and didn't appreciate what I felt was my work being "diluted" by having more people sign it. I was fortunate to be able to discuss it with another senior research not involved in the work, who told me not to worry (as I am doing now), that having more co-authors doesn't take away from the first author, and can even add to the visibility of the work. This is indeed what happened, as it created a link be tween myself and those other researchers (whom I had never met them before), and they of course ended up citing the work more than if they weren't co-authors, which helped the paper get more readings and citations overall.

Let me be clear that I am in no way condoning adding authors that have no or very little contribution to some work. But there is always politics involved when humans are concerned, and it is a question of judgement whether a contribution rises to the level of co-authorship. So if senior people are telling you that some names need to be added, defer to their judgment and let it be. It will not take anything away from you as a first author.
Thank you this is very helpful, I had not considered that it may allow for an increase in the number of citations and making the work more visible. This girl actually did some more experiments for the first paper in question, so I am more than happy to keep her name on that paper, I will remove her name from the other paper and include her in the acknowledgements to reflect contribution more accurately.

This varies between fields. Nobody who is not an expert in your field or a nearby field will be able to answer accurately.

I would suggest your best option would be to discuss this with your supervisor. It is a typical question that should arise in the normal course of supervision.
Indeed, I have discussed with my supervisor, however she is currently working for the company and may also receive further funding from them so I just wanted to get an outsiders point of view. Her view is that they need to make significant contribution to the paper.

Discuss each case with your advisor and go with their recommendations.

As I've matured as a scientist, my tendency has been to offer co-authorship to all contributors for whom a decent case can be made for co-authorship. With over 100 scholarly papers published by now, I can only think of 2-3 where I think authorship attributions could have been better - and in each case, hindsight suggests an additional author should have been included. I've never felt that inclusion of additional authors detracted from the recognition of the first author.

Guidance for making a case for inclusion or exclusion is available from a number of sources:

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2010/04/conventions-scientific-authorship

https://provost.yale.edu/policies/academic-integrity/guidance-authorship-scholarly-or-scientific-publications

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510206/

http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

If, after consulting the standard practices in one's field, a case still seems borderline, my recommendation would be to include a co-author. I prefer a friendly and collaborative approach to science over arguments about who "deserves" credit. Including borderline co-authors also gives me one more set of eyes to catch mistakes in later drafts, and when their reputation is riding on it, young scientists tend to pay more attention. It makes the work product better.
Again, very helpful. I am pleased that adding additional authors isn't viewed to detract from the first author. I think I just want the authorship to be fair and reflect the true contribution to the work. I can see how this could be difficult to judge, someone could spend a few days on the work and using their experience make a very significant contribution. Someone could spend weeks attempting to contribute but make little in the way of a significant contribution, but then is their time and energy a factor here? I will do as you suggest and err on the side of caution, with inclusion if I am on the borderline.

Thank you for the advice!
 

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