Authorial and institutional stratification in open access publishing: the case of global health research

Authors : Kyle Siler, Stefanie Haustein, Elise Smith, Vincent Larivière, Juan Pablo Alperin

Using a database of recent articles published in the field of Global Health research, we examine institutional sources of stratification in publishing access outcomes. Traditionally, the focus on inequality in scientific publishing has focused on prestige hierarchies in established print journals.

This project examines stratification in contemporary publishing with a particular focus on subscription vs. various Open Access (OA) publishing options.

Findings show that authors working at lower-ranked universities are more likely to publish in closed/paywalled outlets, and less likely to choose outlets that involve some sort of Article Processing Charge (APCs; gold or hybrid OA).

We also analyze institutional differences and stratification in the APC costs paid in various journals. Authors affiliated with higher-ranked institutions, as well as hospitals and non-profit organizations pay relatively higher APCs for gold and hybrid OA publications.

Results suggest that authors affiliated with high-ranked universities and well-funded institutions tend to have more resources to choose pay options with publishing. Our research suggests new professional hierarchies developing in contemporary publishing, where various OA publishing options are becoming increasingly prominent.

Just as there is stratification in institutional representation between different types of publishing access, there is also inequality within access types.

URL : Authorial and institutional stratification in open access publishing: the case of global health research

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4269

The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship

Authors : Philippe Mongeon, Elise Smith, Bruno Joyal, Vincent Larivière

Contemporary biomedical research is performed by increasingly large teams. Consequently, an increasingly large number of individuals are being listed as authors in the bylines, which complicates the proper attribution of credit and responsibility to individual authors.

Typically, more importance is given to the first and last authors, while it is assumed that the others (the middle authors) have made smaller contributions. However, this may not properly reflect the actual division of labor because some authors other than the first and last may have made major contributions.

In practice, research teams may differentiate the main contributors from the rest by using partial alphabetical authorship (i.e., by listing middle authors alphabetically, while maintaining a contribution-based order for more substantial contributions). In this paper, we use partial alphabetical authorship to divide the authors of all biomedical articles in the Web of Science published over the 1980–2015 period in three groups: primary authors, middle authors, and supervisory authors.

We operationalize the concept of middle author as those who are listed in alphabetical order in the middle of an authors’ list. Primary and supervisory authors are those listed before and after the alphabetical sequence, respectively.

We show that alphabetical ordering of middle authors is frequent in biomedical research, and that the prevalence of this practice is positively correlated with the number of authors in the bylines. We also find that, for articles with 7 or more authors, the average proportion of primary, middle and supervisory authors is independent of the team size, more than half of the authors being middle authors.

This suggests that growth in authors lists are not due to an increase in secondary contributions (or middle authors) but, rather, in equivalent increases of all types of roles and contributions (including many primary authors and many supervisory authors).

Nevertheless, we show that the relative contribution of alphabetically ordered middle authors to the overall production of knowledge in the biomedical field has greatly increased over the last 35 years.

URL : The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184601