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




Effectiveness of Anonymization in Double-Blind Review

Authors : Claire Le Goues, Yuriy Brun, Sven Apel, Emery Berger, Sarfraz Khurshid, Yannis Smaragdakis

Double-blind review relies on the authors’ ability and willingness to effectively anonymize their submissions. We explore anonymization effectiveness at ASE 2016, OOPSLA 2016, and PLDI 2016 by asking reviewers if they can guess author identities.

We find that 74%-90% of reviews contain no correct guess and that reviewers who self-identify as experts on a paper’s topic are more likely to attempt to guess, but no more likely to guess correctly.

We present our findings, summarize the PC chairs’ comments about administering double-blind review, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of revealing author identities part of the way through the process, and conclude by advocating for the continued use of double-blind review.


Standardising and harmonising research data policy in scholarly publishing

Authors : Iain Hrynaszkiewicz, Aliaksandr Birukou, Mathias Astell, Sowmya Swaminathan, Amye Kenall, Varsha Khodiyar

To address the complexities researchers face during publication, and the potential community-wide benefits of wider adoption of clear data policies, the publisher Springer Nature has developed a standardised, common framework for the research data policies of all its journals. An expert working group was convened to audit and identify common features of research data policies of the journals published by Springer Nature, where policies were present.

The group then consulted with approximately 30 editors, covering all research disciplines, within the organisation. The group also consulted with academic editors and librarians and funders, which informed development of the framework and the creation of supporting resources.

Four types of data policy were defined in recognition that some journals and research communities are more ready than others to adopt strong data policies. As of January 2017 more than 700 journals have adopted a standard policy and this number is growing weekly. To potentially enable standardisation and harmonisation of data policy across funders, institutions, repositories, societies and other publishers the policy framework was made available under a Creative Commons license.

However, the framework requires wider debate with these stakeholders and an Interest Group within the Research Data Alliance (RDA) has been formed to initiate this process.

This paper was presented at the 12th International Digital Curation Conference, Edinburgh, UK on 22 February 2017 and will be submitted to International Journal of Digital Curation.

URL : Standardising and harmonising research data policy in scholarly publishing


What do computer scientists tweet? Analyzing the link-sharing practice on Twitter

Authors : Marco Schmitt, Robert Jäschke

Twitter communication has permeated every sphere of society. To highlight and share small pieces of information with possibly vast audiences or small circles of the interested has some value in almost any aspect of social life.

But what is the value exactly for a scientific field? We perform a comprehensive study of computer scientists using Twitter and their tweeting behavior concerning the sharing of web links.

Discerning the domains, hosts and individual web pages being tweeted and the differences between computer scientists and a Twitter sample enables us to look in depth at the Twitter-based information sharing practices of a scientific community.

Additionally, we aim at providing a deeper understanding of the role and impact of altmetrics in computer science and give a glance at the publications mentioned on Twitter that are most relevant for the computer science community.

Our results show a link sharing culture that concentrates more heavily on public and professional quality information than the Twitter sample does. The results also show a broad variety in linked sources and especially in linked publications with some publications clearly related to community-specific interests of computer scientists, while others with a strong relation to attention mechanisms in social media.

This refers to the observation that Twitter is a hybrid form of social media between an information service and a social network service.

Overall the computer scientists’ style of usage seems to be more on the information-oriented side and to some degree also on professional usage. Therefore, altmetrics are of considerable use in analyzing computer science.

URL : What do computer scientists tweet? Analyzing the link-sharing practice on Twitter


Academics’ behaviors and attitudes towards open access publishing in scholarly journals

Authors : Jennifer Rowley, Frances Johnson, Laura Sbaffi, Will Frass, Elaine Devine

While there is significant progress with policy and a lively debate regarding the potential impact of open access publishing, few studies have examined academics’ behavior and attitudes to open access publishing (OAP) in scholarly journals.

This article seeks to address this gap through an international and interdisciplinary survey of academics. Issues covered include: use of and intentions regarding OAP, and perceptions regarding advantages and disadvantages of OAP, journal article publication services, peer review, and reuse.

Despite reporting engagement in OAP, academics were unsure about their future intentions regarding OAP. Broadly, academics identified the potential for wider circulation as the key advantage of OAP, and were more positive about its benefits than they were negative about its disadvantages. As regards services, rigorous peer review, followed by rapid publication were most valued.

Academics reported strong views on reuse of their work; they were relatively happy with noncommercial reuse, but not in favor of commercial reuse, adaptations, and inclusion in anthologies. Comparing science, technology, and medicine with arts, humanities, and social sciences showed a significant difference in attitude on a number of questions, but, in general, the effect size was small, suggesting that attitudes are relatively consistent across the academic community.


How quickly do publications get read? The evolution of Mendeley reader counts for new articles

Authors : Nabeil Maflahi, Mike Thelwall

Within science, citation counts are widely used to estimate research impact but publication delays mean that they are not useful for recent research. This gap can be filled by Mendeley reader counts, which are valuable early impact indicators for academic articles because they appear before citations and correlate strongly with them.

Nevertheless, it is not known how Mendeley readership counts accumulate within the year of publication, and so it is unclear how soon they can be used. In response, this paper reports a longitudinal weekly study of the Mendeley readers of articles in six library and information science journals from 2016.

The results suggest that Mendeley readers accrue from when articles are first available online and continue to steadily build. For journals with large publication delays, articles can already have substantial numbers of readers by their publication date.

Thus, Mendeley reader counts may even be useful as early impact indicators for articles before they have been officially published in a journal issue. If field normalised indicators are needed, then these can be generated when journal issues are published using the online first date.