Authorship conflicts in academia: an international cross‑discipline survey

Authors : Elizaveta Savchenko, Ariel Rosenfeld

Collaboration among scholars has emerged as a significant characteristic of contemporary science. As a result, the number of authors listed in publications continues to rise steadily. Unfortunately, determining the authors to be included in the byline and their respective order entails multiple difficulties which often lead to conflicts. Despite the large volume of literature about conflicts in academia, it remains unclear how exactly these are distributed over the main socio-demographic properties, as well as the different types of interactions academics experience.

To address this gap, we conducted an international and cross-disciplinary survey answered by 752 academics from 41 fields of research and 93 countries that statistically well-represent the overall academic workforce. Our findings are concerning and suggest that conflicts over authorship credit arise very early in one’s academic career, even at the level of Master and Ph.D., and become increasingly common over time.

URL : Authorship conflicts in academia: an international cross‑discipline survey


Group authorship, an excellent opportunity laced with ethical, legal and technical challenges

Authors : Mohammad Hosseini, Alex O. Holcombe, Marton Kovacs, Hub Zwart, Daniel S. Katz, Kristi Holmes

Group authorship (also known as corporate authorship, team authorship, consortium authorship) refers to attribution practices that use the name of a collective (be it team, group, project, corporation, or consortium) in the authorship byline. Data shows that group authorships are on the rise but thus far, in scholarly discussions about authorship, they have not gained much specific attention.

Group authorship can minimize tensions within the group about authorship order and the criteria used for inclusion/exclusion of individual authors. However, current use of group authorships has drawbacks, such as ethical challenges associated with the attribution of credit and responsibilities, legal challenges regarding how copyrights are handled, and technical challenges related to the lack of persistent identifiers (PIDs), such as ORCID, for groups.

We offer two recommendations: 1) Journals should develop and share context-specific and unambiguous guidelines for group authorship, for which they can use the four baseline requirements offered in this paper; 2) Using persistent identifiers for groups and consistent reporting of members’ contributions should be facilitated through devising PIDs for groups and linking these to the ORCIDs of their individual contributors and the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) of the published item.

URL : Group authorship, an excellent opportunity laced with ethical, legal and technical challenges


Mega-authorship implications: How many scientists can fit into one cell?

Author : Daniel S. Dotson

The past 20 years has seen a significant increase in articles with 500 or more authors. This increase has presented problems in terms of determining true authorship versus other types of contribution, issues with database metadata and data output, and publication length. Using items with 500+ authors deemed as mega-author titles, a total of 5,533 mega-author items were identified using InCites. Metadata about the items was then gathered from Web of Science and Scopus.

Close examination of these items found that the vast majority of these covered physics topics, with medicine a far distant second place and only minor representation from other science fields. This mega-authorship saw significant events that appear to correspond to similar events in the Large Hadron Collider’s timeline, indicating that the projects for the collider are driving this heavy output. Some solutions are offered for the problems resulting from this phenomenon, partially driven by recommendations from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

URL : Mega-authorship implications: How many scientists can fit into one cell?


How many authors are (too) many? A retrospective, descriptive analysis of authorship in biomedical publications

Authors : Martin Jakab, Eva Kittl, Tobias Kiesslich

Publishing in academic journals is primary to disseminate research findings, with authorship reflecting a scientist’s contribution, yielding academic recognition, and carrying significant financial implications. Author numbers per article have consistently risen in recent decades, as demonstrated in various journals and fields.

This study is a comprehensive analysis of authorship trends in biomedical papers from the NCBI PubMed database between 2000 and 2020, utilizing the Entrez Direct (EDirect) E-utilities to retrieve bibliometric data from a dataset of 17,015,001 articles. For all publication types, the mean author number per publication significantly increased over the last two decades from 3.99 to 6.25 (+ 57%, p < 0.0001) following a linear trend (r2 = 0.99) with an average relative increase of 2.28% per year.

This increase was highest for clinical trials (+ 5.67 authors per publication, + 97%), the smallest for case reports (+ 1.01 authors, + 24%). The proportion of single/solo authorships dropped by a factor of about 3 from 17.03% in 2000 to 5.69% in 2020. The percentage of eleven or more authors per publication increased ~ sevenfold, ~ 11-fold and ~ 12-fold for reviews, editorials, and systematic reviews, respectively. Confirming prior findings, this study highlights the escalating authorship in biomedical publications.

Given potential unethical practices, preserving authorship as a trustable indicator of scientific performance is critical. Understanding and curbing questionable authorship practices and inflation are imperative, as discussed through relevant literature to tackle this issue.

URL : How many authors are (too) many? A retrospective, descriptive analysis of authorship in biomedical publications


La fonction de l’éditeur-auteur dans les éditions critiques numériques

Autrice/Author : Joana Casenave

Cet article propose une étude des caractères d’auctorialité propres à l’édition critique et de l’évolution que cette auctorialité connaît dans l’édition critique numérique. Le développement des éditions numériques induit en effet la mise en place d’un corps auctorial collectif, dont nous analysons ici les modes de fonctionnement.

L’évolution de la fonction auctoriale amène également un profond renouvellement de la mise en discours de l’information, dans sa forme comme dans le choix et la hiérarchisation des contenus proposés.

Dans le même temps, cela modifie le processus de reconnaissance de l’autorité de l’édition ainsi que les modes d’évaluation scientifique. Cet article propose ainsi une étude exploratoire de ces évolutions que connaît l’édition critique dans le champ numérique.

URL : La fonction de l’éditeur-auteur dans les éditions critiques numériques


Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic

Authors : Ji-Young Son, Michelle L. Bell

Many fields of science are still dominated by men. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the nature of work, including for scientists, such as lack of access to key resources and transition to online teaching. Further, scientists face the pandemic-related stressors common to other professions (e.g., childcare, eldercare).

As many of these activities fall more heavily on women, the pandemic may have exacerbated gender disparities in science. We analyzed self-identified gender of corresponding author for 119,592 manuscripts from 151 countries submitted January 2019 to July 2021 to the Institute of Physics (IOP) portfolio of 57 academic journals, with disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics, bioscience, environmental science, materials, mathematics, physics, and interdisciplinary research.

We consider differences by country, journal, and pre-pandemic versus pandemic periods. Gender was self-identified by corresponding author for 82.9% of manuscripts (N = 99,114 for subset of submissions with gender). Of these manuscripts, authors were 82.1% male, 17.8% female, and 0.08% non-binary. Most authors were male for all countries (country-specific values: range 0.0–100.0%, median 86.1%) and every journal (journal-specific values range 63.7–91.5%, median 83.7%).

The contribution of female authors was slightly higher in the pandemic (18.7%) compared to pre-pandemic (16.5%). However, prior to the pandemic, the percent of submissions from women had been increasing, and this value slowed during the pandemic. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find that manuscript submissions from women decreased during the pandemic, although the rate of increased submissions evident prior to the pandemic slowed.

In both pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, authorship was overwhelmingly male for all journals, countries, and fields. Further research is needed on impacts of the pandemic on other measures of scientific productivity (e.g., accepted manuscripts, teaching), scientific position (e.g., junior vs. senior scholars), as well as the underlying gender imbalance that persisted before and during the pandemic.

URL : Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic


Editors publishing in their own journals: A systematic review of prevalence and a discussion of normative aspects

Authors : Gert Helgesson, Igor Radun, Jenni Radun, Gustav Nilsonne

Journal editors are the main gatekeepers in scientific publishing. Yet there is a concern that they may receive preferential treatment when submitting manuscripts to their own journals. The prevalence of such self-publishing is not known, nor the consequences for reliability and trustworthiness of published research.

This study aimed to systematically review the literature on the prevalence of editors publishing in their own journals and to conduct a normative ethical analysis of this practice. A systematic review was performed using the following databases: Medline, PsycInfo, Scopus and Web of Science.

Articles that provided primary data about editors publishing in own journals were included. We identified 15 studies meeting inclusion criteria. There was large variability of self-publishing across fields, journals and editors, ranging from those who never published in their own journal to those publishing extensively in their own journal.

Many studies suffered from serious methodological limitations. Nevertheless, our results show that there are settings where levels of self-publication are very high. We recommend that editors-in-chief and associate editors who have considerable power in journals refrain from publishing research articles in their own journals. Journals should have clear processes in place about the treatment of articles submitted by editorial board members.

URL : Editors publishing in their own journals: A systematic review of prevalence and a discussion of normative aspects