Academic co-authorship is a risky game

Authors : Teddy Lazebnik, Stephan Beck, Labib Shami

Conducting a project with multiple participants is a complex task that involves multiple social, economic, and psychological interactions. Conducting academic research in general and the process of writing an academic manuscript, in particular, is notorious for being challenging to successfully navigate due to the current form of collaboration dynamics common in academia.

In this study, we propose a game-theory-based model for a co-authorship writing project in which authors are allowed to raise an ultimatum, blocking the publishment of the manuscript if they do not get more credit for the work.

Using the proposed model, we explore the influence of the contribution and utility of publishing the manuscript on the rate one or more authors would gain from raising an ultimatum. Similarly, we show that the project’s duration and the current state have a major impact on this rate, as well as the number of authors.

In addition, we examine common student-advisor and colleague-colleague co-authorships scenarios. Our model reveals disturbing results and demonstrates that the current, broadly accepted, academic practices for collaborations are designed in a way that stimulates authors to raise an ultimatum and stopped only by their integrity and not by a systematic design.

URL : Academic co-authorship is a risky game


Citations driven by social connections? A multi-layer representation of coauthorship networks

Authors : Christian Zingg, Vahan Nanumyan, Frank Schweitzer

To what extent is the citation rate of new papers influenced by the past social relations of their authors? To answer this question, we present a data-driven analysis of nine different physics journals.

Our analysis is based on a two-layer network representation constructed from two large-scale data sets, INSPIREHEP and APS. The social layer contains authors as nodes and coauthorship relations as links.

This allows us to quantify the social relations of each author, prior to the publication of a new paper. The publication layer contains papers as nodes and citations between papers as links.

This layer allows us to quantify scientific attention as measured by the change of the citation rate over time. We particularly study how this change correlates with the social relations of their authors, prior to publication.

We find that on average the maximum value of the citation rate is reached sooner for authors who have either published more papers, or who have had more coauthors in previous papers.

We also find that for these authors the decay in the citation rate is faster, meaning that their papers are forgotten sooner.

A validation of coauthorship credit models with empirical data from the contributions of PhD candidates

Author : Paul Donner

A perennial problem in bibliometrics is the appropriate distribution of authorship credit for coauthored publications. Several credit allocation methods and formulas have been introduced, but there has been little empirical validation as to which method best reflects the typical contributions of coauthors.

This paper presents a validation of credit allocation methods using a new data set of author-provided percentage contribution figures obtained from the coauthored publications in cumulative PhD theses by authors from three countries that contain contribution statements.

The comparison of allocation schemes shows that harmonic counting performs best and arithmetic and geometric counting also perform well, while fractional counting and first author counting perform relatively poorly.


Large publishing consortia produce higher citation impact research but co-author contributions are hard to evaluate

Author : Mike Thelwall

This paper introduces a simple agglomerative clustering method to identify large publishing consortia with at least 20 authors and 80% shared authorship between articles. Based on Scopus journal articles 1996-2018, under these criteria, nearly all (88%) of the large consortia published research with citation impact above the world average, with the exceptions being mainly the newer consortia for which average citation counts are unreliable.

On average, consortium research had almost double (1.95) the world average citation impact on the log scale used (Mean Normalised Log Citation Score). At least partial alphabetical author ordering was the norm in most consortia.

The 250 largest consortia were for nuclear physics and astronomy around expensive equipment, and for predominantly health-related issues in genomics, medicine, public health, microbiology and neuropsychology.

For the health-related issues, except for the first and last few authors, authorship seem to primary indicate contributions to the shared project infrastructure necessary to gather the raw data.

It is impossible for research evaluators to identify the contributions of individual authors in the huge alphabetical consortia of physics and astronomy, and problematic for the middle and end authors of health-related consortia.

For small scale evaluations, authorship contribution statements could be used, when available.


Dynamics of co-authorship and productivity across different fields of scientific research

Authors : Austin J. Parish, Kevin W. Boyack, John P. A. Ioannidis

We aimed to assess which factors correlate with collaborative behavior and whether such behavior associates with scientific impact (citations and becoming a principal investigator). We used the R index which is defined for each author as log(Np)/log(I1), where I1 is the number of co-authors who appear in at least I1 papers written by that author and Np are his/her total papers.

Higher R means lower collaborative behavior, i.e. not working much with others, or not collaborating repeatedly with the same co-authors. Across 249,054 researchers who had published ≥30 papers in 2000–2015 but had not published anything before 2000, R varied across scientific fields. Lower values of R (more collaboration) were seen in physics, medicine, infectious disease and brain sciences and higher values of R were seen for social science, computer science and engineering.

Among the 9,314 most productive researchers already reaching Np ≥ 30 and I1 ≥ 4 by the end of 2006, R mostly remained stable for most fields from 2006 to 2015 with small increases seen in physics, chemistry, and medicine.

Both US-based authorship and male gender were associated with higher values of R (lower collaboration), although the effect was small. Lower values of R (more collaboration) were associated with higher citation impact (h-index), and the effect was stronger in certain fields (physics, medicine, engineering, health sciences) than in others (brain sciences, computer science, infectious disease, chemistry).

Finally, for a subset of 400 U.S. researchers in medicine, infectious disease and brain sciences, higher R (lower collaboration) was associated with a higher chance of being a principal investigator by 2016. Our analysis maps the patterns and evolution of collaborative behavior across scientific disciplines.

URL : Dynamics of co-authorship and productivity across different fields of scientific research


Ethical Concerns in the Rise of Co-Authorship and Its Role as a Proxy of Research Collaborations

Author : Sameer Kumar

Increasing specialization, changes in the institutional incentives for publication, and a host of other reasons have brought about a marked trend towards co-authored articles among researchers.

These changes have impacted Science and Technology (S&T) policies worldwide. Co-authorship is often considered to be a reliable proxy for assessing research collaborations at micro, meso, and macro levels.

Although co-authorship in a scholarly publication brings numerous benefits to the participating authors, it has also given rise to issues of publication integrity, such as ghost authorships and honorary authorships.

The code of conduct of bodies such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) make it clear that only those who have significantly contributed to the study should be on the authorship list.

Those who have contributed little have to be appropriately “acknowledged” in footnotes or in the acknowledgement section. However, these principles are sometimes transgressed, and a complete solution still remains elusive.

URL : Ethical Concerns in the Rise of Co-Authorship and Its Role as a Proxy of Research Collaborations


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