Ad Lagendijk Ad Lagendijk 5 May 2008

Who needs coauthors?

Posted in Ethics, Research and education

Young people, in tenure track positions, feel they to have to collect as many authorships as possible. Questions like “Will I be a coauthor?” and demands as “I have to be a coauthor” are part of daily conversations in science institutes.

But not only junior scientists are eager to boost their cv’s with authored papers. Seniors use their social status to fight themselves into the list of authors.

In a number of groups the list of authors is not discussed but imposed upon. The boss decides. Him being the last author is an axiom. The issue of free riders imposed by the boss, gives rise to a lot of frustration on the side of the first author.

The question of coauthors only arises when the text is mature enough to be a concept for a paper. Or when there is agreement on what material should be in the paper. Discussing authorship earlier is a guarantee for friction. A common mistake made by Ph.D’s and postdocs is to circulate concepts of papers with an incomplete list of authors. If you are the first author and not yet sure about the complete list of coauthors put a placeholder in the list of authors: “Your Name and Rest of Authors”. Somebody that spots a misled copy cannot (yet) complain as he might think he will be part of “Rest of Authors”.

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  1. Unregistered

    13 May 2008 22:14, Otto Muskens

    The discussion about co-authorship becomes increasingly a consequence of the modern quantitative methods of measuring scientific productivity (citation index, h-index, …). These methods do not make any distinction between the amount of effort spent by the different contributors.

    Since (almost) no scientist can produce individually more than a few new scientific results every year, his or her success will be for a large part measured by the ability to get his/her name onto other scientist’s publications. This can be a very political situation as sketched above, or a natural consequence of collaborative efforts.

    It is an interesting question wether quantitative productivity indices stimulate certain forms of cv-engineering that are more related to sociology than to science. In any case, young scientist are rapidly adapting to this new situation, in order to survive in the scientific world, by making their claims heard.

  2. Unregistered

    20 May 2008 22:57, Credit where credit is due

    […] Shereen M Who needs coauthors?: [Via Survival Blog for Scientists] Young people, in tenure track positions, feel they to have to […]

  3. Unregistered

    20 May 2008 22:59, Credit where credit is due « A Man With A Ph.D.

    […] credit is due May 20, 2008 — Richard by Shereen M [Crossposted at SpreadingScience] Who needs coauthors?: [Via Survival Blog for Scientists] Young people, in tenure track positions, feel they to have to […]

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