Thursday, August 20, 2015

Author inflation

How Many Scientists Does It Take to Write a Paper? Apparently, Thousands

Scientific journals see a spike in number of contributors; 24 pages of alphabetized co-authors

A Frenchman named Georges Aad [pictured here] may have the most prominent name in particle physics.


In less than a decade, Dr. Aad, who lives in Marseilles, France, has appeared as the lead author on 458 scientific papers. Nobody knows just how many scientists it may take to screw in a light bulb, but it took 5,154 researchers to write one physics paper earlier this year—likely a record—and Dr. Aad led the list.

His scientific renown is a tribute to alphabetical order.

Almost every paper by “G. Aad et al.” involves so many researchers that they decided to always list themselves in alphabetical order. Their recent paper, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, features 24 pages of alphabetized co-authors led by Dr. Aad….

Things have accelerated. The 1993 Ig Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Eric Topol, R. Califf, F. Van de Werf, P. W. Armstrong, and their 972 co-authors, for publishing a medical research paper which has one hundred times as many authors as pages. [The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM], vol. 329, no. 10, September 2, 1993, pp. 673-82. The authors are from the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States. NEJM Executive editor Marcia Angel attended the Ig Nobel ceremony, accepting the prize on behalf of the co-authors, who could not agree on the wording of an acceptance speech.

Aad G, Abbott B, Abdallah J, et al. Combined Measurement of the Higgs Boson Mass in pp Collisions at sqrt[s]=7 and 8 TeV with the ATLAS and CMS Experiments.  Phys Rev Lett. 2015 May 15;114(19):191803. Epub 2015 May 14.
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