The journal Nature recently reported, in the News section of its website, on the findings of research professors Gregory Patience and Daria Camilla Boffito of the Department of Chemical Engineering. Their work focused on the granting of author credit In scholarly papers.
Professors Patience and Boffito investigated the criteria that researchers rely on in granting—or not granting—authorship of published articles. According to Professor Patience, it is generally the researchers themselves, after discussion, who decide who merits authorship.
In their article Intellectual contributions meriting authorship: Survey results from the top cited authors across all science categories, the subject of the Nature news item, Professors Patience and Boffito and their colleagues observed that authorship practices vary greatly from one scientific discipline to the next, and even more so within the same discipline. To arrive at their conclusion, the authors surveyed close to 6,000 of the most-cited researchers in 21 disciplines to find out which research-related tasks merited the granting of authorship of an article. Earlier studies on the subject had used far smaller sample sizes, hence the interest in this new research.
Did you know?
In recent years, the number of authors credited on articles has been increasing. In 2015, a physics article set a record with 5,154 authors credited! Looking at articles authored by at least one person at Polytechnique Montréal, across some 750 articles listed in Web of Science database for 2017, there were between 1 and 60 authors, with an average of 4.7 authors per article.
To contribute to transparency with regard to the contributions of the various authors, many scientific journals require that the precise roles of each be mentioned. According to Professor Patience, this practice may foster a degree of transparency, but will not prevent the phenomenon of guest authorship, i.e., the fact of including an author solely on the basis of their reputation or position of authority.
While reaching agreement on rules for granting authorship would seem advisable, one wonders whether this would be possible given the complexity of the research process. It’s safe to say that debate among researchers on the topic is not about to end soon!
Gregory Patience, a full professor in the Polytechnique Montréal Department of Chemical Engineering, is the principal author of the article Intellectual contributions meriting authorship: Survey results from the top-cited authors across all science categories. The co-authors are Daria Camilla Boffito, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Paul A. Patience, an undergraduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering, and Federico Galli, who at the time of writing was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Polytechnique.
The article is currently at the preprint stage and available for viewing by anyone, as it has been posted to the open-access disciplinary server bioRxiv. For more details, read the study findings here: DOI: 10.1038/d41586-018-05280-0
We thank the Louise-Lalonde-Lamarre Library at Polytechnique Montréal for contributing this news story.
To learn more
Article on the open-access server bioRxiv
News story about the article on the Nature website
Expertise profile of Professor Gregory Patience
Expertise profile of Professor Daria Camilla Boffito
Website of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal
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