Friday, July 5, 2013

Follow up. How many authors does it take…?

I recently blogged about the fact that for several different specialties, the number of authors of research papers has risen exponentially over the years. The post appeared on General Surgery News.

As is my nature, I was critical of this increase and blamed it on the "publish or perish" culture that pervades medicine and other sciences and the large number of new journals, which all are looking for content so they can make money.

A Twitter follower named @terpkristin ask me what my own experience has been. This is a fair question and I applaud her for taking me to task on it.

With some trepidation, I pulled up my CV and started counting.

Over the years I have authored or co-authored 97 publications, including peer-reviewed articles and case reports, review articles, book chapters, editorials and letters to journal editors.

My first article was published in 1975 and the last in 2010. That's a span of 35 years which is similar to the times covered in many of the articles on author proliferation.

After reviewing all 97 publications, the average number of authors was 3.0 with 23 having only me as the sole author.

Excluding everything but the 52 peer-reviewed papers, the mean number of authors was 3.5.

Looking at the peer-reviewed papers another way, the 22 papers written from 1975 to 1993 had an average of 3.2 authors, while those written during 1994 to 2010 averaged 3.6 authors.

This compares favorably to the numbers of authors listed in the articles I found on the subject and wrote in my previous post.

For papers written in this century in the fields of plastic surgery, orthopedics and thoracic surgery, the average number of authors ranged from 4.0 to 7.5.

Luckily, my inquisitor didn't ask me how many of the articles were any good. That's a different question.


Óli said...

I'm a medical student from Iceland who has been following this blog since it's early days, I've read, and liked, every single post so far. I would love to read some of your your publications, although I respect your anonymity.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Oli, I appreciate your loyalty as a reader. I'll think about your request.

Libby said...

I'm with Oli...I'd love to read your articles.

Anonymous said...

There is no privacy on the Internet. You can pay $50 to the pimply 15 year old down the street and
trace anyone who regularly posts anywhere.

That said, I would maintain a first-level degree of anonymity.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, I agree 100%.

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